I have read Of Love and Other Demons and short stories written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez before I finally picked up this book. One Hundred Years of Solitude was on my to-be-read list for a long time but I was a little hesitant to actually start reading it. I read some 50-odd pages of the book last year and kept it aside and didn’t touch it again till last month. I had to skim through the previously read pages as a refresher and I am glad I did that otherwise I might have been utterly lost going ahead.
The story of One Hundred Years of Solitude spans more than a century with seven generations of the Buendia family. It is tricky to explain all the characters in this book as they are many of them and they have the same names; I don’t think it is possible to explain the plot of the story in brief but I will try to give an overview. It begins when Jose Arcadio and his wife Ursula leave their hometowns to look for a new place to settle. They are the original settlers and founders of Maconda; Jose Arcadio dreams about this place and they build the town. Jose Arcadio is curious by nature and he is obsessed with scientific pursuits and immerses himself completely in his work. Jose Arcadio and Ursula are cousins and Ursula has been warned that incest will eventually lead to a baby being born with a pig’s tail.
The novel is wonderfully written. The magical realism of the writing and the story is what kept me intrigued as I read. The descriptions of the atmosphere and the landscape of Maconda paints a picture in your head as you are reading. You can imagine the town vividly which helped me stick to the story because I could see it play out properly in my head. The element of magical realism shines through the story and the way it progresses seems completely organic. The political and social upheaval in the story mirrors the reality of our society. I have never read any books before which have the element of magical realism the way it is present in this novel.
The characters, the character traits, and their names are repetitive in the story. At first, I had trouble keeping up with all the names and it didn’t exactly get easier as I progressed. Jose Arcadio, Amaranta, and Aureliano specifically are names repeatedly used by new generations. It seemed confusing but then I realized that it is on purpose. The Buendia family is stuck in the same old circle of mistakes and decisions through generations. For example – the incestuous tendencies in the family are also present in generations and they end up in incest relationships no matter how hard they resist they can’t break the cycle. The personality traits are also similar in different generations Aureliano’s are shy and self-reflective, they like being in their own company.
All the secrets that are kept by the family about parentage due to incestuous history end up being the reason that sixth generation Aureliano and his aunt Amaranta Ursula end up marrying when they are unaware of their familial ties and their son is born with a pig’s tail. It’s very difficult to explain the themes and story of the book because it is vast and complicated. The family which keeps going in circles and interpretations of time and space in the story are some aspects that are understood as I was reading. I might need more time to completely understand the story and all that it encompasses.
There were times when I really had trouble reading this book and I wondered if I should finish it or not. I am glad I stuck it out in those patches because in the end the story comes to full circle and it is intriguing. There are so many elements of the story that I feel went slightly over my head and I’ll have to read about it later. I enjoyed reading the book in parts as sometimes it was slow and I lost patience. I liked the book and the story and the writing but I don’t think it’s a book I’ll pick up again at least not anytime soon. Reading this book is a completely different experience but in a good way.
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