One Hundred Years of Solitude, review by:

jodi


One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude
By Gabriel García Márquez
Finished reading: 2013.09.09
"Sometimes you come across a book that is so delicious you don't want it to end. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez is not one of them. I can see why a comparison was made with the Book of Genesis by the New York Times Book Review. The story goes on for centuries, with some characters living unnaturally long lives, and few of them sufficiently developed to really connect with. Yet still, my temptation to shelve this book before finishing it was outweighed by just enough curiosity to find out how this odd tale ultimately pans out. Indeed, the ending was the best part, and that's not criticism. It gave me chills, it was so unexpected, albeit in part horrifying. The story's elements of incredibility, or what some readers call ‘magical realism,’ are intentional.
“Úrsula, the matriarch, lives on for generations, outlasting her spouse, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, most of whom grow old and pass on, while her own bodily functions become more decrepit with age (‘Little by little she was shrinking, turning into a fetus, becoming mummified in life to the point that in her last months she was a cherry raisin lost inside her nightgown....She looked like a newborn old woman.’) Among her posterity is her great-granddaughter, Remedios the Beauty, who is both hauntingly beautiful and a few cards shy of a full deck, and who floats away to heaven on a billow of freshly laundered sheets. Rebecca, an orphan who showed up one day carrying a bag of bones belonging to her deceased parents, is assimilated into the family, and eats dirt and paint chips as a pastime, if not just to placate her anxiety.
“There are civil wars that endure for seemingly interminable lengths of time. In fact, everything in this book seems interminable. At just over four hundred pages, reasonable for a work of fiction, its sparse dialogue and huge paragraphs (one lasting seven -- that's seven -- pages) give the feel that the number is closer to 1,000. One Hundred Years of Solitude took one hundred years to finish, or so it seemed, but not all of its length is unbearable. One of the most impressive feats is a brilliant run-on sentence spanning three pages. Even as the narrative drags, it is occasionally punctuated with dialogue that is unexpectedly random and funny (‘“Look at the mess we've got ourselves into," Colonel Aureliano Buendía said at that time, "just because we invited a gringo to eat some bananas.” ' And, ‘ “My, my!" she shouted happily with open arms, "look how my darling cannibal has grown!”').
"By the end, I had to concede that this book really is all it's cracked up to be, if you are a serious lover of serious fiction. Some passages are so beautiful they border on poetic ('...those impenitent and ill-fated times which were squandered on the useless effort of making them drift toward the desert of disenchantment and oblivion'). It was these little diamonds that made sticking it out more bearable. Although I feel a shade more cultured for having completed what's been dubbed 'one of the hallmarks of twentieth-century fiction,' I can’t say I have any desire to read another book by Gabriel García Márquez."
--Jodi Arias

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