One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I can't find the cover of the edition I read on GoodReads, so here is a picture of the cover, which shows the painting The Well of Toledo by Mexican painter Diego Rivera:
I read this for the 2019 Back to the Classics Challenge, Category: Read A Classic From the Americas or Caribbean. This book is also on my list for the Classics Club.
About the author: Gabriel García Márquez was born in Columbia in 1928. This was his first novel, originally published in 1967. The only book I have previously read by him is Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1985) which was excellent. I might want to read The General in His Labyrinth (1989), a fictionalized version of the life of Simon Bolivar. One Hundred Years of Solitude immediately established García Márquez as an important writer in the magical realism movement within Latin American literature. According to the afterword in my copy, this was the first international bestseller from Latin America. García Márquez won the Nobel Prize in 1982.
I am pretty sure I have tried to read this before and didn't finish it. This time I stuck with it, and it was worth reading, although I didn't love it as much as many other readers do. Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, which was influenced by this book, is one of my favorites, and I'm not sure why I liked it so much better than this book.
The opening line: “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...” (The end of the chapter describes the character's first encounter with ice.)
The ending line (leaving out a potential spoiler): “... races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.”
The novel begins with the founding of the mythical town of Macondo and proceeds to tell the story of several generations of a family, over the course of one hundred years. Many of the characters had similar names, probably to reflect the ways that each generation repeats aspects of the same story. The title reflects the isolation of Macondo from the rest of the world, and the solitude experienced by various characters.
I think I liked the first two hundred pages or so best (about 4 chapters). This part of the book takes place in the first two generations. In later sections, I had a harder time connecting with the characters. It was still worth finishing, especially for the ending.
Here is one of the passages I really liked:
“Tell me something, old friend: why are you fighting?"
What other reason could there be?" Colonel Gerineldo Marquez answered. "For the great Liberal party."
You're lucky because you know why," he answered. "As far as I'm concerned, I've come to realize only just now that I'm fighting because of pride."
That's bad," Colonel Gerineldo Marquez said.
Colonel Aureliano Buendia was amused at his alarm. "Naturally," he said. "But in any case, it's better than not knowing why you're fighting." He looked him in the eyes and added with a smile:
Or fighting, like you, for something that doesn't have any meaning for anyone.”
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