Tuesday, 2 July 2013

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Marquez (3/5)

First published: 1967
Original title:
Cien años de soledad

Original language: Spanish
Translation to English by: Gregory Rabassa
Page count: 422


The back says: Gabriel García Marquez’s great masterpiece is the story of seven generations of the Buendía family and of Macondo, the town they have built. Though little more than a settlement surrounded by mountains, Macondo has its wars and disasters, even its wonders and miracles. A microcosm of Colombian life, its secrets lie hidden encoded in a book, and only Aureliano Buendía can fathom its mysteries and reveal its shrouded destiny. Blending political reality with magical realism, fantasy with comic invention, One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most daringly original works of the twentieth century.
I say: I read this for uni a few months ago, and although I’d heard only great things about it, I would, to be honest, never have finished it if it weren’t for school.

There’s nothing like making you struggle your way through literature like knowing there’s going to be a discussion, a written essay and an exam on the contents.
Ugh.

One of two main reasons this was a struggle for me was that there was something grating about the prose; I couldn’t see the beauty that everyone else was experiencing, and it put me to sleep many times along the way. Thus not saying that it wasn’t a well-crafted piece of work, because it is – I just didn’t like the way the story was being told.
The other main reason I didn’t like this is because I don’t particularly care for magical realism (I hate that term) or fantasy – unless the story is spectacular. This story was not spectacular. In fact, I found it rather contrived and childish – not to say confusing as hell with all of the characters named the same (or almost the same). When I was writing my essay I had to use Wiki to make sure I got the right José from the right generation.

Tedious.
Having said all that, what I did like about the novel was the symbolism and political aspects, and the subject of time and solitude. Not to forget that epic ending – the best part of the entire novel. There was also a lot of humour here and there, and it was tremendously thought provoking with a good insight into Colombian history (of which my knowledge is very limited).

Essentially, I liked the novel more for what it provoked within me, than what it actually said – which, in itself, is a mark of great literature.
All in all, I understand why people love One Hundred Years of Solitude, even though, quite obviously, this was never destined to be one of my favourites. However, I still recognise it for its literary impact and may perhaps re-read it sometime in the distant future. 

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