One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Probably García Márquez finest and most famous work. One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of a mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, alive with unforgettable men and women, and with a truth and understanding that strike the soul.
Was it what I expected?
Yes, for the most part — dense and beautiful and brushing against everything I know about Latin American history, without being anything like anything else I’ve read. I had forgotten that it was also a classic of magical realism, so that came as a surprise, but it’s all done in such a matter-of-fact tone that eventually nothing is surprising anymore. It’s the kind of story that would bear studying, teasing out the endless repetitions, symbols, themes. The way women and sex are connected in the novel, the cyclical nature of time, all kinds of things, but it can also be appreciated as a whole in an emotional way.
Did I like it?
I suppose I must have. Reading it cast a spell where I was happy to sit and read for hours on end. It really is beautifully written, and all the transitions happen seamlessly, the way they do in spoken stories. The whole thing felt like a family story, where you’re expected to already know the names and events but people keep telling the story and sharing new details (which makes sense, the author has said the tone was based on his grandmother’s “brick face” when she told outlandish stories). I realized when I finished that I hadn’t really been behind any of the characters, I found them all pitiable and often reprehensible, but they’re so real that whether or not I approved of them became irrelevant. The story was about the whole family’s tragedy, and the tragedy of the town. I loved the sense of malaise, the sense of sadness and inescapability of the story. It came at a good time for me.
Is it worth reading?
Definitely, as a Latin American classic, and also as a novel. I know a lot of people who struggled to be interested in it, so I think it has to strike you in the right frame of mind. I really felt it meant the most as a whole, and in large swathes, rather than in specifics.