One Hundred Years of Solitude
A book review.
by Gabriel García Márquez
It took me four months to wade through this four hundred page book. I was put onto it by the narrator of "Narcos", a Netflix series about the drug trade set in Colombia. I liked the sound of "magical realism" and I certainly wanted to get a sense about Colombian culture as suggested.
There was certainly much of the latter but the biggest thing I got from it was the author's dissatisfaction with that culture, as the story was endlessly outward-looking and reverent of Europe. I suppose I can relate, as a Canadian, but first and foremost this is a High Brow novel. And by High Brow, I mean there were endless cases of allusions to things for which I lack the context. And lots of people of different social classes getting their comeuppance. Especially women. And incest, did I mention the incest. You can always tell its High Brow when there's incest. The back cover of my copy says that this novel should be required reading for the human race, and the front cover says it won a Nobel Prize; I suspect the red ants in the story were an allusion to something but I don't know what. If the previous sentence seems to mix subjects and tone and puts you off, don't read this book because every third sentence does this. The subject changes so frequently in a paragraph that I believe it had to be deliberate.
At the beginning of the book is a family tree. I found myself needing to keep that open while reading, to keep straight all of the Aurelianos*. The point of naming all the male characters with only two names escaped me.
Thinking about some of the female characters and their stories I begin to regret the investment I made in this. The fate of Meme - why hustled off to a convent, it was like something out of the middle ages. And why did Santa Sofia de la Piedad put up with all that shit? Was she meant to represent something or someone, like a whole class of people? The author raises these questions but dispenses with her nonetheless. One character makes it to perhaps 160+ years of age and spends her final decades as a madame in a brothel.
The story is written in a way where things move along in a non-linear fashion. Fine, this can be quite impactful. But important developments and revelations happen in a throwaway fashion, while enormous detail is given on things that tread on previous details. In fact, it wanders into unreliable narrator territory on quite a few occasions and the entire final portion seems to be arguably nothing but that trope. What do I care if the girlfriend of the absentee friend of the final Aurelianos actually existed? It really left me wondering if either I'm just too stupid for this sort of thing or if the work got away from the author. I'm prepared to believe both.
The characters in the story are so routinely held up as compromised, stupid, and wasteful of their opportunities that I can't think of one I'd have wanted to be or know. It was like trying to get through something by Woody Allen. I know, I apologize for bringing him up. But I'm out of insights and out of patience. I feel like I dodged a bullet in high school not having had to read this then.
*Speaking of, the 17th Aureliano I felt was particularly wasted in this story. He stuck in my imagination and what became of him I thought was a real let-down.