[Novel] One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

One Hundred Years of SOlitude I’ve tried reading through this book three times now, and all three I had to quit without reaching the two hundred page mark fearing that my brain would turn into mush. There is no rhyme or reason or even a semblance of sense in the world Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez has created; you never know how you should react to anything in this book, where death is impermanent and characters get arbitrarily saved from some tough situations through various deus ex machinas and magic, but not the others. To make matters worse, the whole thing is written in tell-not-show narrative, to the point where it feels more like an outline of a story than the real deal, where the author has yet to add emotions, motivations, character arcs, and even goddamn dialogue to his text.

There is likely some sort of allegory to the history of Latin America lurking beneath these pages, but since I possess no knowledge on that culture, it most likely completely flew over my head, and, to tell the truth, I do not feel like prying into this snore-fest any deeper regardless of what it supposedly has to offer. Might as well read a textbook on the subject, as even most of those have a more riveting narrative than this book.

Positive: Negative:
Enlightening on the culture of Latin America, I think Lifeless, tell-not-show presentation
The world has no defined rules whatsoever
Bland, lifeless characters
No tension in the plot, because whatever goes
The story feels like just a mesh of random set-pieces
Almost impossible to keep track of the characters who all have the same damn name
The most boring thing that has so far been invented by a man
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2 thoughts on “[Novel] One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

  1. I sort of stumbled here because I heard you are translating Himawari which is apparently quite good and some other undisclosed VN. Then after lurking a while I saw this review and just had to comment.

    I should preface this saying I’m Mexican, lived in Mexico all my life, and Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my favorite works of fiction of all time. It is one of the realest most grounded fantasy stories I’ve read, largely because of the characters.

    Secondly, this is the first time I actually read a foreigner’s opinion on this, beyond “this is really good” I’ve never bothered to dig deeper despite being puzzled about such opinions. Thing is, it never made sense to me why someone who isn’t from Latin America, reading it in any language other than Spanish, would find it so good.

    I say these things because not only am I going to talk about something I really like but, because your review fits with my preconceptions about it too, I also am coming from a place of confirmation bias here so you should probably take everything I say with a grain of salt.

    I think the crucial point where this falls apart for you is the characters, for someone who lives in Latin America almost every single character is really damn real. You have people like the Coronel Aureliano Buendia who feels like a revolutionary from the history books come to life, as if someone had gone to the past and documented the “behind the scenes” of the life of some old “hero”.

    Then there’s people like Fernanda, who had this really uncomfortable “I know this woman” feel to her, every single line she has, every single action has so much depth and richness to it. It is because of that, that I hated her goddamn guts from the moment she is introduced, I knew just exactly how she would ruin the lives of those close to her, even if I didn’t know the specifics beforehand, she is the brand of religious, authoritative nut you can find only in a Mexican(Latin American?) family, yet the way she and her family behave towards her is eerily similar to that of most families I know, even perfectly functional ones.

    I think a good way to explain how the cultural differences affect the way one views this work is the lack of tension you mentioned and how it contrasts with how I felt, for example, towards the story of Meme and Mauricio Babilonia, from the moment Meme starts to show some individuality and interest for learning you know the power of FAMILY is going to crush her sooner or later, and you dread the moment it will come.

    An even worse moment comes after the banana factory ordeal, government coming out and killing hundreds in cold blood out in the open is something that hits too close to home:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tlatelolco_massacre

    The way it ties into other political messages by having one of survivors hide in the same house the Coronel Aureliano Buendia lives, who represents and older and just as bloody moment in history and the failure to rise against a very specific brand of government corruption not found in other parts of the world(as far as I know), is nothing short of brilliant, beautiful and incredibly depressing at the same time.

    I’m really only touching the surface here, all the characters have something relatable and meaningful to them, all the different generations have parallels to important events that somehow manage to hit all the right spots for the history of many countries and even more, it is still relevant today, from the perspective of both the day to day life of individuals and the political climate we’re in.

    Oh yeah and the prose, I sometimes had to stop and think: “Did I really just read that? Someone actually managed to write this and then write the whole of an amazing book on top of it?”.

    I’m not really sure where I wanted to go with this, I just felt like defending the book I guess. That and I skimmed through a few other reviews you have, I felt you have a sort of similar taste to mine so this stood out a lot.

    BTW, how do you find time to read, watch and play so much stuff and even have time to write about it? Teach me your ways.

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    1. Thanks for your comment; I suspected that it was the cultural barrier that resulted in me having such a hard time with this book, or perhaps it just doesn’t translate well into English. I do believe it’s a good book — I doubt they hand Nobel Prizes for nothing — and your comment has inspired me to try reading it for the fourth time sometime, but probably after I study up on your culture and history a bit so everything hopefully doesn’t feel as far removed from me as it does now. I do normally enjoy books about other cultures — the more exotic, the better — but this one maybe was just a little bit too hard to penetrate with my current knowledge, heh.

      I have for the most part sacrificed my life for fiction, and live on a very tight schedule to manage everything I do (my days usually consist of 6-7h sleep, 6h work, 10h reading/games, and 1-2h loss due to food and other minor things, like writing this comment or my blog posts, or god forbid actually being forced to communicate with people irl — it helps that I live 8k kilometers away from my closest family member :P). I also listen to a lot of easier books in audiobook format as I play video games in the background, so that saves me some time, too. 😛

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