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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“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
It chronicles a family through a hundred years. It's dense storytelling, like a condensed soup, where an entire story is told in the span of a page. It's a huge chronicle, like reading the summary of a century's old soap opera. Like The Simpsons, storylines repeat. But that's the point of the book. Sometimes they learn from their mistakes, other times the characters (all of the protagonists are of a single family) are ignorant of their family's past.
It also introduced me to the world of magical-realism, where magic is rare, but exists, disguised as coincidences.
I HIGHLY recommend this novel.
Although I feel I missed a lot about what was going on symbolically whilst reading (mostly a lot of the religious stuff), I still found this book to be extremely enjoyable. It's inspiring and surreal, whimsical, funny and sad--and it all causes a person to feel very introspective, because it blends so many aspects of what makes up a person's life. I looked up some of the themes and motifs after reading to make sure I caught everything, and I prefer many of my own interpretations. And I think Gabriel Garcia Marquez meant to write it in a way that was a more personal experience. At the end notes, he mentions in an interview how he wanted to capture the way an abuela tells stories to her grandchildren-- and I got that vibe the whole time. And a lot of times, the surreal in crazy old latin american stories is what makes you remember the life lessons behind the story. And I feel like that's what happened here.
But again, I feel like most people I know wouldn't like this book, and I can see where they're coming from. It definitely isn't for everyone. And I must stress that that's not coming from a pretentious place. His writing style will be frustrating to many readers I'd presume, because it's really just incredibly unique. But, if you can get past the style (long paragraphs, little fluctuation in narration, mentioning things that haven't really happened yet, or no main protagonist... etc) and the repetition of names, it really isn't super complicated or anything.
It isn't perfect, but It's great. And even though I started this review planning to give it four stars, after writing it--I think it's an important enough, and intricately weaved enough, and a unique enough a piece to warrant a 5-star from this fella.
As the book tells the story of the family over 100 years, it utilizes different and implausible devices to convey the sense that time is essentially a never ending circle. For example, repetition is commonly used in this story as a way to categorize the male family members by way of their first names, the José Arcadios, who have great physical strength but are marked by having a tragic and often suspicious death. For example, José Arcadio Buendía spends his last years rambling in Latin while tied up to a tree, while his son, José Arcadio dies mysteriously in his room after hearing a gunshot. In stark contrast are the Aurelianos who, instead of relying on physical strength, rely on their intellectual capabilities. Many of Aurelianos, for instance, were often found “enclosed in [the] workshop...[working on] the little gold fishes” (198), which is never adequately explained by the author. This is perhaps one of the aspects of magical realism that makes it difficult to enjoy the book with respect to the story being told: incoherent and unlikely things occur, with no explanation, and are simply presumed to be part of the natural life of the family.
In addition to repetition, Márquez also uses foreshadowing to explain the entire history of the Buendía family through Melquíades’ prophecies, who first appears as part of the wondrous gypsy group who tries to sell unusual items on the streets of Macondo and eventually evolves into José Arcadio Buendía’s friend and confidant. He later reappears in the Buendía house after his death as a ghostly figure, thus reenforcing the theme of magical realism, something so abstract and fantastical, appearing in this family’s everyday life. It is this reliance on the unlikely or supernatural that makes the book more of an educational read than an enjoyable one.
Spoiler alert: at the end of the book it is revealed that Melquíades prophecies, written in sanskrit and deciphered by Aureliano Babilonia, were in reality the history of the entire Buendía family and the book that we were reading was actually the prophecies of Melquíades.
Even though the circumstances surrounding the family are implausible, I thought the book presented a convincing portrayal of a proud and wealthy Colombian family that is surrounded by delusional, strange characters and unusual events. While Márquez’s literary style is difficult to follow and certainly not intended for leisurely reading, it is worthwhile for those who are willing to expend the time and effort and want to be enriched by Márquez’s mastery of language. In sum, while the story itself is dense and not exactly a thrilling page-turner, the reader can easily applaud Márquez’s intricate and gifted literary abilities.