‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez died recently. Upon hearing this news I remembered that I had long been wanting to read One Hundred Years of Solitude, mostly for advice on how to live my life alone. Also I had heard that it was a classic.

If you didn’t know already, which I didn’t, the book charts seven generations of the Buendia family who founded Macondo, which Wikipedia tells me is fictionalised Colombia which was Marquez’s home country. The family repeat their mistakes across generations, as humans are want to do, and the novel touches on historical events that affecting Colombia, such as the fruit strike and various wars, and also refers to a number of magical phenomena in a rather blase way.

“INCEST! WAR! LONELINESS!” If OHYOS was a Michael Bay movie, this may be the logline on the poster.

I’ve clearly been out of university for too long, or wasn’t concentrating on the book enough, as it got confusing at points keeping up with all of the characters, many of whom had the same or similar names and personality traits.

 

The family tree which I had to regularly refer to

Most of the characters ended up in desperate or sad situations, living the majority of their lives in seclusion. The poignancy and sadness was broken up with sex or magic scenes: it pays to change it up a bit. The only real exception was Aureliano Segundo and Petra Cotes who in the end find joy from helping others, although he lived most of his life in excess (hence the lovely fat illustration, above). The family line then ends with a baby being eaten by ants, as described in a non-chalent, almost throwaway line (I say this as I often skim books and could have missed this line).

In some ways, it’s surprising that this novel has become such a classic when looking at the bare bones of the story. Thinking deeper about the characters, symbolism, and mirroring of actual historical events, this is a complex and moving story that offers some insight into human relationships, both inner and outer, and fatalism. It stays with you, if not just making you wondering about what such an incestuous family would actually be like. Also, deeper things. It never did teach me how to live alone for one hundred years though.

8/10 – Everyone else has told you to read it, and now so have I.

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