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One Hundred Years of Solitude Takes One Hundred Hours to Read

It took me two months to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s tome One Hundred Years of Solitude. This painting was featured as the cover art of my edition of the novel.  I feel that it is a good visual representation of how the village of Macondo is written to look like.  Unreal.  Colorful.  Mystical.

(At the Fountain of Toledo)
En la fuente de Toledo (At the Fountain of Toledo)        A 1913 Diego Rivera Cubist Painting

I find myself to be a fairly intelligent person compared to the vast majority of “mass public” out there and I had major difficulties grasping the majority of what I know is hidden underneath the novel’s difficulty.  I feel that the reason for having problems with this novel is my ignorance of Latin American history and culture.  Unfortunately it is not an area I have studied or have been exposed to.  Below  is my list of the five most difficult aspects I found perplexing in this epic novel.  Perhaps they are starting points for future research questions or group discussions.  An English professor of mine always told us in class that a great work is difficult for a reason; it is up to us, the reader, to uncover the genius of the artist beneath.

1.  Sense of Time– The unrealistic aspects of time make it hard to chronologically follow the events that occur.  What does the unrealistic flow of time signify?  Why is it such an integral part to the novel?  What artistic purpose does it serve? Never, as far as I can remember, was a year actually mentioned.  I felt like it could have spanned from 1800 to 1950 or so.  Perhaps, time flowed from pre-colonization to modern time all within the span of the novel as well.

2. Names of Characters-As the novel progresses and we see more members of the Buendia family names are often repeated, though they are never exactly the same.   What does the repetition of the names in the family signify?  How does the cyclical nature of qualities of the characters play into the novel’s overarching story?

3. Incest- This feature struck me as very odd and I was not quite sure of how I should interpret it. What do the hints of incest and the consummation of it at the end of the novel say about the family? What does the tail of the pig really mean?

4. The Translation from Spanish to English- Another reason this novel is difficult is the difference in language and culture than that I am used to.  What is missed or lost when I try and create meaning in the novel based on purely my own background and experiences?

5. The Writing Style- Sometimes there were no paragraph breaks for pages and I literally found it hard to read more than 10 pages at a time.  I was often bored and even put the book down for 2-3 weeks at a time in my 2-month span.  The narrator tells the story in a plain, matter-of-fact way even though a lot of what happens is mythical feeling and unrealistic.  The difficulty of this novel prevented me from being swept up into the world it presented to me.

There are many more aspects of this novel to be unpacked and discussed.  I look forward to future potential conversations about this novel.  I was in awe of the talents of the author but felt I was missing out on a lot of what it has to offer.  Perhaps I will read this novel again in 30 years and have a totally different view, but then again, I may not.

Categories: Literature
  1. December 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I loved this book when I read it several years ago. It is considered a classic now.

  2. December 13, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Even though it took me forever to read I kept coming back to it over the weeks. It definitely is a classic now. I’m not sure if I loved it, but I did enjoy it and will probably always remember it and go back to it.

    • December 14, 2010 at 6:39 am

      It is definitely one of those books that once having read it, it stays with you and in small subtle ways changes your outlook on Latin America, its people, and its culture.

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