One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez, is considered by many to be the author’s tour de force. It was published in Spanish in 1967. Since then it has been translated into thirty-seven languages, selling more than 20 million copies. The magical realist style is characteristic of the Latin American Boom of the 1960s and 1970s. Magic realism is a genre associated with Latin America and it integrates fantastic or mythical elements into realistic fiction. This novel catapulted García Márquez into international fame.

The novel is critical of Colombian history, from the beginning to modern times. García Márquez discusses several national myths as they affect the Buendía Family. This fantastic family endures many tumultuous events in Colombian history, including the introduction of the railway to mountainous country, the Thousand Days War, the power of the corporation, the United Fruit Company, the automobile, the cinema, and the military slaughter of workers who went on strike. The story never slows down and each time I thought the family couldn’t survive another catastrophe, another one was introduced.

José Arcadio Buendía, founds the town of Macondo. He and his wife, Úrsula, leave Riohacha, Columbia, to find a better life and home. His town is bordered by water. Cut off from the world, he creates this world according to his beliefs. Right from the start, the town and family frequently encounter bizarre events. Many generations of the Buendía family stumble upon these fantastic events and cope to the best of their abilities. The family, though, doesn’t seem willing to escape their bad luck, and most of the misfortunes are self inflicted. In fact, each generation repeats the same mistakes as the previous, perpetually causing hardships. On many occasions the way the family members deal with the hardships is humorous and entertaining. The gypsy, Melquíades, leaves behind a manuscript that no one in the family can decipher. During all of the turmoil, the manuscript is forgotten. Only one will discover the manuscript’s secret message.

The character, Úrsula, is a gem. She’s the glue that holds the family together and on many occasions she tries to get through to her irresponsible family members. At one point she shouts, “If you have to go crazy, please go crazy all by yourself!” This novel includes so many wonderful lines. One that really struck a nerve with me was said by a townsman who is leaving Macondo. “The world must be all fucked up when men travel first class and literature goes as freight.”

It has been a long time since I’ve read a novel like this. The writing is superb. The cast of characters are original and delightfully weird. While the storytelling may seem slow, it really isn’t.  The author sucked me into the story and I felt like a slipped into the words and images and visited the magical city of Macondo. This is the first work that I’ve read by him, and it certainly won’t be the last. Salman Rushdie said it’s “The greatest novel in any language of the last fifty years.” I haven’t read enough novels from the last fifty years to second this endorsement, but I will say, read it. You won’t regret it.

This is my first submission for the Once Upon a Time Challenge hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. For more details on the challenge, please visit this page. This novel is also on my 1001 list.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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15 Responses to One Hundred Years of Solitude

  1. lazybill says:

    Perhaps it’s a sign of my lack of reading that I haven’t previously heard of this book. I tend not to read novels except for when I’m on holiday so I’m putting this on my holiday ‘read’ list!

  2. Oh, glad you liked it. I’ve been on the fence on this one, but will probably read it now.

  3. Anna says:

    I once read this too and really enjoyed it a lot!

  4. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I tried this book a few years ago, bu it was the wrong book at the time. I wish I had persevered though because right now (instead of blogging) I should be writing a short story in the MR genre for an assignment due in on Monday – and I’m in trouble!!!

  5. Caroline says:

    One of the best books ever written but I’m surprised you considered this for Once Upon a Time.

    • TBM says:

      I know. It was a little bit of a stretch, but it does have magic in it. At least I know Carl isn’t picky about what we read. The next one is a little bit off as well, Kafka on the Shore. But both are on my 1001 list and both are from different countries.

  6. I have this book and read it a few years ago, but I was very young (around 16 or 17) so I think I might have been too young to appreciate the overarching themes. I always felt very “Meh” towards it. Maybe now that I am familiar with more Latin American history and people I should reread it!

    • TBM says:

      This would have been a tough read for me at that age. Now that I’m a little older I appreciate more literature. You might like it this time, but it’s so hard to know for sure. At least you should be able to figure it out quickly.

  7. i read this a while back, and i loved it, too. Chronicle of a Death Foretold was the 1st book i read by him. it’s short and a wonderful introduction to him.

  8. Rachel says:

    I read this book last year and was pretty impressed as well. I know that I missed a lot, though, because I’m not familiar enough with Colombian history. Also, I felt that there must be some deeper meaning or symbolism that I was missing. I was left feeling that I ought to read the book again in order to better understand it.

    • TBM says:

      This was my first introduction to Colombian history so I felt the same way–that I missed a lot. I need to read more of his books and others to get a better grasp on it. Saying that, the story is so beautiful and crazy even if you don’t get all of it, it’s still a great read. Let me know if you read it again and if you learn more.

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