Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude

★★★★

“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…” 

Title: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Author: Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
Language: English (Originally Spanish)
Publication details: London: Penguin Books, 2014. (First published 1967)
Pages: 422

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My ponderings:

As usual, I popped by Goodreads to see the general opinion towards this book, and as much as it is regarded a classic, there is no small amount of hate towards it as well (as for most classics). What really irked people was the confusingly repetitive family names and lines, the tumultuously changing point of view of the story, and the fact that there wasn’t one stable plot, but a few hundred different little stories all woven together to construct a tangled mess of embroidery with an off-beat color palette and strands of string sticking out and ending in dead knots.

Yeah, picture that for a second, because that’s what the story was for me.

And I loved it! When I think of this book I just think “Wow”…it transported me to another world and left me living, breathing and eagerly deciphering the history of the village of Macondo. Since the starting line of the book, when it talked about Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s father taking him to see ice, I was already hooked and wondering where this story was going to go. I admit, the plot is far from linear, like moons away, but it’s such a beautifully tangled mess in my eyes. I didn’t mind the p.o.v.’s just leaping from character to character with reckless abandon, because I felt that that was how life was like in Macondo, and it suited the atmosphere of the story.

“…time was not passing…it was turning in a circle…”

 

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Jamie Lannister approves.
History seemed to be repeating itself in the little village, where there was enough incestuous entanglements to make even the Lannisters cry foul play. Everyone having slight variations of the same name was a little confusing, but it didn’t really bother me because I didn’t try to single out each person’s story and make sense of that before moving on to the next one; I just accepted that their lives were interwoven so messily there was no point trying to make heads or tails of it – I simply sat back and enjoyed the show.

 

One thing I really loved about this book was the sense of wonder and enchantment it instilled within me, without actually having any real fantasy elements per se. Yeah sure, there was a wandering vagabond who could “predict the future”, and it was commonplace for superstitions to come true, but it still felt like a real village that existed. As theBuendía family went on to make new discoveries, both material and conceptual, I couldn’t help but feel their sense of enthrallment and trepidation, and most of all, just willingness to live another day.

 

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I felt a tinge of mystical wonder…perhaps more low-key than what this gif depicts.
Oh and of course, the shenanigans they got up to are just scandalous to the tenth degree. Brothers sleeping with sisters sleeping with uncles sleeping with grandmothers sleeping with great grand-stepsons twice removed etc, etc. Sleeping with whores, prepubescent girls, a sister’s husband – you name it, they’ve slept with it. Love is actually a pretty strong theme in this book, though it definitely leans towards the passionate, “if you’re going to play with fire then you’re going to get burned” variety as opposed to slow and gentle caresses. I mean, there were slow and gentle caresses in there somewhere, but they usually resulted with the two lovers being in flagrante delicto.

 

“Gaston was not only a fierce lover, with endless wisdom and imagination, but he was also, perhaps, the first man in the history of the species who had made an emergency landing and had come close to killing himself and his sweetheart simply to make love in a field of violets.”

Having said that, the passionate bouts of love usually culminated in words and acts of true devotion, so despite it all, I was still pretty touched.

Take for example, Petra Cotes, who was Aureliano Segundo’s secret lover despite his wife Fernanda’s indignant protests (yes, I had to look up their names. No way I remembered who the heck was who). Everyday she made mad passionate love with Aureliano Segundo, the more they screwed, the more their animals screwed, which was a win-win for all. So they started getting really prosperous and wealthy. After a rain which never stopped destroyed their crops and livestock, they were left destitute and ruined. Just when you think “Aha! They were so in love when they were well-off, but now that they’re in ruins they’ll realize how their love was more lust than anything…”, this whammy of a line comes out:

“He dug so deeply into her sentiments that in search of interest he found love, because by trying to make her love him he ended up falling in love with her. Petra Cotes, for her part, loved him more and more as she felt his love increasing, and that was how in the ripeness of autumn she began to believe once more in the youthful superstition that poverty was the servitude of love. Both looked back then on the wild revelry, the gaudy wealth, and the unbridled fornication as an annoyance and they lamented that it had cost them so much of their lives to find the paradise of shared solitude. Madly in love after so many years of sterile complicity, they enjoyed the miracle of living each other as much at the table as in bed, and they grew to be so happy that even when they were two worn-out people they kept on blooming like little children and playing together like dogs.”

 

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Aww shucks, I’m not made of stone!
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Well ok, I mean you did want to get revenge, but then..yeah ok, I get it. It’s complex.
Then there’s the love story between Amaranta and Pietro Crespi, which in all honestly, is more a story of heartbreak and betrayal. I was pretty torn when Amaranta acted all sweet and deeply in love with him only to reject him in the end. He was basically the perfect, devoted, beautiful lover; and she rejected him to get revenge on her sister even though she DID want him to herself at the start. Shit’s confusing, but then again, what in this little town isn’t?

Sadly, Pietro’s hopeless romantic little heart couldn’t take it and he killed himself, which then caused Amaranta to be overcome with regret and singe her hand black in order to repent. I didn’t say the people of this town were sane, but they’re definitely interesting characters.

There was a point early on in the book when the people of the village couldn’t sleep, so they started to forget things. They resorted to writing down instructions on everyday items, food, street signs, and livestock even.

 

“Little by little, studying the infinite possibilities of a loss of memory, he realized that the day might come when things would be recognized by their inscriptions but that no one would remember their use…. At the beginning of the road into the swamp they put up a sign that said “Macondo” and another larger one on the main street that said “God exists”.”

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Homer being homer.
It reminded me of that scene in Simpsons when they went to Ned’s beach house and he had post-it instructions written on everything. I have no doubt it was going for a much deeper meaning than that…but yeah this was what my Simpsons-obsessed brain immediately conjured up. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All in all, fascinating story, never quite read anything like it! The confusion amidst names and plot-lines was alright for me, because as cliché as it sounds, it was a beautiful mess.
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