Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude
By Gabriel García Márquez

This book was hard work, but it was great in the end. It took me a few months to really zero in and give it the attention it needed. The story is essentially the history of the fictional Colombian town Macondo and it's told through about 5-6 generations of the Buendía family. And, man, were they a train wreck! The bottom line on the book: it's great, but not for the casual reader. This is some hardcore magical realism literature.

The book is tragic in many ways and tragedy always appeals to my reading tastes. Yet the tragedy is lightened by the fact that Márquez writes in the style of magical realism. Essentially, the mundane is made supernatural and vice versa. Although it is very dense and makes for heavy reading, it is beautifully narrated and wrapped in a poetic, dreamlike form. I suppose that is something I both loved and hated about the book, which is a very similar sentiment I had after reading and reviewing Love in the Time of Cholera. At the end of reading both, I almost felt wounded from war and yet happy that I made the effort.

Márquez has this strange way of making me fall in love with his work, all whilst inserting themes that I despise in literature - incest, sex in general, and long lines of characters with the same names. The names in this one were especially maddening. After finishing Márquez's books, I have trouble describing why I love the writing so much. I am in awe. This novel was chock full of those unsavory reading elements, but when I finished the last page and finding out about the end of the family line, I was deeply satisfied. I guess that's what bad ass novelists do, eh?

Márquez made me feel close to the characters, but this book made my head spin. The whole damn family has the same 2-3 names. It was very difficult to keep them straight, but time, family and space all merge into into the same themes and repetitions. I was reminded of the fukú, a curse, that was on the protagonist's family in the generational tale Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The repetitious nature of these family stories is fascinating.

There are many novels that took less time to read and had fewer unfavorable elements, but they did not speak to my mind and soul the way that Márquez does. Magical realism puts a spell on me, as it should. Before I know it, there is a massacre, a rape, a civil war and in the next instant, it's over. The real and the mythical are mixed and that produces a story setting in a memory, a dream, sometimes a nightmare.

After I was done with One Hundred Years of Solitude, I read about the author more and found that Márquez really liked Franz Kafka - which made total sense. The dreamlike state of One Hundred Year of Solitude and the zigzag through time took me right back to my first class on The Trial. Márquez, however, leaves out the heavy dose of paranoia. He purposefully suppresses the paranoia in a place that clearly had tons of it historically. It's so freaking weird how he does that, but I love it! I'd like to read a biography on Márquez.

With a book of this length and magnitude, I found it difficult to break my focus on the story to take notes. Hence, of over 400 dense pages, I only have a few tidbits for you:

Page unknown
Since Aureliano at that time had very confused notions about the difference between Conservatives and Liberals, his father-in-law gave him some schematic lessons. The Liberals, he said, were Freemasons, bad people, wanting to hang priests, to institute civil marriage and divorce, to recognize the rights of illegitimate children as equal to those of legitimate ones, and to cut the country up into a federal system that would take power away from the supreme authority. The Conservatives, on the other hand, who had received their power directly from God, proposed the establishment of public order and family morality. They were the defenders of Christ, of the principle of authority, and were not prepared to permit the country to be broken down into autonomous entities. Because of his humanitarian feelings Aureliano sympathized with the Liberal attitude with respect to the rights of natural children, but in any case, he could not understand how people arrived at the extreme of waging war over things that could not be touched with the hand.
p. 363
Her heart of compressed ash, which had resisted the most telling blows of daily reality without strain, fell apart with the first waves of nostalgia. The need to feel sad was becoming a vice as the years eroded her. She became human in her solitude.
P 396
There was no mystery in the heart of a Buendia that was impenetrable for her because a century of cards and experience had taught her that the history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle.

1 comment:

Mirza Ghalib said...

This book was in my wishlist from the day it was declared in Oprah's Book Club, I guess in the year 2003. And finally when I actually got to read it, I think it was worth the wait. I lived with Ursula all from the very beginning from the discovery of Mocondo to the death of the last heir of the family after 100 year! Recommended to all readers and the family tree would be a great help provided at the beginning of the book since you are passing on to several generations in a single book. Congratulations to the Author!