Jesse's Reviews > One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
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Feb 05, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: book-club, read-in-2010
Read from February 05 to 24, 2010

From one page to the next I can't say I liked it all that much; at the same time I can't dismiss it out of hand. Ultimately it all comes down to the fact that while I appreciate what Márquez is going for, in the end it just failed to move me. That is, with the exception of those final, breathless paragraphs, where the whole preceding 400 pages kind of implode in on themselves in a furious mingling of prophecy, dream, memory, tragedy... and the stillness of ultimate solitude.

It seems every edition currently in print liberally quotes that New York Times Book Review review that invokes Genesis, that 100 Years is "the first piece of literature since the book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race." Umm no, not quite, but it seems to me Genesis is the appropriate starting point: I've recently found myself returning to stories of the Old Testament and the similarities are striking—here again we are in a world, a state of being where it's perfectly feasible that a baby could be found floating among the reeds, an entire people group could wander aimlessly in a desert for forty years, that two daughters could get their father drunk and get themselves both impregnated by him. Really, is Márquez's magic carpets all that much different from the Torah writer's instant transformation of a woman into a pillar of salt?

But enough with the Old Testament parallels, though I could go on and on and on (i.e., the obsession with genealogy, the icky tendencies for family members to end up in the sack together, the marginalization of women, the endless focus on obscurely rationalized wars, the responsibility of the reader to ferret out some kind of deeper meaning from the most cursory of narrative fragments, etc, etc, etc). What really impresses me is the sheer density Márquez somehow manages to achieve—all of these endlessly repeating names, these familiar actions and tendencies seemingly bequeathed from one generation to the next, the "impression that time [is:] going in a circle," endlessly remixing and repeating the same little tragedies with far-reaching ripple effects. It's almost… Biblical. Oh wait.

Through my entire reading, which I can't claim was an easy one (in fact, there's a good chance I wouldn't have even finished it if I hadn't had my book club discussion as a motivator), I kept returning to a line I had scrawled on the blank page facing that essential genealogy chart: "…the hardship of solitude is measured out equally." It's a line from a poem called "The Gift of Meditation" by Julia Hartwig which I happened to come across halfway through my reading of Solitude. And it kind of got to the heart of the matter for me—all of these endless characters filling out every single page... each together but alone in the hardship of solitude.

"...and in that flash of lucidity he became aware that he was unable to bear in his soul the crushing weight of so much past."
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Ultimately it all comes down to the fact that while I appreciate what Márquez is going for, in the end it just failed to move me.

Sometimes, that's what counts for the most. That's what I feel about the supposed "Masters of Literature". It can't be a five star book if it doesn't leave some kind of lasting impression upon me.

That said, I do still want to read this. You talk about the concept of time going in a circle, endlessly repeating events... I like that kind of epic. I like the tapestry idea. I just don't know if I can bear to read another Marquez yet. The last one I tried, Memories of my Melancholy Whores filled me with such a sense of despair and painful loneliness I couldn't finish it. I can still remember the physical experience of reading it- it certainly left an impression on me, if not a good one. And this one actually has "Solitude" in the title, which leads me to believe it will be worse.

Jesse A lot of our book club discussion ended up revolving around the question "why is this such a popular book? Why do so many people love it?" There were a lot of hypothoses, but as nobody in the group had that reaction to the novel, so we could only offer guesses. We also wondered how much is lost in translation.

I didn't mention it, but there actually is a lot of humor throughout Solitude, albeit a sometimes morbid humor. It's not exactly bleak in the way Memories seems to be (but what a fascinating reaction! And I totally could imagine how Márquez is able to accomplish that with his style if that was the effect he was going for.)

Obviously I can't say it's a must-read or anything, but I'm definitely glad I read it. But more than anything I'm definitely glad I'm done. :)

message 3: by Kelly (new)

Kelly There were a lot of hypothoses, but as nobody in the group had that reaction to the novel, so we could only offer guesses.

That's interesting- I wonder if this is one of those books where the writing style seems important and profound, so people think they should like it. I could see that- part of the point of magical realism is to make you feel like you're missing things right in front of your face. I hope your next book club pick is more of a crowd pleaser!

But more than anything I'm definitely glad I'm done. :)

Surprising the amount of Great Books one has that reaction to... just because they are quality doesn't make them a pleasure. I think Middlemarch was the last one I felt that way about- though I did appreciate it and marvel at Eliot's intelligence no end.

Petra Eggs I loved the book because it was so dense, it was a complete other world populated by real characters that I became totally immersed in. But then I am a mad GGM fan and love everything he wrote, fiction and non-fiction, and especially Memories of my Melancholy Whores. But I always enjoy reading different points of view of books I've read.

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