One Hundred Years of Solitude

By Gabriel Márquez
AlmondOrchardColonel Aureliano Buendía organized thirty-two armed uprisings and he lost them all.  He had seventeen male children by seventeen different women and they were exterminated one after the other on a single night before the oldest one had reached the age of thirty-five.  He survived fourteen attempts on his life, seventy-three ambushes, and a firing squad.  He lived through a dose of strychnine in his coffee that was enough to kill a horse.  He refused the Order of Merit, which the President of the Republic awarded him.  He rose to be Commander in Chief of the revolutionary forces, with jurisdiction and command from one border to the other, and the man most feared by the government, but he never let himself be photographed.  He declined the lifetime pension offered him after the war and until old age he made his living from the little gold fishes that he manufactured in his workshop in Macondo.  Although he always fought at the head of his men, the only wound that he received was the one he gave himslef after signing the Treaty of Meerlandia, which put an end to almost twenty years of civil war.  He shot himself in the chest with a pistol and the bullet came out through his back without damaging any vital organ.  The only thing left of all that was a street that bore his name in Macondo.

Pinch me.  I must be dreaming.

When I finished One Hundred Years of Solitude, I sat staring at the last page and felt an intense desire to flip back to the beginning and start again.  In general, I don’t reread stories.  I don’t re-watch movies or TV shows.  An overwhelming number of stories exist, and I’ve always thought no one has the time to experience the same one over and over. However, as soon as I finished reading this, I knew that I had to read it again.  Not that I wanted to, but that I had to.  One Hundred Years of Solitude felt like such a wonderful, beautiful dream and that I needed a massive pinch to wake me from its spell.

Márquez popularized the small, slightly vague genre, magic realism.  In his story that seamlessly mixes reality and mysticism, characters break the rules of life by living beyond their years, conversing with ghosts, and predicting the future.  But time passes through various historically accurate decades as it follows the six generations of the Buendía family.  The result is a dreamlike novel where reality and fantasy coexist.  It’s captivating, enchanting, and nearly impossible to put down.

In the midst of this dreamscape, Márquez brings to life the Buendía family and follows their path through Macondo as they dream, grow old, and die.  His characters are strong and multi-faceted, they are vulgar, passionate, and illogical.  The various family members are trapped by both crippling nostalgia and bitter hatred of the past.  They are human.  The Buendías make mistakes, but they always move on in their cyclical world where history seems to repeat itself.  Márquez writes with an almost higher knowledge of life and its exhausting effects on humanity.  His tale, unhindered by reality, weaves a beautiful picture of life and death.

In 1982, Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his incredible work on One Hundred Years of Solitude and other pieces of fiction including The Autumn of the Patriarch.  In 1985 he finished another classic, Love in the Time of Cholera.  Throughout his career, Marquez wrote with unbridled passion and imagination.  He brought a voice to Latin America and captured his beautiful culture with great care.  After battling with health issues for the past few years, Márquez passed away two weeks ago.  On April 17, the literary world lost a brilliant man.  His unique view and beautiful expressions of the world around him will be dearly missed.

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9 thoughts on “One Hundred Years of Solitude

  1. Thank you for reminding me of how good Marquez is and giving me a chuckle with “Márquez popularized the small, slightly vague genre, magic realism.”
    ‘Slightly vague’ is probably the best phrase one could use to describe this genre 🙂 -Tania

    • Lol, it’s definitely a very specific type of story! But there aren’t very many rules or very many examples of it…. (At least not popular ones.)

  2. Love that quote at the beginning! This review reminds me of what I am missing by not having read this book yet!

  3. I once read this book during a weekend and damn was I impressed. If you like magic realism and multi-generational drama, you might want to read ‘Midnight Children’ by Salman Rushdie too. 🙂

  4. I read this last year and really enjoyed it. It’s such a different book and yet it’s probably one of the best books I’ve read.

  5. One of the books I’ll read during my holidays at home.
    I’m actually bidding for a Folio copy on eBay,and reading this review makes me more comfortable about doing so. 🙂

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