on May 10, 2006
I don't really think this book needs my recommendation. It's a legend by itself already and I doubt what I have to say will influence your opinion more than the book when you actually read it. Still, I'll try to say what to expect and what not to expect.
Most readers don't need this warning, but some will probably catch the book because it's "well known and great". Remember, this is a classical novel, not some action one. If you need action and adventure, go elsewhere, just don't try to plow over the book and then give it a one-star rating - you have been warned.
Warnings aside, for a short description. The book is actually a case-study of one family's lives in a small village "on the edge of nowhere" (supposedly in South America, on the verge of the XIX and XX century, but this is not something you want to attach too much attention to, since the village is actually a sort of "neverland" and its geographical location is, I think, only due to the fact that Marquez felt better describing places that felt 'nearer' to him).
The book is actually a philosophical work, best described I think as a study of situations when a human being, though seemingly surrounded by friends, relatives and even loved ones, is actually alone. Hence the title - it's actually a study of solitude without solitude, a solitude among people. A study made by a brilliant writer, in a breathtaking style which makes the book read like a thriller. Marquez builds the magical place that is the village very meticulously, making you almost want to seek out this neverland in reality.
The main value of this book, its characters, atmosphere and the philosophy is not something you can describe in a review. You will just have to find it out for yourself. Which I greatly urge you to.
on March 24, 2003
I was supposed to read this book for an honors english course in college and I never finished it. I just picked it up again, determined to get the monkey off my back and I realized why I never got through it the first time.
The symbolism of this book is in moments breathtaking. The characters of the patriarch Jose Arcadio or his friend Melquiades, the indomitable Ursula, you will fall in love with these and perhaps others. I will not argue against the craft of this novel, it's clearly brilliant and worth reading for its illuminating voice and surprising imagery.
My issue is with the experience of reading the book. [SPOILER ALERT!] The characters you can really fall in love with show up early in the book and are all dead by about halfway through, replaced by their children and grandchildren who are at worst despicable and at best apparitions. By the end I was left feeling sort of hollow, lost and abandoned by both the story and the characters. [END SPOILER ALERT!] Thematically, the book seems to evade making a decision about what it wants to say, or even more than that, it evades even the idea that it should be about something thematically. I'm sure many people will want to lop my head off for saying something like that, but in the end I felt like the book became too symbolic and lost its grounding in reality. The conclusion seemed to say that history at some point will find an end to its cycle and will no longer be doomed to repeat itself. That might be a beautiful ending, except that everything we have come to care about in the novel is at that point a wasteland.
So I would say read this book to admire its literary brilliance and significance, but if you're looking for a nice weekend read be prepared that you may end up feeling something akin to desolation.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Reading and finishing ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a challenge and a chore. I found myself falling asleep at times, at others I wanted to chuck the book. But as I found myself reading more and more of this classic book, I wanted to finish it and wanted to be able to give an honest critique about one of the most important novels written in the 20th century.
Why was this book a chore to read? Because Marquez chose to write this novel in the rambling style imitating his grandmother, who would tell him stories when he was a child. There are paragraphs that go on forever, and in fact, there is one sentence that went on for two pages. When I got past that 2-page sentence, I almost laughed out loud. Wow!
Next thought comes to mind - was this book worth reading? Yes! The problem with this book is that one cannot just read the first 100 pages and decide "this is awful". Without getting to the end, one will not have the true satisfaction of what the book encompasses, will not understand what the book was about. When I got to that last page, I put the book down and realized I had just finished an epic novel by an author that obviously deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature. The book was indeed pure genius.
To sum it up, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE is an epic story in the birth, life and death of the small fictional town of Macondo in a South American country. It parallels several generations of Buendias. One of many themes that passed through the family was the fear of one of the descendants would be born with the tail of a pig. Incest is one of the themes that runs rampant throughout the book, one of the many funny elements that kept me reading. (Not to give it away, there is one child that is born with a tail. I'll leave it to the reader to find out!).
Another theme I saw that was obvious by the time I ended the book was reality versus magic realism. While the earlier portions of the history of Macondo was rooted in magic brought to the town by the Gypsies, as one reads further into the story, one encounters realities of war, life and death, and other happenings that this town held as important. A major turning point was the start of the Banana Company and the arrival of the white man. And in turn the people of the town had to deal with unions, and workers benefits. What was so shocking was the cover up of an event that came about from a strike. The fact that the townspeople could believe in the lies the Banana company would say to cover up this event was shocking, yes the townspeople easily believed in flying magic carpets and other mystical happenings. It is true that people will believe what they want to believe, and not necessarily what is the truth.
The members of the Buendias family were all larger than life. The Jose Arcadios and the Aureliano's were the two main male characters, each generation being named for someone in the previous one. Remedios and Amaranta were the common female names, all of them in their own right standing out as someone that was special and unique. Ursula and Jose Arcadios Buendias were the matriarch and patriarch of the family. Ghosts abound; magic is an every day occurrence. The novel is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's most famous novel and helped give credit to the genre known as Magic Realism (other good examples are HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS by Isabelle Allende and THE SECOND DEATH OF UNICA AVEYANO by Ernesto Mestre-Reed).
This reader gives ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE a five star rating. It is not recommend to those who will not have the patience to read a rambling style of narrative. It is difficult, and often times frustrating. As seen by the many negative reviews on Amazon, mostly by Post-Oprah publication readers, please note that this book is not for everyone. But for those who can appreciate fine world literature, this if for you.
on December 1, 2003
In this century-long story of a rural Columbian town, Sr. Marquez tells of a family whose memorable members, amidst all the glory, prosperity and apparent happiness, in the end stand each alone in life. I think he tells us how our remorse, scars, pride, fear, resignation and forgetfulness lead us to live and die in solitude, even in the sea of humanity, and that such lives are, in the end, as if not having been lived at all, for they will not be remembered.
For all of the numerous people who populate the story, the character development is deep and wholly convincing of each joy and suffering, of which the ups and downs are considerable as the tale unfolds. The story is told with a mixture of honesty toward the brutality of Columbian national life, rich fables and superstitions of the locality, and Sr. Marquez's own twists of imagination that immensely enrich the experience. The underlining profound themes and the overarching sadness of the story is sprinkled with laugh-out-loud humors and brilliant observations of subtleties of life that reminded me of Milan Kundera, though the context is obviously a world apart.
This is one of those stories that, having read, one feels rather exhausted from the emotional upheavals, and needs some time to let it ferment a little. After a while it starts to emit an aroma that challenges one's conscience with the relevance of what was said. It's a story-telling at its best from a Columbian national treasure. And the English translation is superb in capturing the tone.
on May 27, 2000
'One hundred Years of Solitude' is not an easy book, make no mistake about it. Or at least it is not an easy book to begin with. However, its mellifluous, dreamlike narrative, and touching appreciation of so many facets of human nature seep into the subconscious as the story of Macondo's existence unfolds, and I defy anyone to put it down if he or she is patient enough to read the first hundred pages or so.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez has created a miniature world in which the inhabitants seem to be afflicted by all the horrors of human society at the same time. The novel is crammed full of so much magical imagery that at times it seems like there is nothing more that the author could have put in, yet the focus is incredibly narrow, concentrating almost exclusively on the fortunes of one incredible family.
Ultimately, as Marquez doubtlessly intended, the reader emerges from the final pages as if from a slightly surreal, yet utterly fascinating dream; to adequately describe a century-worth of history in under 350 pages may seem like an impossible feat, but the author does just that and more at the denouement, by entirely subverting all that has gone before.
This book is essential reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in mythology, history, sociology or just good old-fashioned story-telling.
on November 30, 1999
this is the one. However, my recommendation comes with a caveot. Make sure you have enough time to sit and read it over three of four days. The longer it takes to read, the more of the story and the characters you will forget, the less the book will touch you.
One of the toughest english teachers I encountered spoke of buying copies of this book and handing them out to strangers, just on the odd chance it would end up in the hands of someone who would truly appreciate it. The book draws you in with the amazing, intricate, thoughtful, magical history of one family. BUT --> remember the caveot - if you put it down for a couple of days, it is difficult, borderline impossible to fully emmerse yourself in the story again.
on June 29, 2004
This is an absolutely amazing book. The most outstanding and unique thing about it is the style--it's like the figurative speech and literary imagery that all writers use have suddenly become physically incarnate. When Marquez wants to make a point about a dead character's lingering presence, he doesn't just write some simile about the ghost of the family's patriarch, but has that ghost sit under a tree, visible to all, for years. You can read into all of the magic that occurs, or you can just appreciate it as a good story. If you want realistic fiction, this isn't for you, but for anyone with a taste for whimsy and even absurdity it's great. There's a sense of wonder and joy in the writing, even when the subject matter isn't very cheerful. It's refreshing, especially since it seems like so much modern English literature is jaded and depressing.
This isn't a light book by any means, and maybe its scope is what makes people prefer Love in the Time of Cholera, which is a more narrow story. Personally, I was drawn in from the first page, and found the storytelling style engaging and interestingly nonlinear. It was exciting too--I was breathless when the civil war began. Yes, the names repeat a lot, but that serves a purpose, and as for the other repetitions, I couldn't help smiling every time the Arabs traded macaws. Homer repeated himself a lot too.
To conclude, I'll just say that before reading this, I didn't have a favorite book. Now I do.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "One Hundred Years Of Solitude" is the literary equivalent of a magic carpet ride, your own magic genii come to life, and Shaharazade's 101 tales wrapped into one brilliant, multilayered epic novel. From page one you will voyage with the most remarkably original cast of characters, through worlds of vibrant color, 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 heartbreak. I do not like to label Sr. Garcia Marquez' work "magical realism." There is no label to accurately describe the writing that gifted us with "One Hundred Years Of Solitude." 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 forever. 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.
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 and senseless, sudden violence. The plot is filled with passion, poetry, romance, tragedy and the echoes of the history of Colombia and Latin America.
I first read "One Hundred Years Of Solitude" in 1968, while living in Latin America. I have read it 2 or 3 times over the years, always picking up new pieces of wonder that I had previously missed. This is my favorite novel, and I am an avid reader. My favorite fictional character is Melquiades, the gypsy who foretells the future of the township and whose ghost accompanies the reader until there is no more to read. Having read this in Spanish and English, I must laud Gregory Rabassa's extraordinary translation which faithfully brings to life not only Marquez' story, but his lyrical prose. This is one of the 20th Century's best works of fiction. It is a masterpiece not to be missed.
on January 22, 2004
The best way for me to describe this book is that it's a very long folklore tale. That seems to be the simplest discription of Magical Realism. You can hear it in your head, being passed down between the generations. Each chapter feels like it represents one story that is told at one sitting; they compound on each other to make this wonderful story complete.
The fantastic elements of this story take on mythic qualities; explaining those things in the world that seem to be unexplainable without the notion of some kind of spiritual intervention. The characters in the book, as well as the reader, must have faith that these explanations are true or else the story is nothing but a passionate fable.
Be prepared when reading this book: GGM is a gifted writer. Every sentence is full of discription and information that must be savored in order the grasp its complexity. Not one idea is out of place; every word is deliberate. This translation is pain-stakingly good, as well.
It may take a while to get into this book - give it time. The end is well worth the effort. Also, keep a flag on the Buendia Family Tree as the names and lineages will get a little confusing!
on April 26, 2012
...but I just couldn't. I've heard for years about what a master of the craft Gabriel Garcia Marquez is, so I finally gave him a try. I was disappointed, to say the least.
To be sure, he has a way with prose, and he does an outstanding job of creating those first sentences that draw the reader in. After the first few pages, I was interested, hooked, and hopeful. I loved his descriptive language, his ability to paint a scene. It left me wishing I had a better grasp of Spanish so that I could appreciate the subtleties and beauty of the original language.
But as I progressed through the book, it became pure drudgery. Characters came and went so quickly (and with names far too similar to each other) that I was unable to connect with them and care about their lives. I was often confused, flipping back to the family tree to try to figure out who was doing what and how they were related to everyone else. I could not like or identify with a single character.
The fantastic elements felt random and sporadic. They weren't magical or mystical; they were simply odd and distracting.
For the last 100 pages or so, I was reading just to finish it so I could move on to something else. I didn't care about how he would end it. (Incidentally, he seemed to just finish writing without resolving anything). And once I finished, I was left with the question: what was the point? What was he trying to say? Why did he write this book? I have no idea.
Perhaps it means I know nothing about good literature - that is more than possible - but I couldn't find much to like about this book, and it makes me hesitant to try anything else by GGM.