Friday, August 28, 2009

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabrial Garcia Marquez

Before reading this book, I had only read Marquez's more recent novel Memories of My Melancholy Whores. I read it for a World Lit class. We were asked to read any novel by Marquez, and due to the pressures of other classwork, I chose the shortest, smallest book I could find--Memories of My Melancholy Whores fit that bill nicely. It was a quick read and I read it twice, the second time so that I could better write an essay about it for class. I found Marquez's writing magical and illuminating--simultaneously gritty and ethereal. One Hundred Years of Solitude, which must be at least 4 or 5 times the length of Memories is also a beautiful tale, apparently heavily influenced by his grandmother's storytelling. This novel seems much less obviously personal than Memories (in which the narrator/main character seems to be Marquez himself in many ways). Nonetheless, there is a sense of childlike wonder, as though Marquez has placed himself simultaneously in the position of storyteller (with his grandmother's straight face--even at the most absurd moments--and fantastic stories) and avid listener, eyes wide with excitement.

One of the things I found most interesting about this novel is the sense of time that is created as the story progresses. Ursula, a strong woman and the character who most clearly ties together the various generations (aside from her son Aureliano perhaps), represents a "wise" and grounded sort of figure--a woman who has seen everything and is ready to meet life head on. She repeatedly sees in her own children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren the repetition of time, old habits, and dark family secrets. Despite the passage of time (100 years or so sounds about right!), one gets the sense that time is standing still, with new characters inhabiting a simultaneously different and similar realm as their ancestors. Almost like a parallel universe, but with the lingering shadows of the past very much present rather than completely unseen.

Unfortunately I'm writing this quite a few weeks after I finished the novel. The start of school has interrupted my thought process on this book. There are many characters with similar names, which gets confusing (thank goodness for the family tree at the beginning of the book). In a way I think this is appropriate, however, especially in light of Ursula's viewpoint, from which history appears to repeat itself. A somewhat disheartening notion lined with optimism...the idea that no matter how far we feel from our roots, we are all connected in an inescapable way.

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