Saturday, May 11, 2013

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (translated by Gregory Rabassa)

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. 

"It is typical of Gabriel García Márquez that it will be many pages before his narrative circles back to the ice, and many chapters before the hero of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Buendía, stands before the firing squad. In between, he recounts such wonders as an entire town struck with insomnia, a woman who ascends to heaven while hanging laundry, and a suicide that defies the laws of physics. The story follows 100 years in the life of Macondo, a village founded by José Arcadio Buendía and occupied by descendants all sporting variations on their progenitor's name: his sons, José Arcadio and Aureliano, and grandsons, Aureliano José, Aureliano Segundo, and José Arcadio Segundo. Then there are the women--the two Úrsulas, a handful of Remedios, Fernanda, and Pilar--who struggle to remain grounded even as their menfolk build castles in the air. If it is possible for a novel to be highly comic and deeply tragic at the same time, then One Hundred Years of Solitude does the trick. Civil war rages throughout, hearts break, dreams shatter, and lives are lost, yet the effect is literary pentimento, with sorrow's outlines bleeding through the vibrant colors of García Márquez's magical realism. Consider, for example, the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar, whom José Arcadio Buendía has killed in a fight. So lonely is the man's shade that it haunts Buendía's house, searching anxiously for water with which to clean its wound. Buendía's wife, Úrsula, is so moved that 'the next time she saw the dead man uncovering the pots on the stove she understood what he was looking for, and from then on she placed water jugs all about the house.'"

From reading all of the reviews on Goodreads, I have come to the conclusion that there are many who love Marquez and even more who hate this particular brand of magic realism. But magic realism and I have always gotten along pretty well. I didn't hate it at all; in fact, I really enjoyed One Hundred Years of Solitude. Yes, there were way too many confusing characters, but if I just stopped trying to remember who they were in relation to everyone else, I could really enjoy the book. It's quite magical, actually.

I'll admit that I partly started reading this book just so I could say that I had read it, never a good reason to start anything. But I didn't finish it because I wanted to have said that I'd read it. I finished it because I really enjoyed it and the strangeness of it. Make no mistake about it; it is a strange book, full of strange things. And these magical events are really brilliant, entertaining, (yes, strange), and enjoyable to read. There's some chocolate in One Hundred Years of Solitude; it has magical powers, and I think that's about right. Chocolate makes everything better. 

At first the technique of just trying to stop remembering helped, but the similar names did get really confusing.  There are so many people named Jose Arcadio, or some variant of those names. There are four of those. There are about twenty-three people named Aureliano, although seventeen of them are minor characters. There are also a whole lot of other repeating names. I think that's the reason a lot of people just get put off by the book, and I can definitely see why. I'm not sure why that choice was made. Perhaps to emphasize the solitude; they all have the same names. At any rate, the names made me not love the book, but I did really enjoy it, more than I was expecting. It's definitely a thought-provoking read. (Sorry for the short review).

Reread One Hundred Years of Solitude:
  • if you like Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • if you like Latin American literature
  • if you like magic realism
422 pages. 
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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