Where do I begin?
It’s nearly impossible to review a classic. For many reasons, they are considered classics after all. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel. For many years I’d been reluctant to read it because of all the comments I’d hear about it, people saying it was a jumble of confusion and nonsense. It is, after all, magic realism. If you aren’t familiar with the genre, I’d suggest you look it up before you pick up this book.
I must admit that some things didn’t surprise me that much, given that just a few months ago I had read The House Of Spirits by Isabel Allende. In case you haven’t heard, The House Of Spirits is remarkably similar to One Hundred Years of Solitude. While I was reading the latter, I couldn’t help but notice how some small details were so alike. I even wondered if Allende used Gabriel García Marquez’s work as a source for plagiarism rather than inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, I loved both books. Each author transmitted their style within the magic realism parameters, and I am by no means denigrating Isabel Allende’s work, but these thoughts popped-up inevitably as I read along. Then I did some research and found that there had been a bit of a feud between these two authors, though Allende does openly admit that Garcia Marquez was someone she looked up to. However, that drama isn’t what this post is about.
Moving on, as always, my posts never contain spoilers. So here’s a summary for those who don’t know what One Hundred Years of Solitude is about. The novel focuses on the Buendia family, whom all members have at some point lived in the house built by the great-great-grandparents who first arrived at Macondo. Let me just tell you that the title says it all. Every one of the characters, both main and secondary ones, experiment solitude. I’d rather use the term loneliness instead because although they’re surrounded by friends and family, they wind up on their own. This occurs either because they leave Macondo, have some sort of brutal death, or simply become too absorbed within their thoughts, transforming themselves into mere shadows.
One aspect that generates all this confusion that people buzz about, is the fact that the novel covers the story of five generations, and as new members are born, they’re named after an ancestor. What I found particularly helpful was to download the family tree of the Buendia family (you can find it online).
Some of the themes covered here are the distorted perception of reality. One event can be seen as total opposites depending on who the character is and what beliefs they have. Not to mention, what if a character saw something but no one believed him? Or worse, they’d simply deny it. These things can (and do) happen in real life. As a psychologist, I’ve seen how quickly this distortion can be caused by group experiments. And if the others tell you that you’re wrong, either you start believing it too or become an outcast. Another important theme is the circular notion of time. The events repeat themselves, the tragedies that once occurred to a family member also happen to one of the new members named after him or her. The family is doomed to what seems an endless solitude, but no one realizes it.
Despite all the tragedy, there were parts of humor and irony. Most of the characters’ actions do not seem to make sense, but they do, at least in Macondo.
Do I suggest for others to read it? Yes. It’s the type of book you might either love or hate, or simply not finish at all. But it’s worth the try.
“and both of them remained floating in an empty universe where the only everyday & eternal reality was love…”