You know that teacher in high school that you absolutely loved and wanted to impress all the time? For me, this was my AP literature teacher, Dr. Hartnett. When he suggested books to read, I would always jump to read them. Not only because I wanted to impress him, but also because he usually gave the best suggestions. I think One Hundred Years of Solitude sticks in my mind most out of the at least 40 novels I read in my senior year of high school. I recently gave it another read and it still impresses—even after my fifth read.
Author Gabriel Garcia Márquez is a magician and is definitely quicker than the reader’s eye. His magical realism will send you on a magic carpet joyride that he likes to call One Hundred Years of Solitude. The imagery was stunning, the diction was perfect, the style was captivating, and the characters and plot seemed very real and down to earth, yet at the same time so absurd. Confused yet?
Márquez can do this because he is as subtle as a three-toed sloth moving across a tree branch. One Hundred Years of Solitude is about the trials, tribulations, and the crazy happenstances of the town of Macondo and its habitants. There is politics, love, marriage, and the passing of the torch to the next generation. It all seems so reminiscent of our simple lives, but at the same time, so ridiculous, so unbelievable, and, even still at the same time, so real. In an attempt to get you interested, I offer you these two teasers.
In the third generation of Macondo, José Arcadio becomes the dictator and “… imposed obligatory military service for men over eighteen … He sequestered Father Nicanor in the parish house under pain of execution and prohibited him from saying mass or ringing the bells unless it was for a Liberal victory … At first no one took him seriously.” Has any other town you know of seen a civil war, much less a totalitarian dictator?
If politics and war really aren’t your thing, this novel also offers you love, passion, adultery, incest, and misery. After Aureliano José’s failed courtship with aunt Amaranta—the person who raised him—he finds “Carmelita Montiel, a twenty-year-old virgin. Aureliano José had been destined to find with her the happiness that Amaranta had denied him, to have seven children, and to die in her arms of old age, but the bullet that entered his chest had been directed by a wrong interpretation of the cards.” Just when it seems like he’s headed toward happy times, he is killed. Well, at least he died a happy man, one of the few characters in the novel who can say that.
This is not an easy read. You are not reading The DaVinci Code or The Firm; you are not reading a Dan Brown or Jon Grisham novel. You will need to soak up every single word to really understand Márquez’s message. Even on my fifth read I got something new from the novel. That is not to say it is a convoluted story or that the author lays a trap for his readers—no, it’s quite the opposite. Márquez turns what seems to be a rather simple story about the Buendía family in the town of Macondo into a manifesto on the human experience. The author somehow turns the unexpected and unnatural into an ordinary or mundane event, and the reader has no choice but to accept it because Márquez has the ability to make the second coming an everyday thing.
Márquez has given readers a lusty, humorous, down-to-earth, and abnormal fantasy. Macondo and its inhabitants are a reflection of the human experience and its progression. The book is not without faults. I am often left wanting more character and plot development, but a 400-page book with so many characters and so many stories cannot realistically have as much development as I want. In the end, it’s not about the stories or the characters; they are just a mechanism for a discourse on the subjectivity of reality and fluidity of time.