International Writers Magazine Review
Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez
the first line to the last, Gabriel García Márquezs
magical realist tale takes the reader on an epic journey, not only
through the bizarre and sorrowful events in the lives of José
Arcadio Buendías family, but also through the history
and culture of South America.
The first thing
you will notice when reading Márquezs novel is the sheer
quantity of events that it covers, making it difficult to give a brief
synopsis of the plot. Although the novel centres on an indecipherable
manuscript given to a family by a mysterious gypsy, there are many tangents
and twists as we observe the dealings of the Buendías in
their home town of Macondo. This can make the novel difficult to follow,
with civil war, industrialisation, family feuds and incestuous relationships
throwing the plot in a myriad of directions.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is not a novel for the faint-hearted.
Márquez plays with all the established aspects of the novel,
switching the protagonist on nearly every page and jumping back and
forth from past to future to present. The concept of time being circular
rather than progressive is a theme that Márquez constantly returns
to. José Arcadios wife Ursula and his son Aureliano are
both used to display this point, the opening line of story simultaneously
showing us Aurelianos past and future. Márquez writes,
"many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano
Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father
took him to discover ice," a good indication of how the plot will
throw you onwards in time, then whip you back.
Although Márquezs novel is a fictional tale, the true history
of South America and Colombia in particular seep into the story, giving
us a window into life and culture in Latin America. The political squabbles
and wars in the novel mirror the relationship between the Liberals and
Conservatives throughout Colombian history, where struggles for power
have always left the general populace feeling the cost. The vicious
murders and assassinations in the novel ring true in South American
history, where people disappearing after challenging the
government is not unusual. One particular event in the novel that can
be seen as real incident is the massacre of the banana workers, gunned
down by soldiers because they are on strike. This is seen to be a record
of the 1928 massacre in Colombia, an event that the government denied
ever happened and was never officially recorded. In the same way in
One Hundred Years of Solitude, a soldier proclaims, "nothing
has happened in Macondo, nothing has happened and nothing ever will
Márquezs use of magical realism can be as a mixed blessing.
Salman Rushdie describes the genre as "the commingling of the improbable
and the mundane," which can be seen as the best way to display
the bizarre but also day-to-day events that occur in Latin American
culture. One Hundred Years of Solitude shows the pueblo
culture that Márquez himself grew up in, where superstition
and spiritualism play a key part in life, an aspect that magical realism
takes within its stride. Ghosts, magical powers and strange creatures
mix with the normal happenings of life, which can be disconcerting for
a Western reader. At first I found myself confused as to whether the
magical aspects of the book were real, or just hallucinations and symbols.
But as I read on I had to leave aside my desire to have clear-cut boundaries
so I could really understand and enjoy the novel.
Although not easy to read, One Hundred Years of Solitude is very
rewarding if you stick to it. Márquez will enchant and shock
you in equal measures, providing an interesting and insightful vision
into Latin American culture and history.
© Sam Richards November 08
Never Seen Star Wars - BBC Radio 4
You might not expect hearing about Esther Rantzens opinions
on ironing a shirt to be entertaining in the slightest.
Sam is studying
Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
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