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One Hundred Years of Solitude (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) Paperback – February 21, 2006
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"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
It is typical of Gabriel García Márquez that it will be many pages before his narrative circles back to the ice, and many chapters before the hero of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Buendía, stands before the firing squad. In between, he recounts such wonders as an entire town struck with insomnia, a woman who ascends to heaven while hanging laundry, and a suicide that defies the laws of physics:
A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta's chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.
"Holy Mother of God!" Úrsula shouted.
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. If it is possible for a novel to be highly comic and deeply tragic at the same time, then One Hundred Years of Solitude does the trick. Civil war rages throughout, hearts break, dreams shatter, and lives are lost, yet the effect is literary pentimento, with sorrow's outlines bleeding through the vibrant colors of García Márquez's magical realism. Consider, for example, the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar, whom José Arcadio Buendía has killed in a fight. So lonely is the man's shade that it haunts Buendía's house, searching anxiously for water with which to clean its wound. Buendía's wife, Úrsula, is so moved that "the next time she saw the dead man uncovering the pots on the stove she understood what he was looking for, and from then on she placed water jugs all about the house."
With One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez introduced Latin American literature to a world-wide readership. Translated into more than two dozen languages, his brilliant novel of love and loss in Macondo stands at the apex of 20th-century literature. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“More lucidity, wit, wisdom, and poetry than is expected from 100 years of novelists, let alone one man.” (Washington Post Book World)
“The first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.” (William Kennedy, New York Times Book Review)
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Top Customer Reviews
Now, be warned: this is not a clear-cut story; the prose can be confusing, and the repetition of names makes it more difficult by far to keep track of who is who. The novel does indeed cover one hundred years, so expect to see favorite characters die if they first appear early on. There is no one protagonist. The family is the protagonist--the family, and the town.
Perhaps despite these potential confusions and perhaps because of them, Marquez has woven in this book a shroud of mysteriousness and magical realism that make reading it something like stepping into a dream; his Macondo is like nowhere else on Earth (or at least nowhere I have ever heard of), and things at once comic, tragic, and unreal can happen there. You will find dreamers and would-be scientists, layabouts and soldiers, matriarchs and wantons in this enchanted household. Enchantment of a murky sort hovers over the land like a haze, touching everything and separating the descendants of Jose Arcadio from the world as we know it.
You may not want to read it in one sitting; you may find yourself putting it down for awhile, confused or exasperated by the latest turn of events, but it is quite likely that you will pick it up again in due course with curiosity drawing you back into the realm Marquez has created. As classics go, this is one worthy of the title, and it is a story to be savored.
Like many other epics, this book has deeply-rooted connections with historical reality, i.e., the development of Colombia since its independence from Spain in the early 19th century. The story of the Buendia family is obviously a metaphor for Colombia in the neocolonial period as well as a narrative concerning the myths in Latin American history.
The finest example of magic realism, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a wonderfully comic novel, yet the book also exudes a pervading sense of irony; a strong undercurrent of sadness, solitude and tragic futility. The intermingling of the fantastic with the ordinary keeps readers in a state of constant anticipation, especially where the generations of Buendia men are concerned.
Some of this extraordinary novel's most important effects are achieved through the interplay of time as both linear and circular. The founding of Macondo and its narrative, for the most part, follow time in a linear sense, as does the history of the Buendia family, who form a series of figures symbolizing the particular historical period of which they are a part.
The book, however is almost obsessively circular in its outlook, as characters repeat, time and again, the experience of earlier generations. The book's fatalism is underscored by this circular sense of time. Even a name a person is given at birth predetermines his or her life and manner of death, e.g., the Aurelianos were all lucid, solitary figures, while the Jose Arcadios were energetic and enterprising, albeit tragic.
The characters in One Hundred Years of Solitude represent the purest archetypes; they are two dimensional and are used to convey certain thematic points. This enhances the beauty of the novel rather than detracting from it, for One Hundred Years of Solitude is thematic and metaphorical in nature rather than psychological.
The male figures are obsessive, and full of ambitious projects and passionate sexuality. They are, however, given to extreme anger, irrational violence and long periods of self-imposed solitude.
The female characters also lend themselves to categorization. With the exception of the Remedios, the women in the book exhibit either common sense and determination or passionate eroticism. But while the men are dreamy and irrational, the women are firmly rooted in reality. Both sexes, however, embody a similar fatal flaw; they lack the ability to relate to the world outside of Macondo. They fall victim to their own constructions, plunging them into a harsh and long-lasting solitude.
Macondo is fated to end the moment one of its inhabitants deciphers Melquiades the Gypsy's manuscripts regarding the town's history. In a sense, however, Macondo does survive. One of the few who take the advice of the Catalan bookseller and leave the town before its destruction is Gabriel Garcia Marquez, himself, who escapes with the complete works of Rabelais.
This self-referential ending, pointing to the world beyond Macondo from which Garcia Marquez is telling the story tells us that whatever life is to be lived in Latin America should not be the magic but self-defeating experience of the Buendias, but rather an ever-widening life of learning and moving on; the development of an awareness of doing what each situation requires.
Garcia Marquez is more than a Nobel Prize winning author. He is a magician par excellence; someone whose unique ability to produce a magical realm where anything is possible and everything is believable is unrivaled. This is the overwhelming reason why this dazzling masterpiece does, and will continue to attract, convince and hypnotize readers for decades to come.
But the struggle is worth it. This was truly the great novel that Garcia Marquez was meant to write; to me everything of Marquez that followed seems like recycled material. I first read One Hundred Years of Solitude years ago before moving to Latin America. Now that I here and have read it again, many of the messages that before were inaccessible now reveal themselves. The Story of Macondo is the story of Colombia and, to a larger extent, of Latin America. The reviewers tell us this, but it is amazing to see it with my own eyes.
The literal and the fantastic are interwoven with a seamlessness that amazes. One compares his style with Kafka before and Kundera after, literary voice established in this novel has withstood the test of time. It remains unique.
The book is at once funny, sad, tragic; it's history and fantasy. But overall it is a marvelous read. Clearly one of my all time favorites. There are very few books that I recommend as highly as this one. A true classic.