I had of course heard about ‘One Hundred years of Solitude’. Although I don’t now remember how. I must have been a pop culture reference or maybe one of my many friends from South America. Well, it does not matter how I got to know about it because when I picked it up from the library and got it home and it was left lying on the table for a long time, one of my friends who visited told me very emphatically that this was going to be the best book I will ever come across. After putting this book down, I almost agreed with my friend.
As we peer down the lives of the Buendía’s in the fictional village of Macondo and elsewhere throughout Colombia, a bunch of peculiarities stand out at us.
Firstly, Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a very unique manner of dealing with time. The very first sentence in this book, “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”, is in all the three simple tenses at the same time. We the reader are perceiving in the present tense the future reflections made by the Colonel reminiscing his childhood. The same play with time is seen in other different ways through out the book. Towards the end of the book, as we see some of the principal characters in the book die, Garcia Marquez talks about their last days like we would reflect on the passing of a loved one thereby giving us a glimpse into the future and bringing us back into the past. Sometime later Ursula Buendía has an epiphany that history is repeating itself and that time for their family is going round and round in circles.
Secondly the Buendías are crazy bunch. They have almost the same level of inbreeding and incest as the Targaryens from the Game of Thrones, most of them are named either Jose Arcadio, Aureliano or Remedios, people with the same names across generations usually tend to behave and even look the same and each of the Buendías have very colourful imaginations and even more vibrant lives.
Lastly, Garcia Marquez combines the real with the magical in a seamless manner and weaves a tapestry out of his words. To steal some words from his Nobel prize “..his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflect a continent’s life and conflicts.” Despite reading it in English and loving the narration, I strongly think that the original Spanish has a richer and more poetic flavour than its translation and I hope someday I will be able to read it in its original language.
Now, after all the praise I have heaped on the book and the author, I do have some inhibitions about the way some of the scenes unfold in this book. Towards the end of the story, Aureliano Segundo forces himself on his aunt and Garcia Marquez describes that she comes to enjoy it after her initial resistance and I find this not only utterly problematic but extremely unrealistic. I am also very sure this book will fail the Bechdel test. This is extremely shocking as this book is an intergenerational saga with a lot of female characters, although the only female character with any substance or will is Úrsula Iguarán.
I have heard that this books is being adapted by Netflix and I desperately hope the studio does not run out of money or some other catastrophe befalls the production and it gets shelved. Macondo has so many colorful characters filled in it like R.K. Narayanan’s Malgudi that I strongly believe that adopting it to screen will be a feast to behold.