Book name: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Publication Date: 2014
Star Rating: 5/5
One Hundred Years of Solitude is of the strangest fictional narratives I have ever encountered.
However, it has an exuberance all its own and I couldn’t help but fall in love with it.
Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a reporter and foreign correspondent before becoming a writer.
He lives in Mexico City and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
The story takes place in a small town deep in the jungle. The founders of Macondo fought their way through, hoping to reach the coast. They failed and decided to stop right there instead.
It is incredibly isolated, and with that comes all manner of odd occurrences that wouldn’t really be possible in a larger town closer to a city.
The Buendia family is led by patriarch Jose Arcadio and his wife Ursula. Their two sons and a daughter are as different as it is possible for siblings to be.
Ursula is merely thankful that none of her children were born deformed, because she and her husband are distantly related.
Jose Arcadio is obsessed with the funny little scientific objects brought occasionally to Macondo by the gypsies who function as pedlars. In between their visits, he devotes himself to trying to use science to acquire wealth and improve his family’s life.
Meanwhile, his children are growing up virtual strangers to him. The elder son becomes infatuated with the idea of political revolution and joins the army, but it is a measure of the frivolity of this tale that even as colonel he loses every single military engagement he undertakes.
The generally ridiculous nature of the Buendias’ lives continues down the generations for a century in total. Much good-natured confusion arises over endless repetitions of a limited range of Christian names.
The situation is complicated further by a tendency of members of the family to marry each other or have children together.
Incest with an aunt or the orphan raised as your sister is a natural part of this fictional universe, although this aspect of One Hundred Years of Solitude left me cold.
The theme of solitude is developed throughout the book. There are many different types of being alone.
The solitude of resenting your family, of genially not understanding each other properly, of living in a community so cut off from reality that bizarre things become normalized and the introduction of civilization engenders real shock.
The last one is the solitude of the entire town, but that is less sad than the isolation of one family member from another.
There is, finally, at the end of life, the realization that life is essentially indecipherable and that existence is an unavoidably lonely experience.
After the joking around of early chapters of One Hundred Years of Solitude, it becomes clear that the strangeness of life will be repeated down the generations without improvement. The tone becomes noticeably sadder and more pitiable.
Each of the Buendias was likeable, against the odds, in part because they live in a place where nothing is too unlikely. Therefore, almost everything meets with a philosophical shrug of the shoulders.
Despite Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s best endeavours to produce a work that alternates between the absurd and the maudlin, I liked the characters and threw myself into their adventures. It’s probably not how every reader would respond, but I found this unique tale quite life affirming. I suppose, just like life, the secret is not to take it too seriously.
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