- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Penguin; 1 edition (25 July 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014118499X
- ISBN-13: 978-0141184999
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 399 g
- Customer Reviews: 1,849 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 260,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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One Hundred Years Of Solitude Paperback – 25 July 2001
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About the Author
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born on 6 March 1927 in Aractaca, Colombia, and died on 17 April 2014 in Mexico City, aged 87.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 for a body of work that includes novels, works of non-fiction and collections of short stories.
His most famous works include Leaf Storm (1955), In Evil Hour (1962), One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), The Autumn of the Patriarch(1975), Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981), Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), The General in His Labyrinth (1989), News of a Kidnapping (1996), Living to Tell the Tale (2002) and Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004).
'Marquez writes in this lyrical, magical language that no-one else can do.' Salman Rushdie
'Marquez is a retailer of wonders.' Sunday Times
'An exquisite writer, wise, compassionate and extremely funny.' Sunday Telegraph
'An imaginative writer of genius.' Guardian
'The stories are rich and startling, confident and eloquent. They are magical.' John Updike
'One of this century's most evocative writers.' Anne Tyler<
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Top international reviews
It was definitely like dreaming about a distant town called ‘Macondo’, with weird characters, all of them having similar names, making the read a bit difficult. I had to keep referring the family hierarchy given in the beginning to comprehend what’s going on and with whom!
So this was my first novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I picked it up because someone told me that he’s way too good, even much better than Murakami, when it comes to magical realism (I doubt this one though). Anyway, not getting into any comparisons. The tale is about a remote village called Macondo, and the family of Jose Arcadio Buendia, and his wife Ursula. The storyteller takes you through multiple generations of this family, with distinct and weird characters. Peculiar thing is, everyone is having similar two names, so half the time you’re confused what’s going on and with whom exactly. After a while, you get used to it though. So there’s some who makes gold fishes, some girl who eats dirt, gypsies with flying carpets, a man with super human strength, butterflies accompanying a guy, a blind woman who can see way too much, a woman who makes prophecies through cards and what not!
This is a book, that would take you through a dream world, where logic and realism would be defied, and you would witness something magical, something supernatural. I would put Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the league of Haruki Murakami. This kind of literature is definitely different.
‘Magical Realism’ is a fantasy style of writing where magical stuff, unbelievable things, - they happen as part of the daily routine. And such things are so seamlessly mixed with other occurrences, that it is not even pointed out, it just kind of mixes in. Some instances of Magical Realism in the book –
- Gypsies – they have flying carpets
- A woman, so beautiful, that men just get wasted in front of her
- A man has super human strength, and an appetite of multiple men
- A man has 17 sons, from different women, who arrive at his home at the same day
- A man living tied to a chestnut tree for 20 years
- A blind woman, who can see much better than others through her sense
- A woman making accurate prophecies about others
- A woman making her own shroud
- There are many many more examples of course
At a point, you feel there’s no real story. It’s just a family, and you’re just reading about them generation after generation, new children keep getting born or are brought to the house, and they get added to the family. They grow up, and you start reading about them. This continues through multiple generations. However, each character has a distinct story to tell, but the story itself is short lived and you move on to some other character. Hence, you get a long narrative style story where you keep touching different characters, and where the ‘Buendia’ family becomes the main character, and everyone else becomes secondary. This was my first reading experience of ‘Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ and I would say I enjoyed it. I won’t say it’s the best book or story I’ve ever read, but it definitely had its own charm. If you like magical realism or want to read such literature, I would recommend this book to you.
For others, I would also tell why you should NOT pick this book. If you’re looking for light entertaining reads, this one is not for you. The characters (And so many of them) are complex, with similar names. Half the time, you’ll be scratching your head and returning to the hierarchy tree, to figure what’s going on.
My second reason for wanting to dislike this book is the nominative confusion. It is primarily the story of the Buendia family in which nearly all of the sons, grandsons and great grandsons (&c) are called Arcadio or Aureliano, and most of the girl children are called Remedios. To go off on a tangent, I took a strong aversion to the confusion inherent in Hilary Mantel's first Thomas Cromwell book, and found the petulant correction in the second rather childish. Here,the confusion is initially solved by frequent reference to the family tree provided at the start. My second reaction was to go with the flow, and not worry precisely which generation was in the spotlight. Finally, the confused net of names simply becomes part of the fabric of the novel in which time and identity are fluid, twisting concepts.
My third initial difficulty came with the concept of time. I have a prediliction for good old fashioned linear story telling. Make your plot as complex as you like, but include in it a strong narrative drive, and I am happy. That is not the case with One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is better looked at as a patchwork tapestry, a series of small vignettes stitched together to make a rich, coherent whole. It can be appreciated from a distance, taking in the complete picture, or in close up detail.
The setting of the book is the village of Macondo, founded by Jose Arcadio Buendia and his wife Ursula on the banks of a river of clear water, somewhere in South America, one might guess at Columbia simply on the basis of the author's nationality. The time is also indeterminate, the hundred years seem to settle somewhere across the 19th and early 20th centuries, but some early chapters hint at being only a couple of generations removed from Francis Drake visiting South Amercia. The village, and in particular the Buendia family, are home to a wide array of quixotic visionaries, rock-like matriarchs, revolutionary fighters, tragic lovers, obsessive hermits and extravagant gourmands. It is the characters who are the jewels at the centre of the novel. Ursula, holds the family together despite the idiotic obsessions of her husband (which bring a great deal of humour to the early chapters), and the sexual excesses and military adventures of her offspring. Colonel Aureliano Buendia, fought thirty two armed uprisings and lost them all, survived fourteen attempts on his life, seventy three ambushes and a firing squad and eventually in old age supported himself by making jewelled golden fishes. Aureliano Segundo married a beauty from the city, Fernanda, but lives half with her, half in bacchanalian excess with his concubine. Fernanda herself who tries to bring order and gentility to the anarchy of the Buendia clan.
As well as writing a family history, Marquez also mirrors political history. Colonel Aureliano Buendia is a catalyst for endless revolutionary civil war, even if his fervour seems to be fuelled by raging testosterone rather than ideological passion. The coming of the railway brings American settlers and unprincipled capitalism. That capitalism leads to civil unrest, military atrocity and state suppression of the truth.
The military, political and familial turbulence is mirrored by a rampaging sexuality. Generation after generation of young Buendias slip the parental bonds to indulge in affairs with older lovers, prostitutes, mechanics and dance teachers. Incest is forever lurking in the background, together with the fear of genetic mutation and a child being born with the tail of a pig. Reading with a liberal European eye in 2018, some of the sexual politics is troubling. A young girl is married as soon as she reaches puberty. Marital rape is features strongly. The concept of the happy hooker is very much to the fore.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a long book, but there is so much in it that one feels its covers should be bulging. Strangely, however, if I was asked to distil a book so full of life down to a single theme it would be the rather bleak thought that we all die alone. In contrast to boil it down to a single word, that word would be "fecund".
As a final summary, stick with it, it's worth it.
The novel contains barely enough lines of dialogue to fill a couple of pages, and recites its century of history in a haphazard fashion that seems determined to frustrate the reader. This is justified at the conclusion in a manner which can easily be read as an author's excuse to avoid editing and revising his manuscript.
I have the feeling that this is one of those unfinished reads that adorns the bookshelves of those who would be considered educated, alongside Ulysses and A Brief History of Time.
The extended Buendia family are the central pivot and their matriarch, Ursula, is a great character. She sees several generations live and die, stay near or travel away, and all named for the generation before which leads to incredible potential confusion for the reader. It seemed at times as though all the many male characters were named either Jose Arcadio or Aureliano! Initially I tried to remember the familial relationships of each as they were mentioned, but this became far too baffling so I instead just kept reading and found that discreet indications in the text allowed me to know about whom I was reading as I got to know the family better.
Marquez' knack for language and description is fabulous. I loved imagining the invasion of the schoolgirls, Aureliano playing the accordion at his parties, the Colonel becoming wearied of endless war, Melquiades continuing despite death, the old Jose tied to the tree, the candied animals and the little gold fishes, the gringos locked behind wire fencing in their chicken coop houses, the people becoming moss-covered in the endless rain. One Hundred Years Of Solitude is worth reading for its imagery alone, but when so many human stories are threaded through as well, the novel transforms into a superb experience.
I am not sure if solitude in the title refers to the remoteness of the place, its isolation or the inner peace which seems to escape many of the characters. Amaranta being the most extreme, seeking to torture herself, unable to commit to any man and fiercely jealous of Rebecca. The village itself seems to be surrounded by Civil War as different factions fight each other, as evidenced by the Colonel who they try to shoot at the beginning of the book.
What makes this book strange is its unconventional structure and non-linear timeline. There is no main protagonist, the matriarch Ursula comes the closest. Following on from this there is no great tragedy, setback, and victory, and in this, there is no rise and fall. Each character has their own tragedy, obsessions, and difficulties to overcome, even those who leave return to settle and are trapped in the magic which is Macondo. Many of the characters have the same name, often with subtle variations which makes separating the various relationships difficult, if not impossible.
Like many reviewers before me, I would suggest don’t worry too much about all the nuances or trying to find logic in the chaos, just go with the flow. Let the novel leave an indelible impression, rather than a linear truth.
Although I allowed myself a week to read this I wish that I had given myself more time as it was quite a challenging read (in the good sense).
The writing was breathtaking and my plan is to consider this an initial read-through and then to revisit it for a more considered read alongside some supplementary material analysing its themes.
This novel is the rich and colourful account of one tumultuous century of love and war.
It documents the lifetime of Macondo, a solitary town hidden in a jungle in South America. We follow the lives of the notorious Buendia family from the patriarch of the story, Jose Arcadio Buendia, to the last of their line, Aureliano Babilonia, who dies swept away in the biblical hurricane that wipes Macondo from the face of the earth. It is hard to pin this story down to its raw materials as there is a vast multitude of interweaving storylines, but Marquez manages to capture an entire century through the lyrical portrayal of the most ordinary and extraordinary moments. These moments form a vibrant photo album that knits together the lives of the Buendias through all their many trials.
One of the most distinctive features of this work is how Marquez incorporates the supernatural into the depiction of the natural so that it appears as just that: natural. He once said that he wanted to write like his grandmother used to tell him stories. She would relate the epic, magical stories with a dead-pan expression as though she was describing the weather. This magic realism is certainly essential to the success of the novel, but I do not think this is what makes it so powerful...
Magic enhances the captured moments but it is humanity itself that endures.
It is the most fundamental human desires, fears and oddities that are so captivating because, made so vivid by the magical elements of the story world, they touch our hearts. This book is an exploration of what it is to be human. And so the over-arching themes of the novel emerge. For so ambitious a work there are of course many, but I would highlight three, three that run like veins throughout the story, the lifeblood of the novel: solitude, sexuality and time. These allow for the exploration of humanity at its most intense. I say ‘most intense’ as the characters are ruled by their deepest desires, passions and doubts, which, in their solitude, become the masters of their fates. Today we are still influenced by our basest passions, however, these become buried beneath the monotony of modernity. One Hundred Years of Solitude highlights the fundamental truth that it is our passion that makes us human, and in our solitude, these passions can destroy us.
It is Jose Arcadio Buendia’s wife, Ursula Iguaran, that marches inexorably on through the decades as a seemingly eternal guardian to her family, far more of a matriarch than her husband is a patriarch. It is she who is the custodian of their honour, their prosperity, their happiness. Undoubtedly my favourite character, she is not corrupted by passion as all the others are over the six generations, but is strengthened by it. She reminds me of a medieval Mrs Weasley. Or rather, Mrs Weasley reminds me of a wand-wielding Ursula!
The novel ends on the poignant and terrible note of solitude. Macondo was created from the passion of its founders, the inexhaustible fuel of their hopes and dreams, and it passes away into legend, forgotten, lost in the eternal potency of its memories. Its fate is predetermined, a city of mirrors to be shattered into a city of mirages, in turn, shattering the illusion of a brave new world and delivering the fatalistic moral that destruction is inevitable. History is mapped out before us intrepid humans and time repeats itself as we embark on the same journeys, doomed to our destinies of disillusionment and eventual destruction...
In short, Macondo is consumed by time.
“There was no mystery in the heart of a Buendia that was impenetrable for her because a century of cards and experience had taught her that the history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle."
The story cover a hundred years in the life of a Colombian town - there are many happy events, but war and tragedy too. It mixes the the arrival of modern technology with fantasy - including flying carpets at one point and lots of ghosts. The overall effect is a little dreamlike, often melancholy, and always interesting. Almost 5 stars - but not quite because of the repeating of characters' names so often