100 Years of Solitude
This book is such a literary masterpiece that its completely unenjoyable to read. Each word is so perfectly placed that any alteration would diminish the whole. “100 Years of Solitude” is happily dissected by scholars around the world. I can only imagine the destructive forces this book wrecks on Colombian school children who’s love of reading is utterly eviscerated by their teacher asking about why the butterflies were yellow. I’m never bitching about Gatsby’s yellow car again.
Picking up this book was triggered by a recent trip to Colombia where Gabriel García Márquez was painted on wall. I thought, “I should read that!” It was a bad choice. Trying to cram this book into a week did a complete disservice to the intentions of the author, but even if I allowed myself a month or more to digest “100 Years of Solitude” I would still be disappointed by it.
The first sentence is: “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.” This alludes to some excitement later down the story. I read on waiting for those exiting passages, but the deeper I got into the book all I got was incest and banana plantations. I have grown accustomed to books taking a hundred pages or so for the story to form, similar to how you had to wait until the 4th episode of True Detective for shit to go down. In “100 Years of Solitude” I waded through 416 pages of family drama for everything to come together on page 417 which is the last page. Reading that last page was literary equivalent of reaching an orgasm. You slog through all that meticulous fluff for it all to come together in the last moment. Maybe orgasmic is wrong. I think it’s more like getting a popcorn kernel out of your tooth after its been there for days. Incredibly satisfying, but you still wish it never happened.
The novel follows 7 generations of the Buendía family and takes place in the fictional town of Macondo. All of the names are similar so it’s a lot of fun trying to remembers who’s who. I had trouble keeping track, but thankfully the book included a handy dandy family tree. If a book requires a family tree to keep track of characters you might need to tone it down. The story took place entirely and Macondo, so anything that happened to characters outside of the town was described in letters or telegrams. This was upsetting because the Colonel would have been a lot of fun to read about, but all you get is snippets of him controlling coasts and ordering some people to be shot in the town square.
Colombia’s national history is represented through the happenings of the town and the family. I’m not sure how brothers and sisters banging relates to Colombian history, but it’s pervasive through the story so I’m going to assume that it does. There’s also a lot of state sponsored mass-murder. Some magical things happen too such as Remedios the Beauty ascending to the heavens, and rain lasting over 4 years. These bits are a central tenant of the magical realism genre to which “100 Years of Solitude” belongs.
Feel free to read this book at your own peril. I think I’m better for having read it, but I don’t know if it is worth the effort I put into it. I recommend skipping the book and just picking up the spark notes.
100 Year of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Published by Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Reprint edition (February 21, 2006)