One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

Two weeks ago was the 50th anniversary of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). I had been planning on re-reading it at some point soon, but all the talk made me want to read it again straight away.

It tells the story of a family, the Buendías, in the small, isolated town of Macondo which is supposedly based on Aracataca, Márquez's home town in Columbia. The patriarch of the family is José Arcadio Buendía, who marries his cousin Úrsula, and from them come seven generations. She initially refuses to consummate the marriage out of fear of the incest they will commit, which leads people of the town to torment him. He duels with another townsman, Prudencio Aguilar, and kills him. Finding himself tormented by the ghost, he and Úrsula move away and found the town of Macondo with their friends.

From here we follow the events of the seven generations of the family. The novel goes back and forth, making it rather tricky at times to follow, but it is a beautiful read. Such is the isolation of Macondo the news is generally brought to the town via gypsies, who bring things from ice to magic carpets. This sets the tone for the magic realism of the novel, but oddly enough there's the slightest of hints of Émile Zola with the idea of the heredity traits of the family such as the physical strength of the male line and the idea of clairvoyancy. We see the family triumph, and we see the family suffer, we see them united and we see them divided, and for that it did remind me a touch of Tolstoy's War and Peace and Woolf's Orlando for the treatment of time as a concept. But One Hundred Years of Solitude is very much it's own novel, there really is nothing quite like it. It explores the idea of reality, and subjective reality. In that we see how the characters cope with external change, modernisation for example, and war. Because of this, the 'validity' of 'truth' and what is real is challenged. Another key theme is the notion of past, present, and future. The back and forth nature of the novel fits in with the idea that the past, present, and future are not altogether as separate as one might imagine. It is an absolute blend of time, fact, fiction, and myth, and poetry and prose. It is an outstanding novel.

It's also not an easy novel to grasp and, indeed, write about so I apologise for this very brief and flitting review (I'm also trying to drag myself out of politics, so I must admit I'm a little distracted at present!). But I do love it, hard as it is, however much I still don't feel as though I've fully understood it. Happily though, it's a novel I will certainly re-read once more in the future.

Comments

  1. I totally understand your brief post about this one. Where do you start?

    When I first finished it, I was certain I'd never read it again; but with the passage of time, I'm not so sure about that. It's mystical quality is tempting. A reread couldn't hurt.

    You mention [the family condition] reminds you of Tolstoy's W&P; to me, the overall novel reminds me of a Frida Kahlo painting. Whatever the case, the book is a touch of everything, and I imagine there are limitless possibilities of meanings to different readers. It would be an interesting discussion.

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    1. Frida Kahlo, yes - I didn't think of it like that but yes, that's exactly it :)

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  2. i liked it... and Ruth's comparison to a Kahlo painting is right on... it mesmerized me; when i finished it i really wasn't sure what had happened, but i felt illuminated somehow... tx for mentioning it; must reread it sometime...

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    1. Mesmerising is the word. It's such a great work but it's so hard to put into words the feelings it inspired...

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  3. Its a book I cannot say I liked but I did not dislike it either. I was/am intrigued enough to go back and revisit it again!! I really like Ruth's comparison; without putting my finger to it, in my mind I saw images while reading this novel, very similar to Kahlo's paintings! I guess I would have been more positive about it, had I not completely and absolutely fell in lover with Marquez's Love in Time of Cholera. Somehow, I could identify more with that one and this did not come as close to me!

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    1. I read Love in the Time of Cholera a long time ago, I think I'd like to re-read it - I'd probably appreciate it more now :)

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  4. Oh wow, color me impressed! I am not sure I will ever be able to tackle this one.

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    1. I'm sure you could - if I can, you definitely can, I'm hopeless with the modern stuff (I know 50 years old is not exactly modern but you know what I mean). Plus it's a great experience :)

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    2. I'm patchy with moderns; some I love and some I hate. I dunno, maybe someday I'll try, but seriously I would be less scared of Les Miserables.

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    3. Les Mis is awesome, and by coincidence I was looking at mine just yesterday and thinking I need to re-read it :)

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