As someone who likes to indulge quite a bit in the literature of Latin America, perhaps it’s surprising I’ve never until now actually read García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude – long regarded as the key text of the continent’s output. In my defence, I have read pretty much everything else of García Márquez.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of those novels whose expectations have become so built-up in my mind that it is almost bound to disappoint; and to an extent it does. I expected it to be the exemplary magic realist novel: and perhaps it is; perhaps it does better balance the magic with the realism than its forebears and its descendents. It is far less extreme in its weirdness than Mário de Andrade’s Macunaíma and Miguel Ángel Asturias’s The Mulatta and Mister Fly; indeed, I found it throughout more or less normal – perhaps, at most, an exaggerated realism: if it rains a lot, then it rains for four years continuously etc.
I’d heard rumours it was a difficult novel; people say they’ve found it hard to get through. I didn’t find anything difficult in it at all. Long paragraphs and long sentences, describing stuff – very little dialogue: it’s exactly the kind of thing I enjoy. I suspect these people are too used to the inanely short paragraphs of our most up-to-date writers.
Perhaps what I have against the novel is its family saganess, its aimless amiable ambling along. Yes, it could all be seen as a history of South America, I suppose; it has all the hallmarks: government intervention into age-old communities; revolution against said intervention; torture and mass killings; American capitalist exploitation – it’s all there, mixed in with the characters surrounded by butterflies (see Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses for a
rip-off of post-modern homage to this) and the endless incestuous relationships. I dont know, maybe it will come to grow on me in retrospect. (I’d like actually to re-read Love in the Time of Cholera, and compare them). But it seemed somehow to lack substance, just to be – in the end – a list of curious events.
[I know, I’ve only read 2 out of 5 so far in my Latin-American challenge. For various reasons, I’ll catch up next month (by which I mean merely read May and June’s books) and then be back on schedule. Other Latin American books may be read in the month of July, as part of the Spanish-Lit Month – I have laid aside thirteen possibilities].