One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Date finished: March 25, 2014
- Genre: Fiction
- Year: 1967
- Project: n/a
- Reading List: Spring 2014, BBC’s Top 100 Books, Newsweek’s Top 100 Books,
- Grade: A
- Thoughts upon reading:
As you can see by the number of reading lists this book has made it onto (and there’s probably dozens more that I don’t use), this book is important. Very important. Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Nobel Prize in 1982, largely because of this book. It’s considered one of the most important books written in the Americas in the 20th century, and definitely one of the most important books to come out of Latin America.
One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the mythical and ever-surviving Buendias family, and the mysterious town of Macondo where they live for, well, about a hundred years. The book starts with the family patriarch, Jose Arcadia Buendias and his wife Ursula, and ends with the death of some great-great-great-great grandson who survives long enough to see their home turned to dust as well as fully realize the glories and disasters that accompanied his line.
Now I’m not going to lie: that was a tough synopsis to write because this is a tough book to describe. There’s a lot of Jose’s, Arcadio’s and Aureliano’s as the family grows and contracts; it’s so confusing that included is a family tree. Each member of the family seems to be plagued by some kind of tragedy, each one brought on by the times they live in, their capacity for passionate love, and the unfortunate fate that looms over each member of the family. In a lot of ways, the Buendias are not meant for new things; their lives are tragically and beautifully predetermined. This was tiring at first (so many Aureliano’s – and I’m still not sure if I was pronouncing it right in my head!), but by the end, it was like reaching the end of a grandly tragic yet beautiful opera, as everything comes crashing down so majestically.
I enjoyed this book, a lot. Some may be turned off by the magical realism – the way that Marquez weaves the fantastic into the everyday, so that it seems like Macondo exists in a special reality – but I loved it. Sure, I’ll believe that the air was full of yellow butterflies whenever Meme thinks of her lover. Sure, it rained for four years, followed by 10 years of drought. I’ll believe in the plague of insomnia that affected the entire town for years. The magic of Macondo sets a stage where anything can happen, a perfect backdrop for the lives of the Buendias family.
One last thing: At some point early on in the book, I came across a character who took up writing love notes for money. That struck me – I had read in another book where a character writes love notes for a living, which always seemed so beautifully poetic. Then I realized: that other book was the other Gabriel Garcia Marquez book I’ve read, Love in the Time of Cholera. What a damn fine author, and some truly wonderful books.