100 Years Of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
After getting 50 pages into Love in The Time of Cholera without being intrigued, the idea of spending more time on the Colombian author did not come to me as anything but a chore, but being 300 pages long and a way to get through my reading list, I thought I might as well troll through it. Greeted first by a basic family tree I expected very little – a nice gimmick, Marquez, but who actually looks at those? However the next reader of my copy will find the corners of multiple pages folded, and the family tree in bloom with notes and highlights as I untied the beautiful story of 100 Years Of Solitude.
The book is the tale of a family across about a century, as they found and experience the town of Macondo, the jungle around it: Gypsies, Turks, Frenchmen, and Americans, war, love, and acts of magic seeming so natural in Marquez’s world that one accepts it as one accepts that the sky is blue. Marquez uses colour, animals, and the weather to create a world to confuse the English student, where we can’t say the rain is a technique to show the town is sad, for in Marquez’s world, it’s pretty likely the rain is physically there because of the town’s suffering.
The setting of the family within South America may hold significance for the historian, the politics, wars and massacres, even the town itself may be real; unfortunately I have no knowledge in the area but am sure that it draws from true events. However, my ignorance is a blessing, the ancient Inca jungle is a place so foreign and wild to me that it allows for Marquez to draw from his knowledge of folklore to create this mystical place, so that the illusion and immersion the ignorant reader can achieve is unlike any other. This magic realism allows Marquez to completely invest himself in storytelling, without the restraints of the real world, if it’s more interesting for a character to live to 150, they are free to, and the story is much better off because of it.
The idea of following the Buendia family allows the reader to invest themselves within the politics of the small town. We find ourselves with favourites and grudges, and with a tale of so many twists and surreal, unpredictable events, we are never able to be complacent in our character’s predicaments. The characters themselves are some of the deepest I’ve found in a novel, each with their quirks and flaws, and true character development and story arcs intertwine and conclude without the constraints of a chronological timeline to restrict them.
The complicated family politics are enough for the reader to find themselves flicking back through the pages, let alone the fact that Marquez decided to allocate just two male names across seven generations, though this is a part of the story, and Marquez does briefly reference it. The complexity does provide a small hump to get over, I found myself remembering each character by their deaths, as through their lives, their actions and character virtues often overlapped. Again, this is part of the story, as traits flow between generations and this adds to one of the main themes of the book, our goals and dreams.
The town itself is a dream of the original patriarch of the Buendias, who dreams of the city it could become, online I’ve read that this “city of mirrors” he imagined is a metaphor for South America itself, although I didn’t think about this myself in my run through. Through the generations we see each member of the family with their own predetermined plans for themselves, and how nearly always these fall apart, for good or bad, but never what was originally intended, save, for the original predictions of the matriarch and how we eventually find the whole saga predicted by the ghost gypsy Melquíades. The book offers to the reader, and any character of the book who studies their past, multiple hints at how the story will progress, as through solitude the internal influences are sure to produce repeated results, infact, many of the deaths are told to us as we meet the character, this neither spoils the book, as it is carried by exquisite story telling and descriptive language, nor does it take away from the magical twists Marquez allocates through the story, time seems randomly allocated and the deaths are nearly never when you would expect, and the death of a character does not stop the story, for they are often still in it through ghosts or genetic heirs. Marquez explores the theme of prediction through all aspects of life, card reading, myths, and political reasoning, are all exploited in the town to try and find what is next for them, and whilst looking ahead we take away the message that they should instead look at their history, without the flaws of self interpretation the members of the family suffer from so harshly. I would not describe the book or the family of having the feeling of being doomed from the start, but instead the story seems to neatly tie itself closed, we do feel degradation in the last quarter of the book, but never is it without times of growth, monetarily or spiritually, and because of this the reader walks away happily, pretending that we, like every other character thought, knew the ending all along.