“One Hundred Years of Solitude” Book Review

Let’s face it: it’s pretty much the story that gave birth to late-night Spanish novellas. This magically realistic novel was originally published solely in Spanish in 1967, and has since sold well over 30 million copies worldwide. I know that it’s highly unusual for me to post a review for a book, especially one that I am now decades late to read. But the fascinating character studies, the symbolic metaphors, and the fact that it’s considered the single most influential Latin American novel in history have won me over. Written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who also created classics such as Love in the Time of Cholera, it tells us the multi-generational story of the town of Macondo set within a remote swamp. The often magical and miraculous events that occur within this town are told through the eyes of the family who first founded it, the Buendias. The Buendias are headed by the family patriarch, Jose Arcadio, who tries and constantly fails to keep family traditions alive. The ever expanding history of the town is ,as I said previously, told through the eyes of the various descendants, relatives, and illegitimate children of Jose Arcadio Buendia. At first, this may sound like a typical narrative revolving around familial struggles in a rural region of society. If that’s all you perceive this book to be before your read it, however, you are either going to be pleasantly surprised or just remarkably disappointed. Make no mistake; this is no zany comedy, but there are plenty of moments and elements that can make the reader crack up with laughter. For example, the rebellious leader Colonel Aureliano Buendia has nearly 17 children during his campaign. And the author makes several funny quotes throughout the story, including a scene where soldiers serving under martial law try to “sabotage the sabotage” by ironically burning plantations and commissions. You can also just make accurate inferences that many of these characters have become very conflicted over the course of Macondo’s lifespan. The first, and probably the least addressed, issue the Buendias have to cope with is the fact that the majority of the family got started off of incest. Seriously, Jose Arcadio got intermarried with his first cousin, Ursula, and his family was conceived not long after that. It’s also helps creates an interesting contrast to their strong religious beliefs, as Jose Arcadio and Ursula’s incestuous harem could very well be considered the “original sin,” and their own offspring would similarly fall to this fate. Best character of them all: I’m going to spend a bit of time talking about Ursula. She’s simply fascinating, because she mostly tries to stay out of the lives of the female members, but she goes all out to save some of the males. I’m not joking. Before Colonel Aureliano and his trusted officer are about to get executed, she sticks a revolver in her son’s clothing and convinces her husband to save them from certain death. She also bares the distinction of being the oldest character in the whole story, living to over a hundred years old. Which now brings me to the film’s title. To be perfectly clear, this novel is really open to interpretation Perhaps the biggest and most important theme in One Hundred Years of Solitude is the inevitability of history repeating itself. There will always be a female fighting for the affection of a handsome man, and there will always be a male who’s ultimately vying for more power than they currently have. Colonel Aureliano and his followers fight for the Liberal party and slaughter thousands in the process, while his brother Arcadio tries to enforce the Conservative cause and invoke similar casualties. Later on, you actually begin to empathize with Aureliano as he admits to his second in command that he is fighting merely for pride, and the second in command tells him he’s just fighting for “something that has no meaning to anyone.” Despite it’s sometimes complex writing prose and convoluted family tree, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a thought-provoking and wonderful tale that uses magical realism to it’s advantage. The story is utterly engrossing, as it’s not afraid to touch upon themes of family conflicts and the fluid nature of time and life itself. Even after his semi-recent death, this will be remembered for generations as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s supreme masterpiece of the literary world.

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