Snatching time over three days, putting in a humongous amount of labor most of which was spent at holding on the determination to go till the last of the 422 paged novel, i finished Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Its a timeless epic, a classic, nevertheless a highly over-rated novel, which at no point seems deserving of the greatness that it was so generously garnered with.
The book is a great mash-up of themes. Set in a fictional town of Mocondo, which is founded at the beginning of the story and destroyed by a mythical hurricane at its end, Mocondo is the only constant in the seven-generation spanner. There is magic in the novel, oh lots of it, beginning with the gypsies who’s bring magnets, magnifying lens, flying carpets and ice that is seen with equal awe and admiration. There is the rebellion by Liberals against Conservatist regime. There is revolt against Capitalists by Banana plantation workers. Loads of incest. And an irking tendency of the author to name and rename characters across generations with either Jose Arcaido or Aureliano. Guess the confusion wrought by people from five generations living along at the same time at one point in the novel, add to it the shadowy aura of the dead, wasnt enough amusement for the author.
There is this guy, Jose Arcaido Buendia, who with Ursula Buendia kicks of a tale of children, grand children, great grand children, … (count till 7 generations), who are either extremist-extroverts, who have been redundantly named as Arcaido, or this solitary hermetic creatures who contemplate time and life, withdrawn from either till adulthood, then kickstart a revolt, only to withdraw again in the vespers of their life.
But what makes the novel stand apart is the ease and adroitness with which Gabriel Marquez had brought to life his huge ensemble of characters. Their tendencies, idiosyncrasies, motives, and moods feel as real, as original, and as personal as it can be. And the various vices, wasted ventures, and voracious variegated appetites, be it digging in to decipher a manuscript, or making golden fishes, or searching for gold in the courtyard, or making a silken shroud, they are all so convincingly real that you would be terribly surprised had they not indulged themselves so.
The novel though is smeared in a tone of damp dreary darkness. It can as rightly be labelled a book of desolation and despair, if not despondency. While there may be peaks of ecstasy, prosperity, bounty, and beauty, the indelible insigna of dead and madness remain etched in every life, if not in every page. Its a justice done to the title One Hundred Years of Solitude with resounding roar. For i, for one, felt the passage of a hundred years lived alone, in tragedy, that by the end its not in some relieved splendor that i leave the book, but with a plunge down my own personal emotional landscape.
I wish i had not read the book. Not because its not good. And guess i will change my opinion about its over-valued-ness and greatness. It rightly deserves the Nobel the author received. But still i wish i hadn’t read such a strong and real novel, which though weaves magic so carelessly. Guess that’s the greatness of it. Though there is magic there, the human condition cannot be made more real.
I suggest – Dont read it. But you would miss so much by not doing so.