Thursday, 13 October 2016

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez - Book Review

Publisher's write-up:


Pipes and kettledrums herald the arrival of gypsies on their annual visit to Macondo, the newly founded village where José Arcadio Buendía and his strong-willed wife, Úrsula, have started their new life. As the mysterious Melquíades excites Aureliano Buendía and his father with new inventions and tales of adventure, neither can know the significance of the indecipherable manuscript that the old gypsy passes into their hands.

Through plagues of insomia, civil war, hauntings and vendettas, the many tribulations of the Buendía household push memories of the manuscript aside. Few remember its existence and only one will discover the hidden message that it holds... '

One Hundred Years of Solitude by the Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez is a story about a small village called Macondo and its founding family, the Buendías. Years ago, when José Arcadio Buendía marries his cousin Úrsula, she is scared that her children would be born with pig tails owing to the couple committing a 'sin'. However, their non-consummation of the marriage became a subject matter of ridicule that in a fit of rage, José Arcadio Buendía kills the man and moves out of the town, to start a new life in the new village of Macondo founded by the family, with their children.

This story goes through the ups and downs of Macondo, and the first half of the book has its focus on the second generation of Buendías. Macondo had very little contact with outsiders except the gypsies who occasionally visit them but eventually, they get in contact with the outsiders and subsequently, a Conservative Mayor is installed in the village by the government. Aureliano Buendía in opposition, leads the Liberal Revolution and the village is eventually ravaged by a civil war. However, the Buendía family has in its possession a set of parchments from the gypsy Melquíades and each generation of the family tries to decode the parchments.

To say the least, the author has created an impeccable story about the village, and how its founding family evolved along with it. I liked the way how the author took it forward, first the isolation, then the contact with outsiders leading to prosperity, subsequently leading to a strange plague and eventually, leading to a bloody civil war and then it was back to peaceful times and the eventual decline of the village. I also felt the author used this as an excellent platform to make a case for his socialist, anti-war ideas, brilliantly bringing out how Aureliano, though, initially fought for an ideology, eventually, the purpose was lost and he was merely fighting for pride. It also had elements of corporate exploitation in the village and how, if the corporates collude with the government, they could easily manipulate the events in their favour and erase their misdeeds from history. Additionally, the author, used the element of magic realism really well, to depict the adverse effects of each of these changes, and I found it very different from the way Rushdie uses the same, considering that in this book, magic realism was a lot more subtle whereas it is a quintessential element in Rushdie's book (incidentally, Rushdie claims this book is The greatest novel in any language of the last fifty years.)

While I felt the reader could connect more with the village than an individual character considering that the plot kept moving across timelines and generations, one character who is noteworthy is Aureliano Buendía, who has a strong sense of right and wrong initially, while joining the liberals but eventually becomes a commander who would do anything to serve his interests and finally, once the war is over, retires into obscurity, denying any sort of recognition from the government upon signing the peace deal.

I am unsure whether any of the events in this book actually allude to events in Latin America's history or more contemporary events but if they do, I believe the book could certainly be enjoyed more by someone who is familiar with the history of Latin America.

However, despite all these, this certainly is not a book for every reader, it requires a lot of patience. For starters, just taking the Buendía family, the patriarch is named José Arcadio Buendía who has two sons and a daughter, Colonel Aureliano Buendía married to Remedios, José Arcadio and Amaranta. José Arcadio (second) has a son named Arcadio who eventually has a daughter named Remedios and two sons named José Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo. José Arcadio goes on to have a daughter named Renata Remedios who goes on to have a son named Aureliano.

The least that the author could have done is to have given slightly different names for each generation (but then, to be fair to him, he does use this element subsequently) for this led to a lot of confusion especially when repeated references were made to the previous generations during the course of the story.

Moreover, the book dragged on a little, especially after the civil war and the establishment of the Banana Company (the last 100 pages) which is probably a reason why most readers have this complaint that they're unable to finish this book. Since I don't understand Spanish and had to rely on Jonathan Cape's translation, I really can't comment on the ingenious usage of language by the author (incidentally, that is the aspect I enjoy the most in Rushdie's novels).

To conclude, I really enjoyed reading this book, one of those heavy reads over which I was satisfied once I was done with the book. My only regret is perhaps the fact that the I bought this book when the author was alive and in my book it states, 'He lives in Mexico City.' Alas, I couldn't complete it when he was alive but then, reading is definitely a great manner in which you could remember the Nobel winning author, the first ever from Colombia.

I would award the book a rating of seven on ten.

Rating - 7/10
Have a nice day,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...