44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
I first read "One Hundred Years of Solitude" not long after it was first published in English, almost 40 years ago. It was a wonderful, and magically, if you will, introduction to Latin American literature. Subsequently, I've read several other works by Marquez, notably, Love in the Time of Cholera (Vintage International) some 20 years later, but none have quite cast the spell of my first "love," this one, so I figured a re-read was in order. The "magic" of magic realism has lost none of its charm.
The story involves six generations of one family, established by Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula Iguaran, who also helped found the town of Macondo, in the lowlands of Columbia, though the country is never specifically identified. The in-breeding (and also out-breeding) in this one family is simply astonishing. I can't remember if the original edition had a genealogical chart at the beginning, but this one does, and it provides an invaluable reference in keeping the philanderings, and the subsequent progeny, straight, particularly since numerous individuals over the generations have the same name. What is the "Scarlet Letter" that is prophesized for a family with such a high degree of consanguinity? That a child will be born with a pig's tail.
Marquez dazzles the reader with the intensity of his writing; it's as though he had a 1600 page book in him, but is given a 400 page limit. It is the furious sketching of a street artist, making every line count in a portrait. The strengths, follies, and interactions of the men and women are depicted in memorable events. And there seems to be a realistic balance and development of his characters. Marquez is also the master of segue, from one event to the other, and from one generation to another, with his characters moving from swaddling clothes, on to adulthood, and then into their decrepitude.
From my first reading, I had remembered Rebeca, with her "shameful" addiction to eating dirt. First time around, I chalked it up to Marquez's "magical realism," since no one really ate dirt. Several years later I learned that it is a wide-spread medical problem, often driven by a mineral deficiency that the person is trying to remediate. The author also describes the disease of insomnia which was spread to Macondo, with an accompanying plague of forgetfulness. Magical realism, or the forgetfulness of the "now" generation that has lost the stories of the past?
Establishing the time period comes slowly. Marquez mentions Sir Frances Drake, but he is in the unspecified past. It is only when a family portrait is taken, as a daguerreotype photo, that one realizes it must be in the 1840's-50's, with six generations to go. There are a multitude of themes: since this IS Latin America, Marquez has the obligatory gringos and their banana plantations (alas, all too true); there is endless, senseless war, with the two sides eventually unable to state what they are fighting for, except, of course, the war itself; there are the women who drive men crazy with their beauty, and there is the spitefulness of women to each other (alas, again, the "sisterhood'); there is economic development, and a worker's revolt, and the use of other members of the same class, but in uniform, who repress it; there is the role of the Catholic Church in Latin America, and even a family member who would be Pope and there are unflinching portrayals of the aging process, alas, to the third power.
On the re-read, I noticed a portion of the novel that was much further developed in Innocent Erendira and Other Stories (Perennial Classics). Also nestled in the book was an important reference: "Taken among them were Jose Arcadio Segundo and Lorenzo Gavilan, a colonel in the Mexican revolution, exiled in Macondo, who said that he had been witness to the heroism of his comrade Artemio Cruz." Checking Marquez bio, he has been a long-time friend of Carlos Fuentes, slipped this reference in 100 years, which is an omen for me, since I was considering re-reading Fuentes marvelous The Death of Artemio Cruz (FSG Classics) And in terms of omens, redux even, do future travel plans include meeting another character in the book, the Queen of Madagascar?
I recently had dinner with a woman who had been Ambassador to one of the Latin American countries. Spanish is her native language, and she still reads some of the Latin American writers in Spanish to "keep her language skills up." As for "100 years," she had read it four times, each time in English. It's a record I am unlikely to repeat, but this novel, which honors the Nobel Prize with its name, could use a third read, if I am granted enough time. It ages well, sans decrepitude, and provided much more meaning the second time around. 6-stars.
(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on February 04, 2011)
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2003
This has to be the book that best encapsulates the true meaning of the magical realism school of literature. Although Marquez's world is steeped in strange, mythical images and happenings the "realness" of its people and issues makes the surreal seem logical in a way that should not work- but it does. The mixture of reality and surrealism feels dream-like in scope.
OHYOS is the kind of story that has to be read more than once to get the full amount of understanding from it- details from the beginning are important at the end. This may be especially be true if, like me, find the dense, rich language difficult to get into for a few chapters. The writing is so rich, in fact, that a huge amount of action can take place in the space of a few pages. This can be a hindrance at first but when you start to enjoy Marquez's words then you realise how beautiful a novel can be.
There is also much meaning behind the story line. The evolvement of the family shows a move from traditional to modern in the wider world although the time the novel is set is never shown (or needed to be).
There is much sadness in OHYOS to match the magic and dreaminess. If you like happy endings and glosses over deaths than this might not be suitable reading for you. For everyone else though I would highly recommend OHYOS- it is well worth the effort needed to place yourself in Marquez's world.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2002
few books have ever made me weep (except really, really bad ones), few have made my heart soar or my imagination leap, none have been so crushing nor so delightful. seven generations of one latinamerican family under the millstone of inescapable fate, and their primitive, isolated mountain town about to suffer the privations of war and commerce, read whilst travelling from mexico to venezuela. it was inspirational. i foolishly gave it to another traveller (how can you hoard such treasure?) and went right out and bought another copy when i got back home.
75 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2009
This is not your typical novel. It's difficult, confusing, strongly metaphorical, and far more concerned with history and message than any deep look at its characters. At the same time, it is sometimes lyrical, beautiful, inventive, and given to unexpected trips to the magical, just when it seems bogged down in a very harsh reality.
It's the story of the town of Macondo and the family that help found the town, stretched over the hundred years of the title. It's clear, when you step back from the details of this work, that the entire work is a metaphor for what happened to Columbia, from its early run-in with the Spanish invaders through the exploitive actions of companies out to rip the riches from the country with no regard for the human cost of their endeavors, and on into to the modern day world of political corruption backed by barely sheathed threats of force.
The family that the book follows is unique in many ways, peopled by characters both incredibly strong and driven by obsessions, and yet insular, separated from the real world by their own internal fantasies. Here we find the rebel hero and the dominating matron side by side with ghosts, the Wandering Jew, and highly mysterious gypsies. However, all of these characters are seen from a distance, even though we are privy to their internal thoughts and ideas, and it is difficult to get emotionally involved with any of them. Not helping in this regard is the extreme similarity of names through various generations of the family, and frequent references to the genealogical chart at the beginning of the book are necessary to try and keep everything straight.
Stylistically, be prepared for page long sentences and sudden multi-page discourses not immediately connected to current happenings. Often this prose is quite beautiful, and at times very effective in painting pictures of some very horrible occurrences in ways that can sear into your brain. Also be fully prepared for the flights of magical realism, when you go from the mundane of everyday to things clearly impossible in ordinary life, items which often highlight by contrast the depth and trivialness of the ordinary.
If you are looking for a straightforward story with normal people, this is not the place to look. If instead you are looking for something very much out of the ordinary, and willing to work to find the core of what's happening, this work can be quite rewarding. It's doubtful if a single reading of this work will expose all of its potential, there is too much buried meaning, symbolism, and metaphor here that needs careful inspection to yield its full treasure. Its themes are not uplifting; futility, the constant of man's inhumanity to others is stark, the repetitiveness of the actions and character types from one generation to the next leads one down the path of asking what purpose does anything have, and the pervasiveness of each individual's necessary isolation from others keeps a dark cloud over the entire work. This is a somber work, with its gold carefully buried, and the reader must be a diligent prospector.
---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2005
Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "One Hundred Years Of Solitude" is the literary equivalent of a magic carpet ride, your own magic genii come to life, and Shaharazade's 101 tales wrapped into one brilliant, multilayered epic novel. From page one you will voyage with the most remarkably original cast of characters, through worlds of vibrant color, where the sun shines almost always - when not obscured by a four year downpour. You will find yourself laughing out loud when you are not sobbing in sympathy with someone dying of heartbreak. I do not like to label Sr. Garcia Marquez' work "magical realism." There is no label to accurately describe the writing that gifted us with "One Hundred Years Of Solitude." This is a book that defies description. You must read it to experience the fantastically real world of Macondo, and the people who live there. Have you ever looked at a painting, walked into it and become a part of it? When you open this novel at page one, you are beckoned to enter.
Macondo is a mythical South American town, founded, almost by accident, by Jose Arcadio Buendia, and populated primarily by his descendants. This is the story of one hundred years in the life of Macondo and its inhabitants - the story of the town's birth, development and death. Civil war and natural calamities plague this vital place whose populace fights to renew itself and survive. This is a huge narrative fiction that explores the history of a people caught up in the history of a place. And Marquez captures the range of human emotions and the reasons for experiencing them in this generational tale.
There is much that is delightful and comical here. Surprises never cease, whether it be Remedios ascending, or a man whose presence is announced by clouds of butterflies. There is satire, sexuality and bawdiness galore. But there is also a pervading sense of sadness and futility. Cruelty is a reality in Marquez' world, as are failure, despair and sudden, senseless violence. The plot is filled with passion, poetry, romance, tragedy and the echoes of the history of Colombia and Latin America.
I first read "One Hundred Years Of Solitude" in 1968, while living in Latin America. I have read it 2 or 3 times over the years, always picking up new pieces of wonder that I had previously missed. This is my favorite novel, and I am an avid reader. My favorite fictional character is Melquiades, the gypsy who foretells the future of the township and whose ghost accompanies the reader until there is no more to read. Having read this in Spanish and English, I must laud Gregory Rabassa's extraordinary translation which faithfully brings to life not only Marquez' story, but his lyrical prose. This is one of the 20th Century's best works of fiction. It is a masterpiece not to be missed.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2004
After reading this novel i felt compelled to add to the already favourable reviews. I have read many books in many genres but 100 years of solitude is the first piece of literature that i have found to be perfect.
In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Marquez creates a novel to show the nature of time. For this reason, there is no single main character in focus, nor does the novel follow a regular timeline. Instead the names of the characters are repeated and the flaws of each generation are magnified. As the generations grow, time speeds by and stagnates. The family is one drawn toward nostalgia and solitude, unable to feel love and charity. Because of this they are condemned to an ever decreasing circle where the passing of generations bring a concentration of loneliness.
Throughout the novel, Marquez creates the sense of eventual doom through his continued dispassionate tone. The ongoing wars, and the advent of modernity do not bring a solution. Time moves on, but progress is denied.
What makes this novel so spectacular is not only the equisite writing style but the sense of saga the reader feels. This is not only the story of one family, but an allegory to that of civilisation. The links to Genesis are plentiful, but also something of a Greek tragedy in the rise and fall of the family.
The characters are compelling with believable vices and fears and Marquez paints a vivid picture of the smells, sounds and sights of Macondo i found it impossible to put the book down.
I will ensure that every person i know has a copy of this book and am sure in years to come, it will be a book i have read over and over. Buy it, borrow it.... just read it!!!!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2006
I bought this book because it was one of the one hundred books of the century on a few lists, and finally picked it up off the shelf because it seemed like everyone was talking about it.
It was good, but not great. I think it had been built up in my expectations and didn't live up to it. The quirky style, hundreds of people with similar names and the lack of any particular plot at times that many people find endearing I have come across before and done better. I think Louis de Bernieres does this kind of South American brutal and bizarre story telling much better e.g. The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts or The Troublesome Offspring. Going away from South America his Birds Without Wings is fantastic.
Back to this book and there were long parts where nothing much of interest happens and I know someone else who almost gave up several times. Confusion over characters often takes the reader back to the family tree, which fortunately this version of the book has at the front (study it well).
Overall: read it, but don't expect the genius some people rave about.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The best way to describe 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' is as an adult fairy tale. What with flying carpets and people living for over 100 years, to name but two of the fantastical elements of this story, you need to suspend disbelief to get the most from this poetic and rich story. Based around the various generations of the Buendia family this book explores the various lives and exploits of each family member. It has a mixture of events that make for interesting stories in their own right and give the book the feel of a short story collection with the same characters and a loose over arching theme to tie it all together. It took me some time to get used to the style, but once I did I found it to be an engrossing and rewarding read. Well worth a look if you like evocative language and vivid imagery and due to the fantasy elements it reminded me of Salman Rishdies 'Satanic Verses' and if you liked that then this is well worth a try. A strong 4 star book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2000
This book encompasses almost every theme of every book that I have ever read, and is amazingly original too. It feels almost as if you're witnessing someone else's dream, and Gabo somehow suspends your disbelief to such a degree that I, for one, accepted unquestioningly the parade of incredible events described- it is very hallucinatory. A reductive view could see the book as a lefty history of Latin America, and by extension, humanity, but it is so much more than that. My first copy of this book fell apart through excessive use. I think that says it all really...
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 11 October 2003
- Some grippingly audacious moments
- Marquez almost makes you attached to certain characters in the book e.g. Colonel Aureliano, Ursula Buendia...
- The rise and fall of the Buendia dynasty is quite a story.
- Random acts of writing by the author: e.g. In one huge paragraph Marquez does not even use one full stop.
- At times the book can become very protracted and bogged down in unwanted detail. Alot of patience needed.
- Ending needs more explanation.