Philip's Reviews > One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
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's review
Oct 02, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: classics, favorites
Read from October 12 to November 21, 2010


I imagine these people looking and saying, "Yes, but what does it mean?" As literary critics everywhere cringe or roll over in their clichéd graves I approach this text and review the same way. One Hundred Years of Solitude... beautiful, intriguing... but what does it mean? And does it have to mean anything?

Oscar Wilde: "All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril." And what about those who skip across the surface, like a stone? Able only to make so many hops before sinking, blinded by the mud, disoriented by the current to the bottom? What are we?

This was (is) a beautiful book. Like Guernica. Like Dali.

Dali Picture of Geopoliticus

It's religious, and political, and sexual. ... and confusing. And as long as I haven't over-used it already - beautiful.

It's the literary Big Fish and I'm sure people will and have debated what it means, and authorial intent and it won the Nobel Prize for crying out loud, but maybe it's to display on a prominent house wall and be debated.

It's easy to get a handle on the broad and general themes - history is cyclical - not progressive, progress is a myth (and "progress" is evil), go after love, be careful not to let memories or nostalgia bow you down, seek knowledge, the world is mysterious and doesn't always make sense, don't be intimidated of anybody - especially of your past self or selves.

Beyond that it's just conjecture.

The story begins with Jose Arcadio Buendia -the patriarch - and the founding of Macondo. It follows the lineage of his descendants - many living mythically long lives and bringing in enchanted aspects. The dead live, return from the future, invent and disappear - but not in a machine of the gods way - it's more dream-like.

The lineage frustrated me. In order to illustrate his point on the circular view of history, there were 4 Joses, 22 Aurelianos, 5 Arcadios, a couple Ursulas and Remedioses to boot. And Pilar Ternera found herself grandmother or great grandmother to far too many kids. Even with the family tree in the front of the book, it was difficult to tell which Arcadio or Jose or Aureliano was which - especially given the fact that so many of the characters lived past 100. (Or even past 145.)

The book was intriguing. I loved the tidbits that came back into play throughout the book - the ash on the heads of the Aurelianos, Melquiades stopping by for a chat - that's what made it for me.

Like I said, I don't think this was a book to "get." But if you do "get it," don't cliff note it to me. I like it the way it is in my mind.
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Quotes Philip Liked

Gabriel García Márquez
“It's enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment.”
Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Reading Progress

10/17/2010 page 59
02/05/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-26 of 26) (26 new)

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Jason Phillip you made my day (and today was one where I moved into a new house and unpacked for 13 hours). Nobody has ever said that my review encouraged them to read a book. Thanks. And a 4-star at that. Good. I start school next week, so it's nothing but medical textbooks for me in the next 30 months (well, maybe a novel at Xmas or something--hopefully).

Jason I like the cliff note bit.

JSou This is a great review! It (almost) makes me want to try and re-read this one. : )

Philip Thanks Jason, I hope you find some time to get some leisure reading in there somewhere between medical texts and family and school and all that. As always, good luck.

And thanks Jessica. I won't try to push you over the edge into actual re-reading. Almost is good enough for me.

Reese Philip,
This review has the "right" combination of ingredients to make it a thoroughly satisfying piece.
Applause for your inclusion of Picasso's and Dali's not-meant-to-be-verbal experiences. Your use of their art is the first use of "visuals" that I've seen in a GR review and actually appreciated.

Your review of AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY was among the reasons why a GR friend of mine added AAT to his to-read shelf.
Best wishes,

Jason Good to know Reese. I often put things on a to-read list but forget to note why or from what Goodreader. Consequently I don't follow up with an appropriate kudos.

Philip Thanks Reese.

I'm surprised that nobody's mentioned that Guernica does indeed mean something. (And of course Geopoliticus Child does as well.) Guernica was banned in Spain under Franco because of that meaning.

message 8: by Shawn (new)

Shawn Sorensen Phillip...this is just an amazing review, just amazing. I'm really impressed with the art, the commentary, the breaking down of a complex, important novel. You've hit a grand slam here.

Philip Thanks Shawn. I appreciate that.

Emily Iliani I am following your review from now on; a little late but better than never. The way you relate one branch of art with the other, SUPERB!

Philip Thanks Emily. :)

message 12: by Ania (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ania love the Dali's painting of the guy trying hard to hutch and its dream like atmosphere in relation to to the book. Beautiful review, thanks!

Philip Thanks, Ania.

Stephen M Great review Philip. I just finished this and this review really captured a lot of my experience of the book.

Philip Thanks Stephen.

message 16: by Thea (new) - rated it 3 stars

Thea Best review of such a confusingly surreal and beautiful book. Thanks for reaffirming what I thought I'd concluded about it!

Philip Thanks Thea. I appreciate it.

message 18: by Jan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan Your reviewed echoed exactly what I thought - great, great book, but what really did it mean. I have read all the literary criticism and I thought there must be more to this.

Machel Excellent review! My sister's favorite book and the you referenced BIG FISH, which is also her fav. movie!

Pilar The novel means so much to colombian political context, like Guernica means so much to the Spanish Civil War. And colombian and spanish people could understand more the real meaning of those pieces of art because they have the knowledge and the culture to understand it. Anyway, good review.

Philip Thanks, Pilar. I agree. The more we study the world around us, and the worlds of others, the better-equipped we'll be to understand the context of what we read and study. Like the book, it's cyclical.

Sometimes I wish I grew up everywhere at once, understanding the thoughts and motives of every culture.

Patricia C I wrote my review of this book as the person staring at the painting saying, BUT WHY? And a year after completing this book, I still think about it at random times. No book has stayed with me like that. And as much as I complained about people saying they totally understand it - because frankly, only Marquez understands it - your reference to Dali made it it very clear to me: there's no reason to have to try and find the hidden meaning if you can appreciate it for the beautiful work it is. I love Dali - my absolute favorite artist ever. Not because I "understand" his work - because really, who does? - because I think it's beautiful, and that's all I need. It's the same with this book... Something draws me to it, and there's something beautiful about it... Time being circular or not, this was a masterpiece.

Philip Patricia wrote: "I wrote my review of this book as the person staring at the painting saying, BUT WHY? And a year after completing this book, I still think about it at random times. No book has stayed with me like ..."

Thanks Patricia. I agree.

Side note: I was just up at The Art Institute of Chicago, and looked at several pieces by Dali. Man... He's fantastic. I don't come close to understanding his work, but I love it.

Although - allow me to contradict myself here - some part of me - somewhere - does understand and draw me to Dali. There's something that I understand that I don't understand.

He's conveyed something very clearly which I can't quite piece together. I hope you know what I mean. I'm not an artist. And (in general) the only writing I do is writing about other people's writing.

Emily Valentin Beautifully written review.

message 25: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Davey An American tragedy

Hasnain Zeenwala Exactly how I felt about it.

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