Friday, November 15, 2013

C_Club #11: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

I read this book in May. May! That's eons ago! So granted, I don't remember details in the most vivid manner anymore, but I will ramble about my experience with this book in general.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is definitely one of those books that divides people. There are those who offer praise - the text! brilliantly written! the ideas! magical realism!; and then there are those, who don't quite share the enthusiasm - what was that? there is no plot! I didn't understand a thing! magical realism!
In fact, this book even managed to divide me. 16-year old me belonged to the second group, more mature me to the first.
Why did I even read this book at such age? I don't recall it being something for school; however, my Estonian and literature teacher (who was basically my rock star) raved about this (she was/is a very expressive/emotional lady and leaned strongly towards books outside the box of realism, as I recall) and I just had to read it. Here is small selection of thoughts and emotions I had when I closed the book afterwards:
* What was that?
* Where is the plot?
* Why do all characters have the same name? (Does author think he is being funny or?)
* Why was this one lady eating soil?
* One cannot really levitate, right?
* Butterflies???
* I didn't understand a thing! Am I too stupid for this book?
The diversity of names in One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Image from here.
One Hundred Years of Solitute taught me a few things:

1. The books that made you go WTF in (high)school are worth a re-read later in life.
2. The plot (or the lack of it) has no significance if the book is written very beautifully and there is a general message behind the seemingly incoherent rambling.
You guys, after the re-read, I knew exactly what this book was about (for me, anyway), and that Marquez wasn't trying to trick the readers (thehe). I understood that many characters shared the same name because that is how life is - in the larger scale, we are all the same, little containers of breath on this planet where everything goes in cycles, in spiral. Things that have already happened - small things that are at the same time very big things, like birth and death, happen again and again. It's a cycle and so is this book - it's a celebration and condemnation of human life, with all its perfections and flaws.
I'm with ya there, Fry.
I have seen people commenting that one of the things putting them off is part of the narrative that they consider pedophiliac - one of the Aurelianos falls in love with girl Remedios - and I don't get it. It's like not reading Lolita because of the theme it covers, and missing out on some wonderful writing. I wouldn't even call Aureliano's love that inappropriate because despite of confessing his feelings, he never tries anything, he states from the beginning that he will wait until Remedios is adult. Pedophilia is disgusting and awful, but just because this book touches this topic (very subtly and shortly, I must add - I do hope no-one gets discouraged by me bringing it up) does not mean that the author, through story, approves such behaviour.
There is also another aspect regarding this book, which was so awesome, but I can't even begin hinting what it is or in relation to what, because that would be kind of spoiling; however, I think those who have read it can probably guess what I mean.
I read this book in Estonian, just because I had a copy on my shelf, and here's something you can't say very often - the translation was superb. Absolutely enjoyable. I have no idea how this book would be in English, for example, but I am kind of happy I got to read this wonderful version in my own mother tongue.  


  1. I agree about rereading books from school, sometimes they are so much better as an adult. I'd like to try this book, but have had no luck with magical realism so far....

    1. I'm not sure which books you have read, but I think it's indeed a very subjective genre, more so than some others. I think I like the genre quite well (Haruki Murakami - I think he can be considered there, The Magus by John Fowles was fantastic, Toni Morrison), in fact, I think I will make it a project to read more magical realism books.

  2. Magical realism books are either a hit or a miss with me. I started One Hundred Years of Solitude a few times and I've never been able to finish it. An American author named Sarah Addison Allen writes light, easy and quick reads in the magical realism world and I just love her books. If you're looking for a quick, sweet and easy MR read, I highly recommend her books.

    1. Oh yes, they can totally be hit and miss. I think I read One Hundred Years of Solitude at the right point in life this time, which is why it worked out so great. Oh and thanks for the recommendation - I will definitely check out her books!

  3. Ok, so this is on my must list for next year and it has been a book that has intimidating me for years! I'm so glad to read your thoughts on it. It seems a little less scary now. I think I just need to go into it with an open mind and enjoy the language.

    1. It is a bit intimidating book, I agree. It's definitely a good idea to go into this book with very open mind, in that way you may be pleasantly surprised. With certain expectations I think One Hundred Years can be a huge failure.

  4. This one is on my Classics Club list too. It doesn't sound like a book my husband would have enjoyed in high school, but he's been telling me forever it was one of his favorite assigned books, so I'm thinking I'll be able to manage! Will have to prepare myself a bit though -- I think this book will take a little dedication.

    1. Yes I was also a bit scared of re-reading One Hundred Years, but I got into it very quickly. As I said though I think it's not for everyone and that is perfectly normal - I think it will go better if at first you will not desperately try to make some sense of everything and will just enjoy the text as it goes.

  5. A wonderful review. I might be the odd one, as I am a bit on the fence over this. Didn't love it, definitely didn't hate it. It was fascinating, and I loved the fatalism theme, as well as the superb prose.
    My own review:


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