Book review: “Cien años de soledad” by Gabriel García Márquez

June 9th, 2008 at 12:59 pm

(read in Spanish)

Yes, I’ve finished reading “One hundred years of solitude” in Spanish. I began this endeavor months ago (somewhere in mid 2007 I reckon), and today it was completed. Why did it take so long ? For a couple of reasons, I guess. First of all, I read most of it with a dictionary in hand, which made the pace excruciatingly slow (10 pages per hour or so). Second, the book is far from having a fluid plot that’s easy to follow, so consuming it in large quantities can be very difficult.

Anyway, now that it’s done, I’m proud of having finished it. I read the book before (6-7 years ago), in English. Even though my English was pretty good back then, the book was very difficult, as it used a lot of high language. I recall wondering how reading such a book in its native Spanish would feel – perhaps this is what triggered my desire to learn Spanish, though I’m not certain about this.

CAS (acronym of the Spanish name), as it is frequently referred to, is considered one of the most notable works of Latin literature, widely acclaimed as second only to Don Quixote. Márquez received the Nobel prize in literature for his works, of which CAS is the principal. It tells the story of the Buendía family, set in the 19th and 20th centuries in the small village Macondo (which was founded by the head of the family) in Colombia. The story deals with seven generations of the Buendías, most of which have the same name, which is a frequent criticism of the novel.

Naming all the family males either Aureliano or José Arcadio (or some variation thereof) is a deliberate trick by Márquez, to drill in the main theme of the book – which is the repetitiveness of time and history. Needless to say, it gets quite confusing at times, and if your book doesn’t have a helpful family tree depicted in the beginning, consult an online resource. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get lost (unless you’re reading the whole book in a single sitting – but I wonder who could do that…)

Another recurring theme in the book is surrealism. Insomnia that hit a whole town for weeks, rain that lasts years, yellow butterflies, increased fecundity of farm animals, colored ants and small fish made of gold are only some of the “wacky” fantasies CAS is full of. These too, are part of the theme of eternal recurrence of patterns in the lives of the Buendías.

And it’s impossible to write a review of this book without mentioning solitude and loneliness, that are perhaps the main feeling and state the author tries to transmit to his readers. How you’ll understand it depends on you, and I believe that everyone can see something for himself in this theme.

Finally, I want to provide two quotes from the book I liked and that describe the book well. They’re in Spanish, and I don’t have enough literary pizzazz to translate them to English in a convincing way.

From the conversation of Aureliano Babilonia with Pillar Ternera close to the end:

No había ningún misterio en el corazón de un Buendía que fuera impenetrable para ella, porque un siglo de naipes y de experiencias le había enseñado que la historia de la familia era un engranaje de repeticiones irreparables, una rueda giratoria que hubiera seguido dando vueltas hasta la eternidad, de no haber sido por el desgaste progresivo e irremediable del eje.

And the last sentence in the book:

Sin embargo, antes de llegar al verso final, ya había comprendido que no saldría jamás de ese cuarto, pues estaba previsto que la ciudad de los espejos (o espejismos) sería arrasada por el viento y desterrada de la memoria de los hombres, en el instante en que Aureliano Babilonia acabara de decifrar los pergaminos, y que todo lo escrito en ellos era irrepetible desde siempre y para siempre, porque los estirpes condenados a cien años de soledad no tenían una segunda oportunidad sobre la tierra.

I’m asking myself if I like the book. I don’t have the answer. There are things about it I really dislike, and some things I like beyond my own understanding. After reading it once, I took it up again, and can’t be sure that I won’t read it once again sometime in the future. It’s still a mystery for me.

Related posts:

  1. Book review: “Living to tell the tale” by Gabriel G. Marquez
  2. Book review: “Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal”
  3. Book review: “The count of Monte Cristo” by A. Dumas
  4. Book review: “Harry Potter y la camara secreta”
  5. Book review: “Patterns of software” by Richard Gabriel

One Response to “Book review: “Cien años de soledad” by Gabriel García Márquez”

  1. DmitryNo Gravatar Says:

    His “No One Writes to the Colonel” is very good. As wiki says: “Unlike many other García Márquez works, the novel mostly doesn’t fall within the magic realism genre” so you might like it more.