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One Hundred Years of Solitude (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – January 20, 2004
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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
"One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race. It takes up not long after Genesis left off and carries through to the air age, reporting on everything that happened in between with more lucidity, wit, wisdom, and poetry that is expected from 100 years of novelists, let alone one man...Mr. Garcia Marquez has done nothing less than to create in the reader a sense of all that is profound, meaningful, and meaningless in life." -- William Kennedy, New York Times Book Review
"Fecund, savage, irresistible...in all their loves, madness, and wars, their alliances, compromises, dreams and deaths...The characters rear up large and rippling with life against the green pressure of nature itself." -- Paul West, Book World
"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
Garcia Marquez masterfully tells this tale, set in Latin America, about the birth and death of a family as revealed to the world by the finest of Latin American writers in the genre of magical realism. It is an essential book to anyone who wants to look at Latin American literature. Each time I read this book, I have found it to be funnier and sadder than the last.
I am a serious reader, a lover of life, and a happy person except when I am not, and I usually have something good to say about every book I read if nothing other than I note a graceful turn of phrase or a creative use of some word but to say a book is one of my favorites and that I actually can recall the book title and author (I have read far more than one book a week since I was about 10 years old) is not to be taken lightly. This book is right up there in possibly my top 5 all-time favorites. Magnificent might be the best way to describe this book. Perhaps in my list of books to recommend, besides Irving who is my all-time favorite, would be Cuelho and Marquez as do-not-misses.
The story itself can be a bit confusing but you cannot help but be sucked into the story about the town of Macondo and the lives of the Buendias, each with their own very unique life: some adventurous, some like hermits. The viewpoint is seen through thr eyes of the people as they see themselves growing toward modernization with the discoveries of Melquiades and Jose Arcadio Buendia, and the Banana Company (and its later massacre which haunts the town). The lives of the residents are a metaphor, in fact, for the reaches of our imagination and it requires us, the reader, to think perceptively about life.
Read it if you have not already. I promise you will not be bored.
As far as the book goes, One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my favorite books of all time. I've revered it for it's writing style, the plot, and the way in which Marquez encapsulates and engulfs the reader into his theme of magical realism. Reading requires a certain level of patience, and such is demonstrated with Marquez. The book culminates so beautifully that I can't help but be dumbfounded. It's a book that you can read and think about for the rest of your life. It highlights the themes of solitude that we so comfortably forget.
The story involves six generations of one family, established by Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula Iguaran, who also helped found the town of Macondo, in the lowlands of Columbia, though the country is never specifically identified. The in-breeding (and also out-breeding) in this one family is simply astonishing. I can't remember if the original edition had a genealogical chart at the beginning, but this one does, and it provides an invaluable reference in keeping the philanderings, and the subsequent progeny, straight, particularly since numerous individuals over the generations have the same name. What is the "Scarlet Letter" that is prophesized for a family with such a high degree of consanguinity? That a child will be born with a pig's tail.
Marquez dazzles the reader with the intensity of his writing; it's as though he had a 1600 page book in him, but is given a 400 page limit. It is the furious sketching of a street artist, making every line count in a portrait. The strengths, follies, and interactions of the men and women are depicted in memorable events. And there seems to be a realistic balance and development of his characters. Marquez is also the master of segue, from one event to the other, and from one generation to another, with his characters moving from swaddling clothes, on to adulthood, and then into their decrepitude.
From my first reading, I had remembered Rebeca, with her "shameful" addiction to eating dirt. First time around, I chalked it up to Marquez's "magical realism," since no one really ate dirt. Several years later I learned that it is a wide-spread medical problem, often driven by a mineral deficiency that the person is trying to remediate. The author also describes the disease of insomnia which was spread to Macondo, with an accompanying plague of forgetfulness. Magical realism, or the forgetfulness of the "now" generation that has lost the stories of the past?
Establishing the time period comes slowly. Marquez mentions Sir Frances Drake, but he is in the unspecified past. It is only when a family portrait is taken, as a daguerreotype photo, that one realizes it must be in the 1840's-50's, with six generations to go. There are a multitude of themes: since this IS Latin America, Marquez has the obligatory gringos and their banana plantations (alas, all too true); there is endless, senseless war, with the two sides eventually unable to state what they are fighting for, except, of course, the war itself; there are the women who drive men crazy with their beauty, and there is the spitefulness of women to each other (alas, again, the "sisterhood'); there is economic development, and a worker's revolt, and the use of other members of the same class, but in uniform, who repress it; there is the role of the Catholic Church in Latin America, and even a family member who would be Pope and there are unflinching portrayals of the aging process, alas, to the third power.
On the re-read, I noticed a portion of the novel that was much further developed in Innocent Erendira: and Other Stories (Perennial Classics). Also nestled in the book was an important reference: "Taken among them were Jose Arcadio Segundo and Lorenzo Gavilan, a colonel in the Mexican revolution, exiled in Macondo, who said that he had been witness to the heroism of his comrade Artemio Cruz." Checking Marquez bio, he has been a long-time friend of Carlos Fuentes, slipped this reference in 100 years, which is an omen for me, since I was considering re-reading Fuentes marvelous The Death of Artemio Cruz: A Novel (FSG Classics) And in terms of omens, redux even, do future travel plans include meeting another character in the book, the Queen of Madagascar?
I recently had dinner with a woman who had been Ambassador to one of the Latin American countries. Spanish is her native language, and she still reads some of the Latin American writers in Spanish to "keep her language skills up." As for "100 years," she had read it four times, each time in English. It's a record I am unlikely to repeat, but this novel, which honors the Nobel Prize with its name, could use a third read, if I am granted enough time. It ages well, sans decrepitude, and provided much more meaning the second time around. 6-stars.
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There's so much already said about this novel, I'll just address one issue: a lot of people I know have abandoned this book for a single reason,...Read more