Thursday, December 24, 2009

One Hundred Years of Solitude | Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This book has been labeled a "modern epic" in many circles and the title was interesting, so I thought I'd give "One Hundred Years of Solitude" a read.  If it wasn't for my policy of never abandoning a book, I would not have finished.

Marquez portrays the history of a society called Macondo, which is near the coast of Columbia, and details the town's rise and inevitable fall.  The story revolves around the central family, the Buendia's, over their hundred year history since the settlement of the town.

One of the most talked about critisms of the book is the naming convention of the characters.  The Jose Arcadios, represent a reckless bunch of men who's extravagence dooms them for failure while the Aureliano's lead a hermetic existence dedicated to knowledge through literature, as opposed to life.  Both sets of men are dreamers and thus, the women in the story are inevitably the ones who provide structure through hard work... lead by the Ursula's.  The Amaranta's seemed to be a mixed bag... filled with the extremism exhibited by the rest of the family.

Marquez continues to repeat his point, that life is circular and that the mistakes of generations are repeated in subsequent generations.  While the repetition of the character names becomes annoying at times, it does have a point.  While Marquez compares the characters and their inability to learn through the generations to Latin America, this concept can be applied all over the world.  The definition of ignorance is doing the same thing and expecting different results.  Humans have a tendency to do this independent of their location in the world, and it's really inevitable that this will be part of our downfall as a species... particularly as to how it relates to the environment.

This book falls into the genre of "magic realism", which combines events that would never happen (like nearly five years of straight rain) with ordinary events.  I didn't mind the literary device, but I don't think it made the novel any more enjoying.  By contrast, the use of this technique in "The Satanic Verses" was more effective to me... and since it dealt with the concept of religion, this made it much more interesting.

The characters in this novel, I found I could not get behind emotionally.  I didn't really care for any of them, and the lack of dialogue in this book painted them as characters who were just there and not people who you could relate to.  The story was told to you in such a way, that it became repetitive and didn't interest me.  First this happens, then this... with this outcome.  Then, this happens...  *yawn*.

I also found it interesting that I only wrote down one quote through the book... and this was largely attributed to the way this book was written.  Nothing really interesting was presented that will live on in my memories over time, which is one of the main reasons why I generally read the classics.  This book did nothing for me, and was one of my greatest disappointments in 2009.

"...the search for lost things is hindered by routine habits and that is why it is so difficult to find them." 247


granville w. ghost, esq. said...

How time flies! It's been at least a decade since I last read One Hundred Years of Solitude. The first time I read it, I remember coming to the last line and putting it down and having one of those moments of contemplation I really only get when I've been engrossed in something beautiful.

It's a lot like a drug, though. That bell rings the first time you take a hit. No matter how many hits follow, you'll never get it ringing again like it did the first time. And the troublesome thing is that there's no way around it. I've read most of Marquez's work and it's in large part written in the same voice. Perhaps it's just an error in translation, as these fairly non-descript characters have this habit of making dramatic declarations apropos of absolutely nothing. It drives me mad, because if one saw this played out in real life, you'd fall to the floor by how ridiculous it is.

I feel a bit like an apostate writing this. As much joy as that first reading of Solitude gave me, it's been a lot of disappointment since. Love in the Time of Cholera was quite good, I thought, but I think I knew better by that point and I never tried to read it a second time.

Eclectic Indulgence said...

I enjoy the moment of contemplation, very much. It seems like a lot of praise for a book like this... I'm wondering what did it for you.

The descriptive text and lack of dialogue really did a number on me. My fondess for Hemingway's dialogue and books where I connect to the characters (ala Holden), I didn't find here. Nor did I feel the constant emphasis on the cyclical nature of human errors very compelling. It was a good point, but nothing like a work of Huxley which makes that point along with a bunch of others [in some cases not stiched together very well, but I digress].

There were a lot of good themes, but I found myself hoping for the end of the book... and the end did not justify the means. No character connection, no emotion, no mind blowing moments of contemplation.

I wonder if I should even attempt "Love in the Time of Cholera".

P.S. As I was reading, I thought the translation might have something to do with it, but I'm not so sure. I don't think the town or characters would have been described more beautifully, and since there was a lack of dialogue, I can't imagine that being a factor. I wonder if there was anything there that COULD have got lost in translation.