One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – A Review

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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – A Review

In a way, Salman Rushdie recommended me to read One Hundred Years of Solitude when I was reading his memoir, Joseph Anton*.

During the fatwa years, once when he was on a book tour in South America, he got the chance to talk to Gabriel Garcia Marquez on phone during his stay in Mexico, and this was the only conversation that the two literary giants had ever had. Rushdie could never meet Gabriel Garcia Marquez in person.

Rushdie, in his memoir, talks about a great many personalities, e.g., writers, literary agents, publishers, media persons, diplomats, politicians, his family members, and his protection team; everyone among them is either curious or anxious about the fatwa issue, but the only person who didn’t say a single word about the fatwa during a long telephonic conversation was Gabriel Garcia Marquez. When they talked they talked about literature. That was something remarkable.

I have watched a few lectures and interviews of Rushdie on YouTube. In every lecture almost, he always mentions or recommends two books to audience, The Arabian Nights and One Hundred Years of Solitude. Because I had read The Arabian Nights last year, I decided, while reading Joseph Anton, that the next book which I am going to read after this would be One Hundred Years of Solitude, the favourite book of my favourite author.

To put it in a nutshell, One Hundred Years of Solitude is an epitome of Magical Realism, an amalgamation of real and magical elements which produces a more inclusive writing form than either Realism or Fantasy.

It’s the story of Buendia Family for seven generations, from pig’s tail to pig’s tail, from the first line being tied to a tree to the last one being devoured by ants; and it’s also the story of Macondo–the fictitious town hidden from the rest of the world and lying in the heart of a huge swamp–from its foundation to ruination. In fact, this development of these two entities towards misfortune goes hand in hand.

This is perhaps the only book of this year which kept me mesmerized till the end; because once you enter Macondo, you see quite unexpected things happen as normally accepted, like the levitation of Remedios the Beauty towards heaven or the blood-trail of Jose’ Arcadio flowing across the town and going in to the house of Buendia Family, being careful to flow in a straight line on uneven terraces and mindful to take a left or right turn as per its target, while the scientific things like the workings of magnet, telescope and daguerreotype are considered as miraculous.

Buendia Family-tree

Besides, whatever happens in Macondo happens with great intensity for a long time; and Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a penchant for hyperbolic expression with numerical accuracy; if it rains in Macondo, it rains for four years eleven months and two days and thereafter comes a ten years long drought; Colonel Aureliano Buendia organizes thirty-two armed uprisings and loses them all and he has, from different women, seventeen sons, all of them named Aureliano; and he survived fourteen attempts on his life, seventy-three ambushes, and a firing squad, and lived through a dose of strychnine in his coffee that was enough to kill a horse. Wow!

One Hundred Years of Solitude deals with various themes, first and foremost of them is Solitude; Macondo is founded in solitude and its main inhabitants, the Buendias, grow to be increasingly solitary and selfish; with few exceptions, like Aureliano Segundo and Petra Cotes, no character is able to find true love or escape from the destructiveness of his/her own egocentricity.

The second important theme is the Subjectivity of Experienced Reality. In simplest words, I would say if I were an inhabitant of Macondo or a member of Buendia family, at that particular time, I would have taken those uncanny events as very-very natural like any other settler; such is the setting of the novel, it provides every opportunity to the writer to infuse magical elements and oddities in the plot.

The third one is Fluidity of Time; though story can be read as a linear progression of the events but the individuals who appear generation after generation with the same names almost and possessing almost the same traits of their grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, doing same mistakes, make the present, past and future inseparable. Ursula Iguaran, the matriarch of the Buendia family, observe this circularity of time clearly.

And, last but not the least, there’s a recurring theme of Incest; though Buendia family is always afraid of Incest and its consequences of having children with a pig’s tail, their fear always appears weaker than the power of sexual attraction to their relatives. The story begins and ends due to an Incest.

My knowledge about Latin American History is almost zero, but as far as I have read the interviews of the author (in The Last Interview Series’ book) and about the novel from various sources, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a delicious concoction of Latin American myths, legends and historical events; and to some extent, it’s autobiographical.

The town of Macondo resembles Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s native town of Aracataca and the arrival of Banana Company and the massacre of thousands of workers afterwards, is inspired by real event named Banana Massacre occurred between December 5 and 6 in 1928 in the town of Cienaga, near Santa Marta, Columbia. Besides, events like civil wars, armed uprisings, the feud between the Conservative and Liberals, Industrialization etc in the novel are inspired by real events in Latin American countries.

To be honest, One Hundred Years of Solitude is not an easy book to read, but a deeply rewarding one. The first paragraph of the novel is powerful enough to carry you amongst civil wars, political clashes, armed uprisings, family drama, epic romances, luxuriant parties, wandering gypsies, strange superstitions, all thronging in a wonderful place called Macondo.

Despite all good things, I couldn’t like the construction of the text; the novel is divided in twenty unnumbered and untitled chapters, some paragraphs continue for two-three pages, dialogues are rather less in quantity (but whenever they come, they are apt, provocative and often funny), and due to shifting viewpoints in the narration, it becomes difficult to form a close connection to any particular character.

Still, it’s a must read book, something worthy of giving your precious time.

 

*Joseph Anton – It’s a memoir by Salman Rushdie, published in September 2012. It discusses the fatwa years after the controversy on The Satanic Verses, and also different aspects of his personal life. If you’re not a Rushdie fan, you need not waste your time.

 

 

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