Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The first of the line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by the ants.


I have mixed feelings on One Hundred Years of Solitude in the sense that if I'd never have heard about this book before reading it, I would have completely loved it. And thats not to say I didn't love it, but after hearing tons of people tell me it's the best book written in the past 50 years and how it changed their lives and how it 'should be required reading for the entire human race' I felt a little underwhelmed. Its a good novel. Excellently written with an interesting story... But what's so earth-shattering about it? It just struck me as a good read with very little message behind it.

I'll start off with what I enjoyed about the book. I loved a lot of the characters: Ursula, Jose Arcadio, Aureliano (first iterations all) especially. I specifically remember one beautiful passage about Ursula losing her eyesight but learning to interact with the world in other ways. Marquez's writing style is very readable. In a lot of ways, the structure and writing of One Hundred Years... reminded me of McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Long run-on sentences where the most surreal and surprising events unfold in the most mundane language. Its one of those books where you'll be reading a description of an old faded mural, and then in one of the sentences mid-paragraph a main character gets eviscerated and you do a sort of double-take and have to go back and make sure what happened really just happened. I also liked the cyclical nature of the story. You follow 7 generations of Buendias over the course of a century and yet you find the same little vignettes playing themselves out over and over.

That sort of leads me to one of the main problems I have with the novel. Marquez insists on beating you over the head with explicit explication of his themes instead of just allowing the reader to recognize them organically. I dont need the narrator to tell me that the Buendia family is living life in a circle. I'll recognize that after the 4th Aureliano succumbs to the same fate as his great-grandfather. I guess I have the same problem with Spanish films like Pan's Labyrinth or The Orphanage where the director/writer feels the need to jam this absurd, out-of-place happy ending down our throat after 100 minutes of nearly perfect film-making. I mean, give the reader/viewer some credit. Most of us are intelligent enough, we can hash this stuff out on our own. Me and Chris always argue about that, but then Chris is a putz.

Highlights: Gorgeous imagery, deep characterization, nearly hypnotic writing.
Lowlights: If I had to read the line 'Years later, as (insert character name) faced the firing squad...' I was going to throw the book out the window.

PS - Writing this review from a cyber cafe in Paris. Be jealous. Also forgive any spelling mistakes as the french keyboard is all ass-backwards.


The Great Catsby said...

Trust me, I am jealous. Good review. I have had the same suspicion that I just won't love this book as much as everyone else does, so I have put it off. I love hypnotic writing though...

Christopher said...

The ending to the Orphanage is good not because it's a happy ending but because it's appropriate to the film. In short, YOU ARE THE PUTZ

Jim said...

The ending to The Orphanage was so god damn out-of-place and I can't believe anyone would have felt otherwise.

Christopher said...

Don't you ever get tired of being wrong? And being in Africa? Of being wrong and in Africa?

Nathan said...

It's cruel to put a tag of "books with naked chicks on the cover" when it only links to this review.

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Unknown said...

Lack of message? How about "One hundred years of solitude" for starter? I don't think you understand the book at all.

Both The Orphanage and Pan's Labyrinth have endings which bring things into full circle. They are great endings. The endings say a lot.

For example:
Pan's ending wants to show that the girl's fantasy is as real as anything.

The Orphanage's ending: it shows the true nature of the "ghosts". It's something about humanity, so people would see that "ghosts" are not some "evil" things going around doing random "evil" stuff.