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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

29 Jul

If any book could be considered a doozy, it’s this one. One Hundred Years of Solitude (originally Cien Anos de Soledad) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of the most unique books of the latter half of the 21st century, but it is not a book to skim. Here Marquez combines fantasy, reality, human history, and tragedy to trace the course of humanity, both past and present. For the ambitious beach reader, here’s a challenge for you, one that’s worth it in the end.

(Also, my apologies for the lack of proper Spanish accents. I’m having difficulty with them today, but I know where they belong, and it’s driving me crazy too, I swear).

Published: 1967 in Spanish (1970 in English)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Quick Read?: No, but going slow can be a pleasure with this book.

Difficulty: Quite difficult. Not impossible, but Marquez purposefully makes it confusing and difficult at times.

Synopsis: The books opens on the  mysterious town of Macondo, after the Buendia family (the protagonists of the novel) move there from Colombia. The book moves through seven generations of the Buendia family in Macondo, surviving wars, ill weather, ill health, and other misfortunes, many of which they cause for themselves. The family repeats both names and misfortunes as time moves along, and fantastical elements blend with reality to the point where it is hard to know what really happened and what is the stuff of the characters’ imaginations. Th men in the family try to understand their plight, and the plight of all of humanity, by deciphering a code, with no success. The entire story is told much like a myth or oral history, frequently factual but frequently exaggerated as well. Yet when Macondo is nearly wiped out by a storm, all of the family’s cyclical, repeated misfortunes come to light, and a God-like entity shows them their follies.

What makes this book awesome? One Hundred Years of Solitude is known as one of the definitive books in the magical realism genre, where reality and magic blend in a way that isn’t fantastical, but merely accepted as a part of life. This inspired many other famous Hispanic writers, including Borges and others, to write magical realist texts as well. The beauty of magical realism is the way it can lend power and weight to one’s own imagination, faith, and beliefs and how they effect the world around you.

The novel is also an ambitious reflection of human history, especially Central and South American history–for example, when the Buendias find “fire” and the wheel in the beginning of the book, much like the first man did. The talk of conquistadors, imperialism, and disappearances later on mirror the political issues in South America today, and lend them a kind of inevitability that puts emphasis on our flaws as humans–namely, when we repeat history.

Marquez: Too smart to join "Animal House" since the day he was born.

Some neat-o facts:

  • The New York Times Book Review professed that “One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race. Mr. García Márquez has done nothing less than to create in the reader a sense of all that is profound, meaningful, and meaningless in life.” (William Kennedy). I guess they liked it? But really. What a compliment. How do you move on from a compliment like that?
  • He won the Nobel Prize for Fiction in 1982. He also writes screenplays and continues to write as a journalist, his original profession. I’m assuming writing in those mediums is far less cyclical, but who knows?
  • Marquez claims his penchant for writing magical realist texts was by hearing his grandmother tell him stories passed down through generations.
If you like this, try: Love in the Time of Cholera or No One Writes the Colonel by Marquez; poetry by Borges or poetry by Pablo Neruda.
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