One Hundred Years of Solitude


One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia MarquezGuest Reviewer: Bradley Allen Markle

Author: Gabriel García Marquez
Publisher: Perennial Classics (1998) [Originally published 1967]
Number of Pages: 458
How long it took me to read: about a week
Where I bought this book: Friends of the Library book sale (pretty much the best thing ever)
ISBN: 0-06-074045-0

Like a Moth to a Flame

One Hundred Years of Solitude is divisive. Some say it is overly confusing, that all the characters bear the same names and it is impossible to keep track of who is who. Others maintain the book to be one of the best ever written. Oprah thinks it’s the bee’s knees. Opinions as disparate as these led me to instinctively pluck this title from a multitude of wonderful, cheap books at a recent Friends of the Library book sale. Which, I might add, is both a heartbreaking and absolutely amazing event. As libraries slowly transition to digital, they sell off their excess books at absurdly cheap prices. Fifty cents for a novel? Yes please. Needless to say I returned home with a trunk full of fine literature and it was not until I had perused most of the others that my eyes finally fell on One Hundred Years of Solitude.

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Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “In the tumult of the last moment, the sad drunkards who carried them out of the house got the coffins mixed up and buried them in the wrong graves.” (p.381)

4. “He died of old age in solitude, without a moan, without a protest, without a single moment of betrayal, tormented by memories and by the yellow butterflies, who did not give him a moment’s peace, and ostracized as a chicken thief.” (p.313)

3. “The sign that he hung on the neck of the cow was an exemplary proof of the way in which the inhabitants of Macondo were prepared to fight against loss of memory: This is the cow. She must be milked every morning so that she will produce milk, and the milk must be boiled in order to be mixed with coffee to make coffee and milk.” (p.52)

2. “ ‘Just like Aureliano,’ Úrsula exclaimed. ‘It’s as if the world were repeating itself.’ ” (p.320)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1.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.” (p.1)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“It is easy to get lost in the shuffle of names tossed around in this book. That’s actually sort of the point. But I find, at least for myself, that it doesn’t matter who is doing what. The idea I’m trying to get across will be a bit tricky to explain, but I’ll try. Throughout the book, characters come and go, but their actions are markedly similar to those before them, as if the history of the Buendías could be discerned simply by watching José Arcadio on infinite loop. Once you realize that this idea is at the walnut heart of the novel, you will spend less time flipping back and forth to the genealogy at the front and more time soaking up the beautiful language and the bizarre stories. Think of it like trying to read James Joyce. Yes, you could spend time trying to make certain you understand who’s who and what’s what, but in the end you won’t really come away with much more than if you just let go and let the words speak for themselves. If you find the novel confusing, that’s fine. But keep reading.”

“García Marquez is often associated with the term magical realism. If you Google his name, you’ll run across landfills of graduate papers dealing with the term, and it’s largely because it was García Marquez who more or less created the genre. So what is it? In short, it’s telling a story that’s obviously a fabrication with all the honesty and sincerity of recollection. The novel abounds with these scenarios and, I’ll be honest, they are my absolute favorite bits. A fine example of this can be found up in my quotes section. A cloud of yellow butterflies inexplicably follows one of the characters. The reader is never told why or how, only that it is the case that this one particular gentleman is shadowed by a flight of amber insects from the time he’s introduced until the time he dies many years later. Well, why? Why is he? Again, don’t think about it.

“How easy it is to get muddled in the names and the random occurrences. It’s best not to stop your reading to scrutinize what greater purpose the butterflies portend. It doesn’t have to make sense. The sacrifice of logic will allow a reader to go through the novel intuitively, and the butterflies will have definite, specific meaning by the time you finish. Just don’t try too hard in the middle of the text.”

“Finally, you come to the title’s satisfying conclusion. Perhaps better than any other book I know, this novel ends absolutely perfectly. Why? Because from the get-go we know exactly how it will happen. The stories are circular, remember? I won’t spoil it if you have not read the book, but I will say that you, the reader, are told how the tale will end very close to the beginning of the novel. The rest is watching a spring coil up tight before it springs right back.

“I recommend the book to everybody I meet, have met, or will ever meet, with a word of caution: breeze through the book and it will find meaning on its own. Don’t try to analyze it. Not yet, anyway.”

Other Reviews of this Book

David Stein's Guest Review of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

4 Comments

  1. Pam Reed says:

    This is one of the best reviews I’ve seen about this book. Your suggestions about how to read (and understand it) are right on. I’m looking forward to reading more reviews from you.

  2. Adam says:

    Interesting… sounds like a good read.

  3. Christine says:

    I’m not much of a history buff, but you had me at the yellow butterflies! Contemplating ordering it.

  4. Christina says:

    This is a great review! I have read the book and also found myself confused at the beginning trying to figure out which character is which until I finally decided to just read it as if they were all the same person. Half way through I found that it was so much easier to read and much more beautiful.

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