Tuesday, November 17, 2009

280. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

History: This book was first published in Spanish in 1967. It was was translated into over 27 languages. It was also an immense commercial success, becoming the best-selling book in Spanish in modern history, after Don Quixote. The product of 15 months of work, during which García Márquez barricaded himself in his house, it broke his writer's block and is widely considered García Márquez's magnum opus. The narrative style of the novel was especially praised - ostensibly objective but often manifestly ridiculous, it combined García Márquez's experience as a journalist with the literary style of magical realism and extensive uses of metaphors and irony. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
Plot: The novel is the history of the founding, development, and death of a human settlement, Macondo, and of the most important family in that town, the Buendias. This book marks a century and a half of the Buendia family, with over 25 characters weaving in and out of time. The first generation, Ursula Iguarán and José Arcadio Buendía have three children. The two sons, José Arcadio and Aureliano, have different personality traits. This is echoed throughout the rest of the book. Over six generations all the José Arcadios possess inquisitive and rational dispositions as well as enormous physical strength; the Aurelianos, meanwhile, tend towards insularity and quietude. This repetition of traits reproduces the history of the individual characters and ultimately a history of the town as a succession of the same mistakes are made. The founding of Maconda, the years of war, the famine and prosperity are described, but mainly the book is about the love affairs, and what follows, whether a child, or heartache.
Review: This book is filled with short stories, all related to the magical realism theme. One of the most charming qualities of this book is that you can pick it up and allow it to fall open at any random page, read that one page only, and still enjoy it for the imagery, the sheer beauty with which everything is described and narrated. In terms of point of view and place, Marquez used his control over language to recreate a path not yet followed by readers as he gently lead us into the land of magical realism. Magical realism is a technique in literature used to tell a tale through a warped perception, getting the reader to use a refreshing new view. The imagination of the men in Macondo follows a pattern we can learn from. At a young age they sense these grand ideas of possibility, and visions of the future. When this adrenaline begins to slow with age they crash.
Opening Line: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father tok him to discover ice."
Closing Line: "Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth."
Quotes: "But the lucidity of her old age allowed her to see, and she said so many times, that the cries of children in their mothers' wombs are not announcements of ventriloquiesm or a faculty for prophecy but an unmistakable sign of an incapacity for love."
"It was as if God had decided to put to the test every capacity for surprise and was keeping the inhabitants of Macondo in a permanent alternation between excitement and disappointment, doubt and revelation, to such an extreme that no one knew for certain where the limits of reality lay. It was an intricate stew of truths and mirages that convulsed the ghost of José Arcadio Buendía with impatience and made him wander all through the house even in broad daylight."
Rating: Okay, but difficult to read.

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