on November 24, 2007
One Hundred Years of Solitude" is a compelling if challenging read. It overflows with creativity, history, magic, and characters with the same names. Yes, there are many Jose Arcadios, even more Aurelianos and more than one Amaranta in the same family, often at the same time. But, once one makes use of the character genealogy at the beginning it is not to hard to keep track of the respective characters.
What makes 100 years such a compelling read is its incredible blending of the fantastical with realism. Marquez blends detailed accounts of absolutely impossible events with equally detailed accounts of completely plausible or historically known events with such equanimity of importance as to make them indistinguishable to the plot. And it works. Works better than anything written before or since that has had the label Magic Realism attached to it.
The reason that this novel is so successful is threefold. First, his characters are completely charismatic, as is his writing, you will find yourself with an undeniable affection for the story from the end of the first chapter on, I guarantee it. Second, the aspects of the story brushed with magic, fully half of the novel, are perfectly done, magical happenings emerging out of everyday circumstances and being reabsorbed into everyday life fluidly and seamlessly. Third, the cutting realism of the story, accurate down to the detail balances the whimsical.
A novel not to be missed, with a great ending and a wealth of well crafted circumstances written in prose that makes the heart wrenching as compelling as the beautiful, and makes the hundred year history of the Buendia family of Macondo one of the most rewarding reads available.
on January 18, 2002
I don't know what an average reader like me can say about this marvelous epic, but I love this book so much I feel compelled, as far as I am able, to give my thoughts about it.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is, without a doubt, the greatest of all Latin American novels. It is also the most captivating and masterful modern epic ever told. And it is an epic; it details the history of a people, in this case, the Buendias, the most important and influential family in Macondo. In fact, the Buendias serve as a metaphor for the development of Latin America since its independence. The book follows the Buendias through the founding, development and decay of their settlement in the jungle. Readers with some knowledge of Latin American history will easily recognize the development of Colombia in the book. The civil wars in the novel parallel the civil wars in Colombia from 1885-1902, and Colonel Aureliano can be seen as modeled after General Rafael Uribe Uribe. In fact, Gabriel Garcia Marquez' grandfather, himself, fought under Uribe. A knowledge of Latin American politics, however, is not necessary to enjoy and love this wonderful book. In fact, many readers see no political implications in the book.
There is a wonderful mix of the comic and the melancholy in this story. We meet characters who do the most delightful, or the most absurd things, and yet there is an undeniable strain of futility and sadness that runs throughout the entire book. Macondo is definitely a magical place and early in the book we come to expect the unexpected, to expect to be surprised, to accept the unbelievable. In fact, we have to ask ourselves if Macondo is real or if it is just a state of mind. Perhaps it is both. It is this intermingling of the factual and the fantastic that, to me, makes this book so special and marks Garcia Marquez' genius. The Buendia men, especially, are in possession of truly fecund imaginations and they use them in the most disconcerting ways.
For all the wonder and beauty and fantasy in this story, this is ultimately a sad and tragic book. It deals, after all, with the failure of a town and its people, people who despite their amazing vitality and wit, are each immersed in a solitude from which they find it impossible to extricate themselves.
If one looks closely at the Buendias, he can see that most symbolize a particular historical period. The founder of Macondo and patriarch of the family, Jose Arcadio, is a true Renaissance man. His son, Aureliano is a legendary military leader. Aureliano Segundo becomes a sort-of farmer while his twin brother, Jose Arcadio Segundo becomes a radical labor leader.
The Buendias, however, seem to live their lives in a circular fashion. Their personalities constantly repeat the personalities of earlier generations and this repetition often has much to do with the name a child is given. The Aurelianos are all quiet and withdrawn, but prone to success, while the Jose Arcadios are energetic and enterprising but seemingly doomed to failure.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, however, is not a psychological novel. All of the characters are rather two-dimensional and serve to carry out thematic points. The men are obsessive, intelligent and energetic. The Aurelianos are involved with ambition, while the Jose Arcadios are filled with earthy passion. Among the women, the Ursulas are stern while the Remedios are eternally immature. But, while the men are dreamers, the women remain anchored in reality. This may be a small part of Garcia Marquez' view of life in Latin America.
The Buendia men have everything needed to be happy and successful and yet each ultimately fails, withdrawing into a frustrated loneliness or solitude, but not just any solitude. The Buendia men choose to be solitary, rather than having solitariness imposed upon them, they choose to accept the ultimate futility of their lives, and they know this solitude will be repeated in future generations.
Some readers have said they cannot keep all the characters straight and the Buendia family tree is a twisted one, indeed. In fact, the final generation of Buendias really can't figure out where they stand in relation to each other and to their ancestors. This alone should tell us that Macondo is fated to end.
On the surface, Macondo is fated to die when someone deciphers Melquiades' (the gypsy's) manuscript and learns the full history of Macondo. In reality, Macondo dies because its inhabitants simply don't choose to continue. Instead, they choose fantasy, solitude and a withdrawal from life. A piece of Macondo, and thus a shred of hope, does survive however, when the author, himself, takes the advice of the Catalan bookseller and leaves the town before its destruction. Thus, there does exist an ongoing testimony of the life that had been lived there. And what book does Garcia Marquez escape with? A volume of Rabelais, one the world's greatest comic geniuses. Perhaps, in this enigmatic ending, Garcia Marquez is telling all Latin Americans to be different from the Buendias, to learn to laugh at themselves, to learn from their mistakes, to be amenable to change and to stop repeating destructive patterns.
on December 12, 2009
Gabriel weaves his words like a master. His words are like a warm blanket on a cold day. I enjoyed the literary art of this book very much but didn't enjoy the story line. The book is about numerous generations of the Buendia family; their struggles, their triumphs, their strengths, their weaknesses. There were many interpersonal struggles; between the family members as well as between the family and the society they live in. Personally, it wasn't that interesting to me at all. However, I read on because of the skill and passion in which this book is written. Gabriel Marquez sews words together as a master painter shades colours and creates dimension on a canvas.
If you enjoy true literature as well as history and human relationships, I think you would thoroughly enjoy this book. If you love literature, even if the story sounds boring (which I found it to be a bit) it is worth the read, if only to see a master in action.
on May 7, 2005
One Hundred Years of Solitude attempts to define the human element by telling the story of a family in a fictional Latin American town, Macondo. The book recounts the rise to and fall from prominence for both the town and the family. The story begins with the romantic dreams of the town's founder, Jose Arcadio Buendia, and ends with the ruin of his family line , his house in disrepair and hurricanes ravaging the city he endeavored to make great. Mr. Marquez admirably tells the story of Buendia and all his descendents without losing the individuality of any of the characters. Though the Buendias tend to name sons and daughters after their grandparents, creating a confusing family tree, each member of the Buendia family has a distinct personality. Solitude undoubtedly prompts the reader to think about his or her own family tree and roots, and eventually what it is to be human.
Marquez's Nobel-prize winning talent shines best in two specific areas. First, it shows in the style Marquez crafted from the influences of everyone from Cervantes to Faulkner, magical-realism. Marquez credits his grandmother for the storytelling style. Magical realism affords him the luxury to describe a block of ice as a glittering wonder and the appearance of ghosts in the in a nonchalant manner. Though disconcerting at first, the style is both clear and exudes the charm of a child experiencing everything for the first time.
Marquez also dazzles in his ability to probe at the heart of the human element. Colonel Aureliano Buendia, the patriarch of Macondo's son, is seen as a cyclic person, who begins his life sequestered in a workshop making golden fish to sell at market, and after losing 32 consecutive wars, dies in the same shop making the same fish, which he eventually melts down to make more fish. Still other characters, scarred by the death of husbands lock themselves in large mansions, forgotten by everyone. The climax of the epic is the invasion of the small town after a foreigner discovers the quality of the bananas grown there. The banana company comes to Macondo, separating the white settlement with a fence from the natives and mistreating the workers. In the end, however, everyone is forced to leave Macondo except the last remaining Buendia descendents who, embroiled in an incestuous love affair, fail to notice the danger of the storms or the fire ants to are always eating away at their house. It may sound depressing, but what it strikes the reader as most is as the unalterable flow of human history, a bleak cautionary tale. Truly it must be experienced: rich and moving and wonderful. See for yourself. Along with this novel I would like to recommend another, much shorter, lighter, obscure romance -- an Amazon quick-pick -- The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition by Richard Perez.
on February 16, 2012
I first read this book in my early teens. At that time I was enthralled. It is a complete epic. Beautiful, with many lessons for our current times too - esp in the last lines. When I re-read the book, while the magic of my first reading is gone, the last lines still give me that ah to hmmm feeling. Since the first book that I owned I have bought it for numerous friends. It should be essential reading for all in schools. Whether you like it or not, it is a complete novel and covers so many aspects of humanity. Must read.
On another note, I especially visited Baracoa, the place that Macondo is claimed to be modelled on. Dont know if that claim is true, or whether it was my imagination, but it did feel a wee bit eerie being there.