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.