Thursday, January 16, 2014

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

How do I describe One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez?
How about like this?

What I Saw in the Water or What the Water Gave Me, 1938
Or how about this?

Without Hope, 1954
Or this?

On the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States, 1932

These are Mexican artist Frida Khalo's paintings, and while they have nothing to do with One Hundred Years of Solitude, I found that I could not stop thinking about her paintings.  Why?  Because if One Hundred Years of Solitude was a painting, it would have the exact same qualities: full of symbolism, abstractions, and eccentricities.  

Frida Khalo had a difficult life.  If you know it, then you understand why she painted as she did.

Frida Khalo, 1907-1954

But I digress.  This is about One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Gabriel García Márquez, born in Colombia in 1928, is still living.  He was influenced by authors Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolfand having read those authors previously, I immediately sensed their inspiration.  Many of his personal life experiences are incorporated into One Hundred Years of Solitude; it could almost be his memoir. 

Since this novel is on The Well-Educated Mind list, I usually answer the logic and rhetoric questions provided, but I do not know what to do with this story.  There are people who LOVE it, and it has been called " one of the most influential literary works of our time."  But in my literary world, it did not have that effect on me.  

Five chapters in, it began to grab my attention; but it did not sustain my interest.  The story is a narrative, with very little dialogue.  It covers the founding, rise, and fall of a town and the origins, relationships, and death of a family.  There are biblical qualities woven throughout, plenty of adultery, incest, fornication, pedophilia, war, murder, and religious mysticism, and the author is not shy about being raw in his descriptions about natural human behaviors and human anatomy.  

The author's writing has been described as beautiful, and in some cases, I found that to be true.  Here is an example:
Her heart of compressed ash, which had resisted the most telling blows of daily reality without strain, fell apart with the first waves of nostalgia.  The need to feel sad was becoming a vice as the years eroded her.  She became human in her solitude.
Also, if you love symbolism and determining what certain objects and ideas mean throughout a story, then you will absolutely love One Hundred Years of Solitude.

As for me, I am glad to be done with it, but I am struggling with calling it a classic and even considering pulling it from my Classic Club list.  I did see that several members had already added it to the Classics Club review list, but, truly, I do not know what to do.  


Marian said...

Great review! I am hoping to read something by Márquez this year. Probably I won't enjoy his works as much as Kafka's, if at all, but so many people do consider his books to be classic that I'm curious to see what they find in it.

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I haven't read any of his work, so can't help. What year was it written? I decided to put a "must be 50 years old" requirement on my list, and that did help me narrow things down a bit.

Ruth said...

This novel was published in 1967. Some say it is set to "become" a classic, and some say it is already. I know I need to do more research on what makes a classic, draw my own conclusions, and see if One Hundred Years fits the criteria.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Marian. You never know . . . you may like Márquez; and One Hundred Years of Solitude is supposed to be his best. Kafka was like a really weird dream; but Márquez is like a surrealism.

Cleo said...

I've never read any of his work either, but I understand your struggle. I'm reading a more modern classic author now and, while he has an interesting concept, I'm not sure I would call it a classic. However I'm not finished it yet, so I should defer judgement until then!

Ruth said...

I have noticed that I have a different feeling about these more modern books. I guess I prefer those really dead authors as opposed to those recently dead or still living.

Tonia said...

I've been back-and-forth with myself on whether to read this one or not. Is it very graphic?

Ruth said...

You know those natural human functions you do not need to know about? The author is quite raw and real about sharing it all. Heavy topics, such as adultery, fornication, pedophilia, and incest, are either implied or laden throughout. And then there are descriptions of some private feelings or ideas that are rich enough to make one blush. Well, I did. But that's me!

Joseph said...

I suspect if we were more students of Colombian history...we might enjoy this one more. Still, I found it amusing...much more than Don Quixote, to which it is often compared.

Ruth said...

You may be right. It was amusing, definitely! But I think I still hold DQ in a special place of my heart.