One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Spanish: Cien años de soledad) is a landmark 1967 novel by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez that tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family, whose patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, founds the town of Macondo, the metaphoric Colombia.
The magical realist style and thematic substance of One Hundred Years of Solitude established it as an important, representative novel of the literary Latin American Boom of the 1960s and 1970s, which was stylistically influenced by Modernism (European and North American) and the Cuban Vanguardia (Avant-Garde) literary movement.
Since it was first published in 1967, One Hundred Years of Solitude has been translated into thirty-seven languages and has sold more than 30 million copies. The novel, considered García Márquez’s magnum opus, remains widely acclaimed, and is recognized as one of the most significant works in the Spanish literary canon.
One of the 20th century’s enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement in a Nobel Prize–winning career.
The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the Buendía family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.
Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility — the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth — these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel García Márquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master.
Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.
“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.”
It is typical of Gabriel García Márquez that it will be many pages before his narrative circles back to the ice, and many chapters before the hero of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Buendía, stands before the firing squad. In between, he recounts such wonders as an entire town struck with insomnia, a woman who ascends to heaven while hanging laundry, and a suicide that defies the laws of physics:
A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta’s chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.
“Holy Mother of God!” Úrsula shouted.
The story follows 100 years in the life of Macondo, a village founded by José Arcadio Buendía and occupied by descendants all sporting variations on their progenitor’s name: his sons, José Arcadio and Aureliano, and grandsons, Aureliano José, Aureliano Segundo, and José Arcadio Segundo. Then there are the women–the two Úrsulas, a handful of Remedios, Fernanda, and Pilar–who struggle to remain grounded even as their menfolk build castles in the air. If it is possible for a novel to be highly comic and deeply tragic at the same time, then One Hundred Years of Solitude does the trick. Civil war rages throughout, hearts break, dreams shatter, and lives are lost, yet the effect is literary pentimento, with sorrow’s outlines bleeding through the vibrant colors of García Márquez’s magical realism. Consider, for example, the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar, whom José Arcadio Buendía has killed in a fight. So lonely is the man’s shade that it haunts Buendía’s house, searching anxiously for water with which to clean its wound. Buendía’s wife, Úrsula, is so moved that “the next time she saw the dead man uncovering the pots on the stove she understood what he was looking for, and from then on she placed water jugs all about the house.”
With One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez introduced Latin American literature to a world-wide readership. Translated into more than two dozen languages, his brilliant novel of love and loss in Macondo stands at the apex of 20th-century literature. –Alix Wilber –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Review by Amanda M. Hayeson
There are relatively few books that I’ve had to read for my college classes and truly enjoyed. This was one of them.
Now, be warned: this is not a clear-cut story; the prose can be confusing, and the repetition of names makes it more difficult by far to keep track of who is who. The novel does indeed cover one hundred years, so expect to see favorite characters die if they first appear early on. There is no one protagonist. The family is the protagonist–the family, and the town.
Perhaps despite these potential confusions and perhaps because of them, Marquez has woven in this book a shroud of mysteriousness and magical realism that make reading it something like stepping into a dream; his Macondo is like nowhere else on Earth (or at least nowhere I have ever heard of), and things at once comic, tragic, and unreal can happen there. You will find dreamers and would-be scientists, layabouts and soldiers, matriarchs and wantons in this enchanted household. Enchantment of a murky sort hovers over the land like a haze, touching everything and separating the descendants of Jose Arcadio from the world as we know it.
You may not want to read it in one sitting; you may find yourself putting it down for awhile, confused or exasperated by the latest turn of events, but it is quite likely that you will pick it up again in due course with curiosity drawing you back into the realm Marquez has created. As classics go, this is one worthy of the title, and it is a story to be savored.