[Book Review] One Hundread Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Rating:★★★★★

From my observation on Goodreads or other book page, this book has one of the most polarizing readers: the one who really hates this book, the other who really loves this book. I bought this book in a second hand book store quite a while ago but this was somehow intimidating to start reading. One day, I was spacing out while watching my books in the shelves. This book caught my eyes with all the green color and reminded me that I hardly touched this book.

‘Ok, Challenge accepted. Not sure if I can make it till the end of this book but I can try.”

After reading a few pages, I thought ‘oh gosh, it’s series of nonsense, ridiculous things’ . But some parts of me pressured me to keep reading this and eventually I ended up really like it weirdly although I was really struggling with names that I had to take a side trip to look at the genealogy of Buendia family.

I can literally feel new wrinkles spreading across the surface of my brain when I read this book by Marquez.. After reading three chapters, it starts making sense and that’s when you realize you’re probably crazy, too. And you are. We all are.

Plot and Comment

The story follows 100 years in the life of Macondo, a village founded by José Arcadio Buendía and occupied by descendants all sporting variations on their progenitor’s name: his sons, José Arcadio and Aureliano, and grandsons, Aureliano José, Aureliano Segundo, and José Arcadio Segundo. Then there are the women–the two Úrsulas, a handful of Remedios, Fernanda, and Pilar–who struggle to remain grounded even as their menfolk build castles in the air.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in Aracataca, Columbia in 1927. Influenced by his grandmother’s vivid story telling, Marquez decided at an early age that he wanted to be a writer. Upon completion of la Universidad de Cartagena, Marquez began his career as a reporter and soon began to write short stories. His earliest stories were published as early as the 1950s, yet in 1964 while living in Mexico City with his young family, he completed Solitude in a mere eighteen months. Finally published for the first time in 1967, Solitude sold millions of copies, establishing Marquez as a world renown writer, leading to his receiving the Nobel Prize in 1982.

Throughout the novel and the century of change to Macondo, all the Jose Arcadios were solitary individuals and inventors. Determined to decipher the gypsies secret to the universe, they holed themselves up in an alchemist’s lab, rarely seen by the outside world. The Aurelianos, on the other hand, were leaders of revolution. Colonel Aureliano Buendia started thirty two civil wars yet lost all of them. A relic who fathered seventeen sons of the same name and grew to become Macondo’s most respected citizen, his spirit of adventure and discovery repeated itself in the descendants who bore his name.

Women held the family together. First Ursula who lived to be 122 years old and then her daughter Amaranta, the women expanded the family home and raised successive generations so that new Jose Arcadios and Aurelianos would not repeat the mistakes of their namesakes. Yet the same mistakes and characteristics occur: rejected love, spirit of adventure, lone soles willing to live for one hundred years in solitary confinement. Additionally, the two characters who predicted all the events of the novel were not even members of the Buendia family: Pilar Ternera, a card reader who specialized in fates and could look at a Buendia to know his future; and Melquiades, a gypsy who befriended the original Jose Arcadio, leading all the successive generations to a life of solitude.

At first Marquez equates solitude with death. Later on he includes individuals happy to live out their days alone. In order to make a point of his examples of solitude, he interjects countless examples of magical realism: a man bleeding to death down a street, yellow butterflies announcing a man’s presence, a rain of epic proportions that would not end. With these and other countless examples throughout the text, Marquez created a magical realism genre that is still widely in use by Latino writers and others around the world today.

While used to the magical realism genre, Marquez usage and prose were a treat for me to read. Between the prose and magical realism and a memorable story for the ages, One Hundred Years of Solitude is an epic, genre changing, extraordinary novel. Authors of the last fifty years can credit Marquez’ influence in their own work. I feel privileged to have finally read this saga deserving of its numerous awards and top ratings that eventually lead Marquez to earn a Nobel Prize. One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel for the ages, meriting 5 wonderful stars.

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