Cien años de soledad, 1967. Gabriel García Márquez's masterpiece and the breakthrough work that put him on the literary map. Written in 18 months of solitude, where he locked himself into his room with paper and cigarettes, writing day and night. Translated into thirty languages, winner of four international prizes, the novel is certainly one of the most remarkable books ever written, a tale that spans generations told against a backdrop where the absurd seems logical and the sensible ludicrous.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is the history of the isolated town of Macondo, focusing on the lives of the most prominent inhabitants of the town, the Buendía family.

This book, is an absolute pleasure to read. Garcia Marquez has you believing that daisies fall from the sky upon lovers, or that iguanas truly can gesticulate inside a woman's womb. It has become perhaps the most important book in the genre of contemporary literature known as magical realism.

This somewhat oxymoronic term pertinently suggests the fundamental thematic tension of the novel. In one way, One Hundred Years of Solitude is sensible in its approach. It does lend itself towards a type of poetic euphemism, yet it does not shrink back from portrayals of violence and sex. It also straightforwardly addresses complex political and social issues. The overall tone of the novel is matter of fact, with events portrayed bluntly, as though they had actually occurred. But into this generally realistic narrative Garcia Márquez has inserted magical elements that flout conventional realism. One incidence of this is when we witness Remedios the Beauty floating up to heaven rather than dying.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is, in a certain sense, a work of Biblical proportions. The novel conjures Macondo into being from its earliest Edenic days of innocence and traces it until its Apocalyptic end.

The major problem I had with with reading this book is that it is terribly tricky to keep track of who is who! We must keep continually flipping back to the family tree. My English teacher’s suggestion is to photocopy the family tree and keep it as a bookmark. Garcia Márquez made the very deliberate decision to give the Buendía members a very limited selection of names. The novel spans six generations, and in each generation the men of the Buendía line are named Jose Arcadio or Aureliano, and the women are named Ursula, Amaranta, or Remedios. It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between different people of the same name. Garcia Márquez' chose to do this to dramatize the way he saw history repeating itself in cycles. In this novel, each generation is condemned to repeat the mistakes and to celebrate the triumphs of the previous generation.
In order to get a grip on what’s happening then we have to hence pay fastidious attention to the full names of the protagonists, which often contain slight distinguishing variations.

Milla Jovovich absolutely adores this book. It is her ultimate favourite, she loves the "nuances between dreams and reality". If you look closely, you will see her holding a copy of the book in her movie The Million Dollar Hotel. She also improvised some parts from the story towards the end of the movie.

Wherever they might be they always remember that the past was a lie, that memory has no return, that every spring gone by could never be recovered, and that the wildest and most tenacious love was an ephemeral truth in the end.
While I am not normally one to appreciate a book amounting to a catalogue of woe, a pardon can be granted on the basis of extreme beauty in composition. For me, the classic woeful novel is probably Scottish or Irish. The Country Girls and No Great Mischief come instantly to mind. Other examples of beautiful melancholy include Snow Falling on Cedars and Anil's Ghost. The oftentimes spartan style of One Hundred Years of Solitude doesn't make it an obvious member of that grouping. While there are certainly compelling images and clever similes, the book plays more like a forceful waltz than a playful piano sonata.

The overall sweep of the book is badly confused by the identical names of so many characters. Clearly, Marquez is trying to demonstrate the cyclical nature of the family history - though underscored by a long-term decline. Marquez explains that:

The history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle.
While clearly intentional, the repetition becomes grating. Ultimately, Marquez presents you with a long series of character vignettes that play with similarity and difference like a piece of music alternating between repetition and invention. The most notable sections of the book are surely the snippets where Marquez conveys a wonderful image of a person with so few words as to be amazing.

The setting of the book, somewhere in Latin America, was off-putting for me. It's a place that repels me by being alien, without seeming exotic. It's the kind of place that feels dusty in the mind. Despite that sense, there are many truths presented about human relationships. I can't help thinking of my own life when I read about how:

Aureliano Segundo had the impression that no link existed between them anymore, that the comradeship and the complicity were nothing but an illusion of the past.
Then he thought that Gaston was not as foolish as he appeared, but, quite the contrary, was a man of infinite steadiness, ability, and patience who had set about to conquer his wife with the weariness of eternal agreement, of never saying no, of simulating a limitless conformity, letting her become enmeshed in her own web until she could no longer bear the tedium of the illusions close at hand.
The story of Ursula I found most compelling, probably because it was told in the most comprehensible and uninterrupted arc.

In the end, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a swarm of brilliant fragments that do not assemble into a particularly sensical whole. The story is almost maniacally anti-epic, with everything promising ending in failure and everything beautiful ending in ruin. Disaster piles on disaster and makes the reader wary to enjoy anything read, due to the knowledge that it will be unravelled by Marquez in the space of one hundred pages.

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