Gabriel Garcia Marquez Traces the Life of Macondo
The grand motif of human life is something we’ve been chasing after ever since we’ve had a bit of time to think about our existence, and we’ve tried countless things to find it, as well as generate it.
We long for the ability to see the entirety of human existence for what it truly is (whatever it might be), but ultimately, chances are good the world and our history are simply repeating themselves, as they are in One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
This is indeed one of the most highly-praised novels of the 20th century, and though most classify it as a family saga book, I truly think this is one of those works defying classification entirely. Before you step further, keep in mind this book will likely take a bit of re-adjusting on the reader’s part, otherwise it might end up feeling confusing and pointless, though I assure you it’s definitely not the latter.
In any case, what exactly is the story about? To explain it as briefly as possible, it traces the rise and fall of a fictional town named Macondo, mainly by following the members of the Buendia family across multiple generations, as they experience love, hate, war, peace, death, birth, damnation, redemption, and perhaps even a little bit of magic.
It sounds simple enough, but the Buendia family are anything but plain and quiet, and it seems larger-than-life adventures always befall its members. Each attempting to trace their own path through existence, they all learn a little something about the nature of life, as well as the nature of the people they’ve been surrounded by their entire lives.
A World of All Colours in One Hundred Years of Solitude
So where exactly can we start talking about this novel with themes which seem to cover virtually every aspect of life? I suppose a good a place as any would be the unbelievably diverse cast of characters, primary, secondary and tertiary.
While the presence of so many different people doesn’t give us the opportunity to have extreme amounts of detail about them all, Marquez shows himself an absolute master in character-building and describes them very concisely through key words, actions and thoughts.
In other words, he knows how to make little bits and pieces of information about a person significant and indicative of who they are on a greater scale.
Chances are you’re going to despise some of them, love others, and perhaps be intrigued by some of the less consequential yet more mysterious ones, but you’ll never be left feeling totally indifferent to anyone.
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” by G. G. Marquez First English Edition.
One Hundred Years of Solitude initially was published in Spanish (Buenos Aires, 1967). Its author, a fortyish Colombian by the name of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was at the time an experienced journalist and a little-known if respected fiction writer, living with his wife and two young sons in Mexico City.
John Leonard’s review for the March 3, 1970, edition of the Harper & Row, 1970
As far as the various events which befall the town of Macondo and its inhabitants are concerned, there is a tremendous variety I would be hard-pressed to completely cover here. From visiting gypsies with their “strange” inventions and the marvel of ice, to wars and loves of all kinds, the people of Macondo have quite literally seen it all… time and time again.
Though I wasn’t really expecting it when I first dove into the book, there are some very heavy themes and passages exploring the darker side of a human beings, the violent struggles they go through and the forbidden desires they wrestle with.
As filed with love, tenderness and wonder as it is with hatred, cruelty and destruction, the history of Macondo is one showing humanity in all of its colours.
The Cyclical Design
A tad surprisingly to me, it seems more and more people over the years are having trouble getting through One Hundred Years of Solitude, largely because they seem to find it rather confusing, with there being too many people sharing the same names and the lack of a single defined protagonist. When I mentioned earlier it would take some re-adjusting on the reader’s part to really get into it, this is what I meant.
I will admit it was a tad jarring at first getting used to it, but I think it becomes quite apparent there is a very real purpose to this structure by Marquez. Time and time again, we are told about the world repeating itself over and over, and the fates suffered by the members of the Buendia family consistently drive this point home.
There is no set main character (excluding the town of Macondo itself), because the names people carry from one generation to the next are, in fact, the actual characters.
We see descendants bearing the same names as their forefathers walking down same roads and falling into the same pits, and ultimately, it doesn’t really matter who is wearing the name at any given moment; they’re all destined for the same mistakes.
I found the more I accepted the nature of the book’s structure and the philosophy it was trying to drive home, the less confusing the book became, to the point where I actually found it quite simple and easy to follow.
If I did have a piece of advice for any young readers discovering this novel, it would be to focus on the names and the cyclical fates they go through, rather than the actual people beneath them.
While I haven’t personally observed enough of history to be able to make any conclusive statement one way or the other, it sure seems to me like Marquez holds at least a piece of the truth in this novel.
The Final Verdict
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is rightfully considered one of the greatest classics in all of literature, even if it does take a bit of getting used to at the start.
If you are interested in profound novels whose aim is to explore the human condition and identify the larger motifs in life, then I strongly suggest you give this timeless book your undivided attention.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(March 6th, 1927 – April 17th, 2014)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a Colombian novelist, poet, journalist and screenwriter.
Many consider him to be one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, having given birth to remarkable classics such as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.
He also holds the distinction of having received the Nobel Prize in Literature on December 8th, 1982 for the entirety of his works.