One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Title: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Publisher: Penguin

Date of Publication: First published in 1967

Genre: Modernism and Post-Modernism

Rating: 4/5

An enticing tale of love, lust and kinship of a generation doomed to eventual solitary confinement.

Embedded in a magically realistic world that hazes the distinction between the real and the illusive, One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the best outcomes of the Boom Literature. Condemned to repeat the mistakes of their previous generations, Marquez has given his protagonists a very limited selection of names. The men are named Jose Arcadio or Aureliano and the women are named Ursula, Amaranta or Remedios. This not only foregrounds the cyclical repetitiveness of historical events that obstructs chronological order but also highlights the circumlocutive narratology. The patriarch of the family Jose Arcadio Buendia is impulsive and inquisitive. The novel opens with the necessity of avoiding the conception of a child with a pig’s tail that serves as a Barthian “narrative enigma”. The entire novel takes place between this fear and its fulfilment although it remains metaphorical as most characters don’t even think about it. Lust abounds with consanguineous marriages while aunts seduce nephews. Set in the idyllic paradise of Macondo, Melaquides’ gypsies bring along a set of inventions that increases Buendia’s obsession to establish contact with civilisation. The innocence and ignorance of isolation is wrecked as Ursula discovers a route to the outside world. She returns with fashionable outfits that are totally unknown to Macondo.
This channelizes a series of events generating a domino effect. The residents of Macondo suddenly realise their link to the greater world and the impressionistic effect of this world on them. It leads to the mysterious arrival of Rebecca who eats mud and whitewash. Two Indian siblings suffering from the insomnia plague arrive and inflict the town which slowly begins to lose memory that is restored by Melaquiades’ return from death. It is the first death they have ever heard of. This short lived joy is overshadowed by civil war between the Conservatives and Liberals amidst the influx of modern technology and arrival of the railway creating a capitalistic society and the eventual murder of peacefully protesting banana plantation workers.
There is a parody of organised governance that is only outwardly democratic. Capitalism provides increased employment but it takes away the true value of the worker who is reduced to a neglected tool of the administration. Violence grips Macondo as Amaranta dies a virgin while Meme turns mute and is interred into a convent. Incessant cleansing rains eat away all of Aureliano Segundo’s fortunes as Aureliano’s (II) newborn is devoured by ants. Fulfilment of Melaquides’ prophecies abruptly ends the novel in ruthless solitude. A work of true genius imbibing unrealistic dimensions into a holistic, thought provoking masterpiece.
The narrative is turbulent and fast paced. The oft recurring names can lead to a lot of confusion. Events from Columbian history have been mixed with magical occurrences that call for some knowledge of Latin American history and politics. On the whole, One Hundred Years of Solitude is not a book for leisure reading. It requires close attentive reading to avoid confusions that may arise due to unfamiliarity. Metafictionality adds to the black humour and satire of real political events.

Recklessly gripping with tinges of dark humour and pathos.

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