In a New York Times book review, William Kennedy once wrote that “One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.” After reading Gregory Rabassa’s English translation of this classic Spanish novel by Gabriel García Márquez, I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with Kennedy. My Spanish professor has been recommending this book to us for several semesters, and now I finally understand the source of his enthusiasm. Not only is this novel an incredible work of literature, but it is also a captivating, entertaining story that encompasses so many different aspects of the human experience.
One of the countless strengths of One Thousand Years of Solitude is how seamlessly the stories and experiences of numerous characters are woven together in one effortless account. The chapters feel more like checkpoints added for the benefit of the reader rather than necessary components of the story itself, emphasizing the remarkable fluidity of this novel. Each scene flows into the next as though they were always meant to lead directly into one another, as though the story could not have been told any other way. Moreover, the writing itself is beautiful and enchanting, like Márquez wanted to lull the reader into a state of tranquility with this strange, captivating fairy tale of sorts. There’s nothing quite like his writing style– you really have to experience it for yourself!
“She became human in her solitude.” (p.363)
The largest complaint I’ve heard about this book is that it can be confusing and difficult to fully understand. There is an ever-growing cast of characters, many of which share one of two names: either José Arcadio or Aureliano. Though I did have to reorient myself at times while reading, the confusion problem wasn’t a significant issue for me. I found that it didn’t really matter if I knew exactly what was happening at all times because in the end everything was cyclical anyways. In some ways, I think that is part of the essence of the novel: intense drama occurs and crazy things happen and people are born and then die, but amidst the chaos life will always go on. I didn’t worry about keeping all of the names and events perfectly straight in my mind because understanding the overarching ideas was more important. In that regard, I love the way this story literally spans over a century of time. Most stories take place within a mere number of days, months, or a handful of years, but this novel is unique in its wide breadth of time.
To be completely honest, I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I do. Everything about it is brilliant: the writing, the characters, the town of Macondo, and the simple feeling of the story overall. This book is strangely relaxing to read. It’s difficult to express, but I felt a wave of calm wash over me whenever I returned to the story again. I love the surprising elements of magic and the little nuggets of history hidden here and there that I wasn’t expecting to uncover. I even love the fact that this is a translation of the original Spanish version, because it makes me wonder how my perception of the story has been influenced by reading it in English. While I’m glad that I read it in English my first time around, I am looking forward to reading the original Spanish version at some point in the future!
There is so much more that I could discuss, but I fear that doing so would result in a mile-long post. I know that no review I will ever write can possibly do this masterpiece of literature just, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that it is truly an incredible novel. I am so grateful that my Spanish professor highly recommended this book to use in class because otherwise it might have been years before I would have gotten around to reading it. Enchanting, mesmerizing, and beautifully bizarre, One Hundred Years of Solitude surely is a must-read for everyone.
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5
Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely!
What are your thoughts on this novel? Are there any other works by Gabriel García Márquez that you would recommend? What has your experience been with reading books in translation? Let me know in the comments section below!