Story of the Week: “One Hundred Years of Solitude”


one-hundred-years-of-solitude

This is going to be a long one.

Throughout my time reading books, I’ve stumbled upon three that mean the most to me. These books have been, above all else, of paramount significance to me; one has shaped how I read, one has shaped how I write, and one has shaped how I think.

The first book, the one which has shaped how I read, is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. The second book is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The third one is the masterpiece I’m about to analyze and review here.

You’re probably wondering, how can a story like One Hundred Years of Solitude change how I think?

You probably haven’t read it, then.

The book takes place in the small town of Macondo over the course of one hundred years. The Buendía family settles and resides in this town in the middle of nowhere, expecting prosperity and homeliness. Originally, the settlement has zero contact with the rest of the world. The Buendía family, with its patriarch José Arcadio Buendía, makes this settlement with high, almost utopian hopes after leaving the town of Riohacha. But there is so much more to it than that!

From there on,  José Arcadio Buendía and his wife, Úrsula Iguarán, ensure that the utopian land of Macondo becomes a positive place for their family to be born in and live in. Along the way, many, many new people join the town, and it grows to a point that they had never dreamed of. The town becomes a representation of not just a utopia for their family, but the Latin American world at large. It comes to be a place of immigration, emigration, and innate prosperity all through itself.

Macondo, the setting of the story, is an interesting, confusing place to the people who live there. Rarely does anything stay the same. At its core, it is place where growth occurs. The inhabitants of Macondo seek refuge, but also security and growth. It experiences all that the world has to offer it, in terms of what a story can handle. It changes, progresses, grows, matures, develops, and becomes every bit as real as any other place. The world centers on Macondo.

As a note, because this book takes place over the course of one hundred years, you meet many people with many names. The book chronicles many generations of the Buendía family as they live and prosper, so to speak, in Macondo, which is intended to represent a fictionalized, fantastical version of the country that Gabriel Garcia Marquez grew up in, Columbia. Probably the most confusing and limiting part of the book is the usage of similar names. For example, you meet a host of Aureliano Buendías and José Arcadios, as well as some Aurelianos and Aureliano Josés. It’s a confusing book at first, but you grow into it as you read and immerse yourself further into the story. It is worth your attention to naming, regardless of how confusing it may seem at first. The confusion, even, may add to the reading because of how things may seem to blend together, as they should after a certain point in the book.

Obviously, I admire this book. However, it deserves your attention because of everything it does right. The author, the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez, writes beautifully. A lot of his great, romantic-style writing blends from the translation of the novel from Spanish to English. (If you can read Spanish, it is worth reading as a companion to the English version, I think. I’ve studied Spanish for five-six years and know it reasonably well, and reading both versions has enlightened my perception of the language used in the novel. I recommend that to anyone.) As well, the plot is brilliant. It delves into political complexities, emotional and familiar controversies, the magical and mystical fantasies of the people, and more. It studies the way people behave, human nature, the nature of a community, Jungian & Freudian psychology, theological studies, postcolonialism, imperialism, impressionism, modernism, postmodernism, family structures, militarism, and an innumerable amount of other ways to perceive it. In the end, though, the story is about the nature of solitude and isolation. Everything else, then, stems from that. A study of one seemingly simple concept turns into a study of the entire human race in a masterful, almost mystical story of a family that’s just trying to live.

In fact, a few people from the class I studied this novel in originally had written a paper and presented a thesis proclaiming that Marquez illustrates Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Big-Bang theory, and includes studies of black holes. It was so convincing that it floored me. With an author like Marquez, anything is possible.

Marquez writes in a way akin to many of the other writers of the Latin American Boom of the 1960s: he writes about the magical, but portrays it in such a matter-of-fact, realistic way that it seems every bit as real as anything else you read in the novel. The term magic realism stems mostly from Marquez’s writing because of its popularity to readers.

Magic realism is astounding at first, but it will grow on you as you read it. I recommend reading a few of Marquez’s short stories to get a hold of his writing, too, if you have the time and motivation to truly understand this man’s genius.

In the end, One Hundred Years of Solitude holds a special place in my mind when it comes to literature. If I have hyped it enough for you, I hope you get the chance to read it as well. It’s worth your time, I’m sure. If not, perhaps in the future you will read it!

Until then, that’s all for now. If you’ve read the book before and would like to chat about it, drop a comment and I’ll gladly talk more!

Next week…Gatsby! Stay tuned, folks. See you next time.

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11 thoughts on “Story of the Week: “One Hundred Years of Solitude”

  1. I haven’t read this one, but I’ve read all of his short stories and adore them. A 12th grade teacher on my team taught it to her class and said she would never teach it again because her students were so confused. Do you think it’s a book you have to stroll through, or wade through, or rush through?

    • As mushupress puts it below this comment, it’s a book that is great to revel in, but it takes a commitment to get through. If you enjoy reading, it’s certainly worth your time. But just don’t space out the readings much. If you can keep it fresh in your mind, you’ll surely enjoy each chapter, I think. Also, if you enjoy his short stories, then you’ll just as much adore this. Trust me!

      • I’m really bad at putting long books down and picking them up again after months and months so I’m glad you warned me beforehand about keeping it fresh. Thanks!

  2. He’s a very heavy, atmospheric writer. It’s a book to revel in, for sure! Not to leave for too long between readings, because that might cause you to forget who’s who! The boys in my grade 12 class couldn’t even handle Pride and Prejudice, so I’m not surprised that most of a class didn’t understand 100 Years. 😛 I took it as a cyclical allegory, Colombia for the world, and that world as Christians see it. But I’ve never tried to analyse or understand every little thing about it — to me, the ending was fitting, because the fate of the cyclical Buendias was tied in with the fate of the cyclical Buendias (if my tautology is not too irritating). What did you think?

    • That’s an interesting example you bring up because I had first read this book last year, when I was still in grade 12! I plan to reread it soon, as I just bought a hardcover copy over the long Easter weekend. I agree with what you write about the ending, I loved it. Not to mention that Marquez opens the story brilliantly with a hard-hitting opening line, but he ends it with a great one too. In fact, I remember sitting in bed last year, so enamored in the book that I could not put it down and then, as I noticed that the last page was nearing, I braced myself for something awe-inspiring. The last line was very, very brilliant and I had to take it all in at first once I realized that it was over. A classic example of a fitting ending executed near-perfectly, in my opinion.

      • Hehe well you’re the awesome exception to the high school lit class! Mine was ostensibly the high-achieving kids and I’m still sure most of them would have sparknoted their way through. But yes definitely a masterful ending 🙂 Although to be honest I’ve never read anything from Marquez that I didn’t find amazing.

    • In Spanish, it seems so much different but much the same. It’s an odd feeling that you can only understand if you’ve read it first in English and then in Spanish. Indescribable. He’s a master!

      • I read it first in Italian, then english, then spanish. it is simply an amazing piece of art.

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