Wednesday, August 8, 2007

One Hundred Years Of Solitude

In writing the entry of Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage, I was reminded of yet another wonderful treasure of a book by the Nobel Prize Columbian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez entitled One Hundred Years Of Solitude. If you love his other book, Love In The Time Of Cholera, you will also like this book.

This book was given to me as a birthday gift many 'centuries' ago and I remembered I had so much difficulty reading and understanding it. Yet, the title of the book itself caused such an unspoken attraction to my mind, repeating over and over again - imagine it ringing in your ears: one hundred years of solitude... So, I picked up the book and read it again some months later (my friend kept asking whether I like the book, so I need an answer) and very slowly began to unravel the beauty of One Hundred Years Of Solitude.

In the first place, this book was one of the first books to be written in a style that is called "magic-realism": That means that the book does not have to make sense! It was written in a style of writing that is analogous to surrealism in a pictorial work. In magical realism, events that seem almost impossible — such as levitation — are commonplace, and things are not as they first appear. Magical realism is common among Latin American authors, though disparaged as self-indulgence by some critics. This is a book that defies description. You must read it to experience the fantastically real world of Macondo, and the people who live there. Once you know them, they will be a part of your own world.

Have you ever looked at a painting, walked into it and become a part of it? When you open this novel at page one, you are beckoned to enter.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years Of Solitude is the literary equivalent of a magic carpet ride, your own magic genie come to life, and Shaharazade's 101 tales all wrapped into one brilliant, multi-layered epic novel. From page one you will voyage with the remarkably original cast of characters, through worlds of vibrant colours, where the sun shines almost always - when not obscured by a four-year downpour. You will find yourself laughing out loud when you are not sobbing in sympathy with someone dying of a heartbreak.

Macondo is a mythical South American town, founded, almost by accident, by Jose Arcadio Buendia, and populated primarily by his descendants. This is the story of one hundred years in the life of Macondo and its inhabitants - the story of the town's birth, development and death. Civil war and natural calamities plague this vital place whose populace fights to renew itself and survive. This is a huge narrative fiction that explores the history of a people caught up in the history of a place. And Marquez captures the range of human emotions and the reasons for experiencing them in this generational tale.

There is much that is delightful and comical here. Surprises never cease, whether it be Remedios ascending, or a man whose presence is announced by clouds of butterflies. There is satire, sexuality and bawdiness galore. But there is also a pervading sadness and futility that permeates throughout. Cruelty is a reality in Marquez' world, as are failure, despair, senseless and sudden violence. The plot is filled with passion, poetry, romance, tragedy and the echoes of the history of Colombia and Latin America.

From the gypsies who visit Macondo during its earliest years to the gringos who build the banana plantation, from the "enormous Spanish galleon" discovered far from the sea to the arrival of the railroad, electricity, and the telephone, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's classic novel weaves a magical tapestry of the everyday and the fantastic, the humdrum and the miraculous, life and death, tragedy and comedy - a tapestry in which the noble, the ridiculous, the beautiful, and the tawdry all contribute to an astounding vision of human life and death, a full measure of humankind's inescapable potential and reality.

This is one of the 20th Century's best works of fiction. It is a masterpiece not to be missed.


saedah said...

l love books that defy reality. But not Harry Potter. hehe. Thanks. Will definitely read this one.

dewbaby said...

Another aspect of this book that I love is the 'cyclical' nature of the plot...that an end denotes a new beginning..
That we are actually self-destructive...
And note the character of Ursula.Why does it take a woman to hold us all together?
In a short book, Marquez tells the story of human civilisation.
(Evidently, I am a reverted 'Mocondo'ian.)

TheHoopoe said...


Similarly as in The Famished Road - it is the mother who held the family together. I supposed in an African society which is largely patriarchal, the point needed to be made to balance the power.

And you are indeed right: that this is a book about civilisation. It is a book about ourselves. It is a book about us - edit the locality and local culture.

TheHoopoe said...


Do read the book. But I wish to encourage you not to give up within the first chapter - a bit heavy-going. That is why the book provides the generation map and chart. You will need to refer to them very often to understand who is who and how he is related to him etc... know what I mean?

But once you "take flight", you will not put it down. You become part of their world - just like Dewbaby and myself had been when we read the book :)