Mala's Reviews > One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
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"Sometimes great books have deleterious consequences for other writers, creating footsteps that can’t be walked in, shade the sun can’t penetrate, expectations that have no grounds. Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude crushed the hopes of scores of young Colombian writers, and the spread of magic realism was not exactly beneficent, since it takes a magician to work magic and because rabbits don’t hide in just anybody’s hat."

– William H Gass, in the essay 'Influence' from A Temple of Texts.

This is a book of such terrible and heartbreaking beauty that I'm still reeling from the impact! Books like Nightwood & One Hundred Years of Solitude are proof that greatness shdn't be judged by size alone. This tale is perfect cause in it Márquez finally found the "right tone"–

...the tone that I eventually used in One Hundred Years of Solitude. It was based on the way my grandmother used to tell her stories. She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness. When I finally discovered the tone I had to use, I sat down for eighteen months and worked every day.*

The mythical Macondo could be any place on earth where mankind was promised paradise but destroyed it as only man could.

Although Márquis said that he only wrote this as a book about incest, it's quite clear that it is a metaphor for the political & social history of Colombia rather broadly of Latin America's colonial past & its tentative march towards modernity as most events described herein are based on facts: Márquez’s native town of Aracataca as the inspiration for the fictional Macondo, the long & bloody civil war roiling South America 1850 onwards, the political assasinations, the arrival of the railways & the cinema, the cruel exploitation of Colombia by the American United Fruit Company, & the horrific massacre of the protesting workers by the Colombian military at the behest of the foreign imperialists, are some of the instances.

"García Márquez’s masterpiece, however, appeals not just to Latin American experiences, but to larger questions about human nature. It is, in the end, a novel as much about specific social and historical circumstances—disguised by fiction and fantasy—as about the possibility of love and the sadness of alienation and solitude."

Just as Rushdie described the waning years of the British Empire & then a free India's tryst with destiny through the Sinai family in Midnight's Children ( a book inspired by this book!), the narrative here is told through the meteoric rise & rise & subsequent decline & fall of the House of Buendias — the first family of Macondo who become a symbol of the culture & the country.
Like the famous first families around the world – the Kennedys, the Perons, the Gandhis, the Bhuttos – their charisma carries their curse:

The charismatic patriarch José Aureliano Buendia, who starts with such dreams & promise, like so many of his descendants, eventually resigns himself:
"We shall never get anywhere. . . . We'll rot our lives away here without the benefits of science". (19)
His descendants all inherit the same difficulty, and thus all eventually succumb to the power of nostalgia, to opting out of their historical reality, which they have never really understood clearly. They cope with their failure by an inner withdrawal...Loneliness in Macondo and among the Buendias is not an accidental condition, something that could be alleviated by better communications or more friends, and it is not the metaphysical loneliness of existentialists, a stage shared by all men. It is a particular vocation, a shape of character that is inherited, certainly, but also chosen, a doom that looks inevitable but is freely endorsed. The Buendias seek out their solitude, enclose themselves in it as if it were their shroud. As a result they become yet another emblem of the unreality
.**

What's in a name? A lot, it seems!

The theme of a circular time is emphasised again & again through many devices - The multi-generational Buendia family keep giving the same ancestral names over & over to the children of the family, any attempt to break away from this practice is thwarted. The reduction in names' length means reduction in other ways as well – the boys are less of men - more dissolute, purposeless & solitary. The Buendias put the D back in dysfunctional : incest, adultery, debauchery, self-centeredness & excesses of all sorts abound. By having the same names they are condemned to repeat the mistakes of their earlier namesakes - first as farce then as tragedy; their ineffectual repetitive behaviour symbolised in the futile thirty-two armed uprisings & the little gold fishes of Colonel Aureliano Buendia.

The narrative plays out like a Greek tragedy – The characters seem fated to act out their lives as if there were no other way – for example, the seventeen boys of Colonel Aureliano, with the Ash Wednesday cross on their foreheads, are sitting ducks for political vendetta. The Biblical allusions are woven throughout – The Paradise discovered & lost, the deluge & plagues & finally Macondo is so deep in sins that like Sodom & Gomorrah, it has to be destroyed. The ending is heartbreaking but it couldn't have ended any other way. But if you read closely, there is a ray of hope!

I can't recommend this book enough - the epic scope of its narrative, the Magical Realism that became a standard for others writing in this genre, the deeply flawed but oh so human & memorable characters & Márquez's exquisite & at times hypnotic prose will keep you glued to this profoundly sad & disturbing tale.

A note regarding spoilers

Readers who are finicky about their spoiler alerts shd avoid this book – after every few pages the omniscient narrator gleefully announces the gruesome deaths that will befall the various members of the Buendia family, not to mention the back & forth in narrative time, the predictions & foreshadowing galore.
Point is, spoiler alerts are for ninnies – Adults just get on with it!

(*) Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 69, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

http://www.theparisreview.org/intervi...

(**) A must read:
Lecture on One Hundred Years of Solitude
http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/intro...

This too:

Memory and Prophecy, Illusion and Reality Are Mixed and Made to Look the Same
http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/06/15...
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Quotes Mala Liked

Gabriel García Márquez
“He sank into the rocking chair, the same one in which Rebecca had sat during the early days of the house to give embroidery lessons, and in which Amaranta had played Chinese checkers with Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, and in which Amarana Ursula had sewn the tiny clothing for the child, 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.”
Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel García Márquez
“The rain would not have bothered Fernanda, after all, her whole life had been spent as if it were raining.”
Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel García Márquez
“She asked God, without fear, if he really believed that people were made of iron in order to bear so many troubles and mortifications; and asking over and over she was stirring up her own confusion and she felt irrepressible desires to let herself go and scamper about like a foreigner and allow herself at last an instant of rebellion, that instant yearned for so many times and so many times postponed, putting her resignation aside and shitting on everything once and for all and drawing out of her heart the infinite stacks of bad words that she had been forced to swallow over a century of conformity.”
Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude


Reading Progress

March 15, 2012 – Shelved
May 3, 2013 – Shelved as: brain-pain-group-read
May 3, 2013 – Shelved as: dream-fantasy-horror
May 3, 2013 – Shelved as: classic-ever-enduring-appeal
Started Reading
May 11, 2013 – Finished Reading
May 12, 2013 – Shelved as: all-time-favourites
May 30, 2013 – Shelved as: nobel-prize-winner

Comments Showing 1-31 of 31 (31 new)

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janet Thanks for this. You have reminded me of how important and wonderful this book is. I definitely need to re-read this. By the way, thanks for the invitations to the group and Buddenbrooks read. I hope you enjoy it - sorry I had to pass on it. Please don't give up on me.


message 2: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten I've got to read this. I love the fact that you called out the "spoiler ninnies". :-) Marvelous review Mala!


message 3: by Steve (new)

Steve Clearly your brain thrives on the pain, Mala. Great review.

I have no problem with authors/narrators giving us spoilers. It's presumably not just some accidental slip of the tongue to ruin a surprise -- it's what was intended.


Mala janet wrote: "Thanks for this. You have reminded me of how important and wonderful this book is. I definitely need to re-read this. By the way, thanks for the invitations to the group and Buddenbrooks read. I..."

Janet I LOVE this book–& yes it must be read cause it's a milestone in world literature. The Buddenbrook group read is going on famously though I'm still behind in my reading & am yet to add my two cents. But really you must join cause I've a feeling you'll enjoy it.


message 5: by Mala (last edited May 16, 2013 02:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mala Jeffrey wrote: "I've got to read this. I love the fact that you called out the "spoiler ninnies". :-) Marvelous review Mala!"

Jeffrey you'll love this & you'll do wonders with the review! That 'spoiler' related outburst came from my own frustration with certain readers that I encountered lately >_>

I heard that Vollmann does that quite a lot in his Seven Dreams series.


Mala Steve wrote: "Clearly your brain thrives on the pain, Mala. Great review.

I have no problem with authors/narrators giving us spoilers. It's presumably not just some accidental slip of the tongue to ruin a s..."


Steve, Márquez is all abt the Heart! In his Paris Review interview (I've given the link above), he famously says that he is not considered "intellectual" by the critics cause he doesn't quote enough! Márquez dislikes them so much that he tries to reach his readers directly without needing the mediation of such critics! Do read the interview & of course this book. I'm recommending it to you :-)


message 7: by Steve (new)

Steve Thanks, Mala. I can't help but put a personal recommendation high on my list. I own this one and Love in the Time of Cholera, but haven't treated myself to either one. Yet.


Arnie A perfect review for a truly magical book.


Mala Thank you Arnie.


message 10: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian "Marvin" Graye Wow, Mala, there are so many powerful insights in this review.


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

Abby A powerful reminder of the need to re-read. Thanks, Mala.


message 12: by Mala (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mala Ian wrote: "Wow, Mala, there are so many powerful insights in this review."

You are being very kind to me,thank you.


message 13: by Mala (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mala Abby wrote: "A powerful reminder of the need to re-read. Thanks, Mala."

Thanks,Abby. Some books are forever!


Lit Bug Brilliant review, Mala - I feel like reading it again. I hadn't noticed some of the things before, such as "(incest) it's quite clear that it is a metaphor for the political & social history of Colombia rather broadly of Latin America's colonial past & its tentative march towards modernity."


message 15: by Mala (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mala Lit Bug wrote: "Brilliant review, Mala - I feel like reading it again. I hadn't noticed some of the things before, such as "(incest) it's quite clear that it is a metaphor for the political & social history of Col..."

Thanks,Lit. I love this book- there's so much richness to it that my review feels very inadequate but I was happy discussing this book in a group read.


Gregsamsa This review makes me want to go back and reread it! It's been years, but I still often have some of its stranger images come to mind unbidden, such as the lollipops of dreams that had the whole village sleepwalking, all in their own world, or the boy whose blood ran through the streets and wound up back at his house, where it stopped, keeping his mother's floor clean. And I agree about spoilers. Books that can be ruined by spoilers are not worth re-reading, and if a book isn't worth re-reading, is it worth one read?


message 17: by Mala (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mala Gregsamsa wrote: "This review makes me want to go back and reread it! It's been years, but I still often have some of its stranger images come to mind unbidden, such as the lollipops of dreams that had the whole vi..."

Thanks a lot. I love this book- wish you had read it with me on Brain Pain!
So many beautiful,poignant,tragic memories from this one- & you forgot the yellow butterflies!


Agnieszka Brilliant review for such magical novel!


message 19: by Mala (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mala Agnieszka wrote: "Brilliant review for such magical novel!"

I thank you kindly.


Tyler Thank you for the amazing review and links! You really deepened my understanding of the book :)


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

Mala Tyler wrote: "Thank you for the amazing review and links! You really deepened my understanding of the book :)"

Thanks for your kind words,Tyler.
I love this book & feel very happy when other readers feel the same love for it.


Renato Magalhães Rocha Great, great review! One of my absolute favorite books! Well done!


message 23: by Mala (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mala Thanks, Renato. Have you reviewed it? Let me check.


Renato Magalhães Rocha Not yet! I keep meaning to re-read it in order to write a review... but where's time? :-)


Cecily For those who don't like the spoilers in this book, be wary of Galápagos: Vonnegut even puts asterisks by the names of the characters who will soon die. It's a great book (but otherwise, utterly different from this).


message 26: by Mala (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mala Cecily wrote: "For those who don't like the spoilers in this book, be wary of Galápagos: Vonnegut even puts asterisks by the names of the characters who will soon die. It's a great book (but otherwise..."

Well, thanks for letting us know. Unless it's a thriller, I don't much care abt spoilers.


message 27: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Dazzling review of one of the best books ever. Brava!


message 28: by Mala (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mala Will wrote: "Dazzling review of one of the best books ever. Brava!"

Thank you for the kind words.


Imran Kazi Completed this book on my third attempt. I am still groping for words to describe the experience. The allusion to the real world latin american reality, the historicity... the mesmerizing assertion of cyclical time sometime made me take a moments break and had to feel the time arounds me; is time really passing by? Or does it stand still? Is it always the same tuesday from my birth, only we wither away? Sometime I could not come out of these confusion. This is an absolutely fantastic book.
Thanks for your review Mala.


message 30: by Reihane (new) - added it

Reihane perfect review! i just finished reading the book and was kind of confused! it made me actually understand the book better and come to like it despite its being hard to get through for me. i will probably write a short review of it after i've read the must-read article you recommended.


Gregsamsa Don't just note the content. Note the rhythm. Gass is a poet.


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