One Hundred Years of Solitude (Review)

Labels: Great Works


One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1970
417 pp.

By Molly Lundquist
February 2008

This book is the granddaddy of magical realism. Written 40 years ago, it was recognized immediately as a classic, one of the great works of all time. So buckle your seat belts—because you're in for a ride.

Marquez has created an epic re-imagining of the genesis of life. The book fairly teems with...well, everything under the sun—which is, in fact, a major theme: the richness, amazing variety, fecundity and mystery of all of life under the sun.

Marquez then infuses the story with the supernatural: magical events that continually poke their heads through life's thin crust of reality.

This is a dense work, and if you're looking for a clean-cut plotline, you won't find it here. Instead, we get a sprawling narrative—a family saga that traces the lineage of the Buendia family for more than 100 years, with one generation taking the names of the previous. Confusing, yes (I found myself constantly referring back to the family tree). But as a result, the book becomes a stunning meditation on time as it repeats and curls back on itself—until at the end, all of time exists, all at once. (Got your head around that one?)

Spellbinding, the book opens into a world of enchantment from which it's hard to emerge. And so many of the miracles are funny. One of my favorites is the young woman who, while folding laundry, is carried aloft by the wind and ascends into heaven—carrying the bed sheets along with her. Her sister-in-law...

Fernanda, burning with envy, finally accepted the miracle, but for a long time kept on praying to God to send her back her sheets.

Some may have difficulty getting all the way to the end, not because it's hard but because the characters are detached from us, making it difficult to feel engaged. Again, though, that seems to the purpose; Garcia Marquez isn't interested in character per se as much as a sweeping view of time and history—an epic of the beginnng and end of life itself.

If you do read this work, you may want to do some research. Your library will probably have the Gale Contemporary Authors Series. Start there at least.

See our Reading Guide for One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Also, check out this NY Times article:  Robert Kiely - New York Times Review, 5-8-1970

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