Stephen M's Reviews > One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
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's review
Jul 24, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: metafictive-madness, ocean-of-noise, thinking-of-a-dream-i-had
Recommended to Stephen M by: The most beautiful girl at school
Recommended for: solitude is bliss
Read in June, 2012

Many years later, as the most beautiful girl in town disclosed the book from her folded arms and revealed its brilliant glow to his eyes, Francisco Rodriguez de la Campiña was to recall that distant, savage summer when his grandmother first taught him to read. At that time, he would spend hours under the cockspur coral tree behind their bark and leaf house while his grandmother, Pilar Popa, lectured him on the finer points of grammatical etiquette. Peering over his shoulder, grasping his elbows with her leathery hands, she would adjust the way in which he held his book: upper arms parallel to his body, forearms bent at a forty-five degree angle, his back stock straight. Fransisco Rodriguez never wanted to read and held onto a particular rancor for what his grandmother made him do every morning. His bitterness, however, extended well beyond his grandmother. For he held nearly every other person in town in a particular contempt. The kind that was reserved for those who deserved it, as Francisco believed. This thought, a complex cocktail of hurt feelings and indignation, was born out of Francisco’s ostracism and estrangement from his immediate family. All occurring well before Francisco came of age, it was set in motion, Francisco reasoned, long before the gypsies had first discovered that wide clearing in the woods that would become the town Lugar Agradable. Surely it was sown within the fabric of the universe by the great creator Himself the curse that would afflict and destroy Francisco’s life, that long causal chain of events, rippling through time and history that would bring about the specific genetic mutations among the alleles of his parents that were to become his deformities. Yes, God had a bone to pick with the soul of Francisco Rodriguez and he was the unfortunate victim caught within the whims of a malicious and manipulative deity. Pilar Popa took it upon herself to beat such self-aggrandizing nonsense out of her grandson.

It began with a belt and a reinforcement of vocabulary, ¿herméticamente? she asked him one morning’s lesson. Francisco’s eyes looked toward the ground. His grandmother snapped the two strips of her leather belt together. At the sound of the firm crack and her grandmother’s piercing voice, Eyes on me! Francisco looked up at his grandmother, tears already leaking out of the corners of his eyes. She had given him a long list of words and her oldest dictionary the previous night, but Francisco had shirked off his homework. He had opted instead to stare out of the hole in his bark wall, the one that overlooked the neighbor’s yard. For the most beautiful girl in town lived in that yard and Francisco would watch her with a grin spread across his face, content in this voyeuristic venture. Her name was Alejandra Hermosa and she tended to her family’s garden. She grew enormous eggplants that fed her many siblings—seven brothers and five sisters. Alejandra hardly spoke, especially when her father came outside to observe her work. She would only nod demurely to her father’s instructions and continue to work the soil. Her fingers delicately patted the ground around the stems of the plants, after pouring the proper amount of water she fetched from the town well. Whenever a plant began to shake and glow that off-white, yellow color of a ripe eggplant, she would gently remove it from its stem before it would shake itself overripe and withered. Francisco loved to watch the way she took care of the eggplant, with love and care. Never to rush her work, she drew upon some deep reserve of patience with her every action, laying out huge stockpiles of eggplants everyday to feed her siblings.

Caught in the recesses of present moment’s regret, Francisco could only think of Alejandra and the way she took care of her eggplants. His daydream was shattered when his grandmother screamed and slammed her hand down on the table. She asked once more ¿herméticamente? Francisco did not speak. He turned away from her and presented his bare bottom to her anticipating hands, wrapping the leather belt around them. His grandmother brought the belt across his cheeks. His whole body convulsed from the force of impact. The belt left its stinging bite every time. No matter how many forgotten words Francisco earned lashings for, the pain never lessened. Thankfully, Pilar Popa found two hits to be sufficient in disciplining her grandson. Francisco turned back to face her, leaning all weight on his thigh when he sat. The bruises on his bottom would never heal, as any dark blue of old bruises discolored, fresh ones would readily take their place. Pilar looked into his eyes that were sunken into their sockets from tears and felt a pang of pity for the boy. His entire body was a broken display begging for pity: his right leg splayed crooked in the grass, his miniature nose, two sizes too small, and lengthy oval face that was covered in blood-red sores and pockmarks. All of it guaranteed Francisco’s place as the biggest eyesore of the town. Few could look at the boy for long without feeling a great sadness plunge through their insides, an abstract mass of blackness that seated itself around the solar plexus. It would take a thorough cleansing at the river to wash the black sadness out of their system, as it slowly leaked out in osmotic diffusion from their skin. This same abstraction now, began to weasel its way into Pilar’s intestines. She disregarded it immediately. They had to begin his writing lessons.

Over the years of Francisco’s tutelage, he was to labor over reams of parchment. Pilar designated time for him to study in his room where surely he would have learned to practice all the things she lectured on: how construct a proper sentence, abstaining from comma splices, knowing when to use a semi-colon when called for; he would have learned by then how to discriminate between using one sentence-lengthening punctuation mark over another, how to judge between the use of a period or a conjunction, never misspell a word, remember to capitalize every first word and proper noun, and learn the structure of any good sentence: simple subject/predicate form, compound, complex and compound-complex. But he did none of this. He didn’t look for a single moment at the reams of notes Abuela Pilar entrusted to him every night because he was spending all his time staring at Alejandra and the eggplants in her garden. What combination of sights, senses and emotions were coming to him when he peaked through that hole in his wall? He didn’t know. Nor did he spend much time to analyze these thoughts and compulsions coursing through him. All that he knew was that he was in raptures at the sight of her; he was in love with her, slayed by the mere recall of her face, her gentle grace.

When the time came to prove his writing to Pilar, Francisco failed miserably. He began writing Hoy es la día. He only had to pause for a second before Francisco felt the blunt force of a hand beat the senses out of his head. He whimpered slightly and crossed it out. Hoy es la dia and instead Hoy es el día. But as he wrote the next few words, they came out malformed. Her attempts to rectify his poor grammar came in fierce slaps upside his head whenever he made the slightest mistake. He had to write out, on the large leaves of a logwood tree, his and his grandmother’s name: Yo soy Francisco Rodriguez de la Campiña. Mi abuela se llama Pilar Popa. But his jotas got squibbly and they lost themselves across the page. His ge never found itself back to where it was supposed to, never making a perfect loop and his hache was pitiful, hardly resembling what it out to be. All his failures were met with punishment—Pilar’s ruthless hand and the shame of watching the logwood leaf crumble up and burn away with every grammatical error.

All of this immediate punishment conditioned his mind to associate the written word with pain and embarrassment. It imbued an ingrained sense of paranoia with every letter he wrote. As each one landed on the surface of the logwood leaf, there was a twinge of uncertainty, as if each word was a condemnation of his soul, each one threatening to result in severe physical punishment. Whenever he would write forever after, it was never without a tightening in his shoulders, a queasy feeling in his stomach. It was that same feeling that was to manifest itself in every atom of his body, every fiber of his soul when he attempted a love poem addressed to the most beautiful girl in town, Alejandra Hermosa. He wrote the poem as by means of a two-pronged attack, on the one hand to express his gratitude for showing him the book that he loved so much and on the other to tell her how he could not live a single day without her, without seeing her carry her beautiful self from place to place, calming the stormy seas of his insides. All of which had rocked and turned in the pages of the book she had entrusted him. He would smile with every character description, laugh with the narrator and revel in the wealth of detail inside, associating every good memory with his thoughts about Alejandra Hermosa, ensuring the fact that if she would ever break his heart, the recall of any memory he had of the book would cull up all the emotional attachment he felt for Alejandra. He had spun and twisted her with the words of the book. If he spent enough time in introspection, he could see it inside of himself. All the memories labeled Alejandra Hermosa had found themselves in a tangled, knotted mess with the memories labeled the book. He frowned at the mess that love had made of his insides, the words flowing in and out of one another associated with the images of her face and her silky black hair that occasionally bobbed to the surface of that qualia pool. And every now and then, the dark clumps of knotted memories would form a blackened knot. Some disturbing black mass that portended only pain and anguish if potential heartbreak were to be on the horizon. The black knots threatened to metastasize and infect his heart and mind. Memories were what would surely crack open the delicate container of his mind when his sanity would flood out of the space it opened up. But he had to persevere. He had to tell Alejandra Hermosa what she truly meant to him. He ignored the tangle of memories and thought for a moment on the book.

It was a magical one, one where dreams and reality had no distinction. The supreme would pop up in the mundane. Epiphanic realizations of meaning emerged from its labyrinthine paragraphs. Seemingly insurmountable gaps of time, easily bridged by inter-textual association that created the gestalt of beautiful significance. Francisco could not overcome the feeling of awe he felt every time he was submerged into the waters of the book’s words. Its ability to communicate some obfuscated human truth in its fractured reality. The book had its own logic that was influencing his mind, changing its structure. And all that he knew was that he must write the same, and give his words the same aphrodisiacal power that would force Alejandra Hermosa to love him.

He began writing, slowly and painfully. Each word had to be forced out of his mind, like shoving putty through a pin-sized hole, only a spaghetti-strip of a word emerged from the overwhelming number of thoughts that were crammed into his mind. For every hour of thinking and toiling, only a sentence would emerge: Tu eres el alero de mi vida / que salva la flor de mi corazon / desde la lluvia. With each word dribbling slowly from his pen, he still felt that anxiety of creating the perfect sentence, the perfect word which would surely force her to love him. The image of Pilar Popa terrorized him then. Forever it would remain, in the background of his mind, to plague all his writing forever.

When he finally finished, he had written across four full logwood leaves. He collected them together and set off to find Alejandra. There she was in her backyard. She was standing beneath her eggplants, as she always did for as long as Francisco could make memories. Her face was concentrated on one eggplant in particular that was making a giant fuss of itself. It was shaking mightily, about to rip out its insides and die right there on its branch before being plucked. Alejandra was quick to the draw as she pulled the eggplant off its branch before it could be finished. Francisco cleared his throat. He was standing only a few feet from her and Alejandra jumped from fright. She had only talked to this boy once before, when her mother told him that he had no friends and spent all his time alone in his room. She figured that she should be nice to the boy and that God sometimes wasn’t fair all the time to everyone. Pity is all that she felt for him and had figured that there was nothing quite like a book that helped fight loneliness. Otherwise, she kept her distance from him. He was deformed and hideous. Despite all the lectures her mother had given Alejandra on compassion and empathy, deep down, she was frightened and repulsed by him. Shortly after giving him the book, she limited all her interactions with him to the occasional moment of eye contact. He would catch sight of her from afar and she would busy herself with something else. But then there he was, standing only a few feet away. She was stuck. He was silent save for an intense breathing that was pulling his shoulders up and down in rapid succession. Anxiety heightened inside of her. She began to walk backwards, ready to call out for her father to come protect her. Francisco cursed his deformed body that was frozen in the immediacy of the moment, trying with all his might to pull his muscles and nerves into action. When the silence was broken, it was Alejandra’s voice, recoiling in self-defense ¿que quieres hijo? Francisco was mumbling. All that Alejandra could make out was a muffled no sé. no sé. This lasted for about thirty seconds until Francisco, lifted the four leaves with his hand. She pulled them from his shaking fingers, saying ¿que es esto?. Francisco didn’t even attempt an answer as he turned away and ran, limping on his crooked leg, back to the house.
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Comments (showing 1-43 of 43) (43 new)

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s.penkevich Nice! Looking forward to this review!

Stephen M This one was crazy. I don't even know what to say about it.

s.penkevich haha totally understandable. So much happened. (I suddenly float away into the sky)

Stephen M Were you reading about yourself floating away when it happened?

Riku Sayuj Lovely! Will be right back with a translator but it was lovely even without one.

message 6: by Kris (last edited Jul 24, 2012 11:53AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Beautiful, and full of longing, and just perfect.

Stephen M Thanks Riku! Definitely got some inspiration to do it from your emulations. Hopefully the spanish doesn't detract too much!

Stephen M Thank you very much Kris. I thought it'd do the book justice by having it be a sadder story.

message 9: by s.penkevich (last edited Jul 24, 2012 12:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

s.penkevich Standing ovation.

Wow. This has to be the finest - well, parody is the wrong word, how about homage?, to be found on GR. You have such natural rhythm and flow to your writting, I am immensely impressed. I want to write a glowing review of this review and load it up with superlatives. I'm looking forward to the day when I'm browsing a bookstore and discover your name on a book's spine.

Paquita Maria Sanchez Hot damn, Stephen.

message 11: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris s.penkevich wrote: "Standing ovation.

Wow. This has to be the finest - well, parody is the wrong word, how about homage?, to be found on GR. You have such natural rhythm and flow to your writting, I am immensely impressed. I want to write a glowing review of this review and load it up with superlatives. I'm looking forward to the day when I'm browsing a bookstore and discover your name on a books spine. "


Esteban del Mal Nice work. In fact, I like the review a lot better than the book.

message 13: by Steve (new)

Steve This is such a well-told little vignette. I'll have to read the book one of these days and revisit this great piece of writing and emotion that it inspired. Kudos, amigo!

Please promise us that Jaime Rubino (a poor hispanification, I grant you) will have no part as a translator when your stories go worldwide.

message 14: by Tony (new)

Tony That's good. Real good.

message 15: by Jason (new) - rated it 1 star

Jason Wow, that is such a well written story, Stephen!

message 16: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls description

message 17: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Awesome Stephen, a truly inspiring piece of writing.

message 18: by Stephen M (last edited Jul 24, 2012 01:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stephen M Oh gosh, I leave my computer for only an hour.

Big thank you to all of you guys, seriously you all rock so much. Everyone here inspires me with their writing all the time. Your compliments have made my day.

Stephen M Steve wrote: "Please promise us that Jaime Rubino (a poor hispanification, I grant you) will have no part as a translator when your stories go worldwide. "

Haha! That had me laughing for a long time. Oh Mr. Rubin, why you make everything so funny?!?!

message 20: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark I'm :likin: this now, and coming back to it after I read zee book! Looks fabalous!

message 21: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Shouldn't you change the 'Recommended to' to 'The most beautiful girl in town' if that is where the story starts? Or is it meant to be as it is now and is this really as beautiful as I think it is? Ok, I will go somewhere else and gush.

message 22: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Vinogradus I have a sneaking suspicion that my appreciation of the talent and beauty of this homage will double when I read the book. I look forward to returning.

Rakhi Dalal This is absolutely lovely Stephen!! How beautifully it resonates with the rhythm flowing through this wonderful book! Loved it :)

Stephen M Thanks guys! It was a lot of fun to write and I'm glad you all enjoyed it.

And Riku, the book was given to me by a girl in one of my english classes ;)

message 25: by Traveller (last edited Jul 25, 2012 11:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller Wow, is this magical or what! Magic, sir, magic!

message 26: by Stephen M (last edited Jul 31, 2012 04:38PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stephen M (Comment Float)

Trav, Shan, Scott, many many thanks. I apologize though, because I just reread it and found way too many grammatical mistakes. You guys are way too generous in your praise! I can't believe these comments are in reference to what I just read. I'm always up for constructive criticism, especially with this verbose, trying-so-damn-hard prose style loosely covering up first world problems of a wasp who can't get any that all masquerades as a story story that could use some revising.

message 27: by Megan (new)

Megan Wow that was awesome! And I'm going to agree with what mi hermano said.

Stephen M ¡Muchísima gracias! Tu y tu hermano son muy muy amables.

message 29: by PGR (new) - rated it 5 stars

PGR Nair Your parallel starting and chronicling of events maintaining the style and cadence of Marquez's prose was indeed amazing. possibly u should now be a creator than a mere reader like many of us.

Stephen M PGR wrote: "Your parallel starting and chronicling of events maintaining the style and cadence of Marquez's prose was indeed amazing. possibly u should now be a creator than a mere reader like many of us."

PGR. Thanks so much. I've been away from goodreads too much lately and missed this comment. I'm trying my best to join the club of writers. I'm getting better about writing consistently but I still have a lot of work.

This piece is so personal and all of you guys are so supportive. It means the world.

Wordsmith Vundebar. The joy gotten from the reading of this superlative peice of litrature super seeded my queasy innards and pain-addled back-side I have on a daily basis due to my g"ma who claws herself out of her grave for every grammatical error I make, which I still find as unlogical a thing to happen as anything ever could. (Not my grandmother coming to life to correct my grammar! Noooo, she started that business when I was but a tot, not even quite three. She continued this harassment until I "got" it. Got that she would hound me until I spoke and wrote like Styles himself. No, not like Styles. Better.) I've been seeing a whole lot of g'ma these days sadly. I need to give her rest or at least let her. She'll be coming for a visit tonight I fear. For this, yes, but mainly for the g'ma. ; )
I love Márquez. You did him justice.

message 32: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca I don't have to worry about reading Señor Márquez any further. Just have to twiddle my thumbs waiting for Stephen. :)

message 33: by Wren (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wren This is without a doubt the loveliest tribute to a beloved book I've ever read! What a beautiful thing! -A Delighted Stranger

message 34: by Blanche (new) - added it

Blanche Its a long post but how is this connected to One Hundred Years of Solitude?

Traveller It is a story, a tribute in the style of Marquez to his writing, Blanche. I've had a look at your own review of this, and the first thing I must tell you, is that "Gone With the Wind" is not a postmodernist novel.

Since you mention that you're not too sure about Magical Realism and how Marquez fits in with all that, I refer you to a website dedicated to him which explains it pretty well.

message 36: by Traveller (last edited Dec 19, 2013 12:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller @ Blanche: Here are some informative articles on postmodernism:


PS, and Stephen, if you're still out there somewhere reading these, I want to tell you that I've just re-read your excellent and sad story and it brought a mistiness to my eyes... :)
Looking forward to seeing you published. Please don't forget about us, and let us know. ;)

Stephen M Wordsmith wrote: "Vundebar. The joy gotten from the reading of this superlative peice of litrature super seeded my queasy innards and pain-addled back-side I have on a daily basis due to my g"ma who claws herself ou..."

Thank you so much Wordsmith! Gosh, I haven't kept up with goodreads at all, but this is a wonderful thing to find.

Stephen M Scribble wrote: "I don't have to worry about reading Señor Márquez any further. Just have to twiddle my thumbs waiting for Stephen. :)"

Da'ww thanks Scribble. But I do insist on keeping up with Gabo instead of my intermitten output.

Stephen M Wren wrote: "This is without a doubt the loveliest tribute to a beloved book I've ever read! What a beautiful thing! -A Delighted Stranger"

Wren! This is beautiful thing to find on one's feed. You're too kind.
-A Humbled Stranger

Stephen M Traveller wrote: "Please don't forget about us, and let us know. ;)"

Thank you Trav! And I haven't forgotten about you guys. I miss seeing you all around. I haven't been able to maintain a presence on this site, and I haven't been reading much for myself in the past few months either.

message 41: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Stephen, this story was poking into my consciousness so often when I was just recently reading Love in the Time of Cholera. I think it affected my whole reading experience to an extent! And imagine I had read this so long ago. You are a genius!

Anne Zappa Brilliant.

Lucifel Please do write what happened after that.... :) I wish i can write someday as well as you seem to have done here... @___@ T_____T

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