One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

one hundred years of solitudeOnce in a while you would find a book that defies all your preconceived notions of how a novel should be. I think One Hundred Years of Solitude falls in this category. While a novel normally has a beginning, middle, and an ending, with some kind of climax no matter how little the peak is in the middle, Solitude does not have such trivial things! Telling a long tale about seven generations of a family in fantasy village of Macondo (based on Colombia where Garcia Marquez is from), the book is purely about the life of the characters, the long and the short of it. There’s no main storyline with which everything is tied together. The genealogy tree ties everything together.

Reading this book is like entering a long dream. Though it didn’t cause me bursts of emotions, I was completely entranced from beginning to end. The language is absolutely glorious that I could probably randomly pick one passage from the 400+ pages and it would be great, greater than most books.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is probably my first venture into magical realism. I’m very familiar with fantasy and surrealism, but magical realism was new. The “problem” with it is, while in fantasy and surrealism you’re completely prepared for something “illogical” to happen since the physical setting is non-realistic since the beginning, magical realism is set in realistic world which is only peppered by the “magic” once in a while. The magical aspects are never explained, people don’t seem to think they’re magical, and it doesn’t bother them that they’re often inconsistent. The inconsistent part was actually what bothered me at first. For example some carpets can fly and one character ascends to heaven all of a sudden, but nobody questions why it’s not happening for the rest of the carpets and people. With magical realism you need to let your feet off the ground once in a while and be not bothered about it.

In this book there are about two dozens of main characters, with even greater number of minor characters, many with similar names. Apparently it’s a culture in South America to take your father’s first name. My Argentinian friend has the same first name as his father and his grandfather. Prior to reading Wuthering Heights many people have mentioned that they had troubles with a number of characters with similar names (I did not have such problem). If only they read One Hundred Years of Solitude. It brings the challenge to a completely new level! The genealogy tree on the first page, which I had to refer to quite often, is your survival tool, what with the additional complexities of adopted children, children out of marriage, and grandchildren adopted as own children.

With such a huge number of characters, you’d think that they would all start to mesh together, but they don’t. Here’s where the skill of Garcia Marquez as a storyteller shines. The story of each character is unique, so I never got bored. It was one amazing tale after another. Characters and events are exaggerated, at times to the point of comical, that adds to the magical touch to the book.

Though I completely loved the book, I don’t think this is a book for everybody (Confirmed when it came to my knowledge that the three people sitting next to me at work have all tried to read it but never finished. One is Argentinian–who reads all GGM’s in Spanish apart from One Hundred Years.) But fortunately for me, it’s exactly my kind of book! If there is ever a book that I think would show what kind of person you are, this book is probably it. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a book for a dreamer, who loves continuous magical tales, without needing to get the point or rushing to get to the end (Because, uum.. there’s nothing at the end. It’s the journey that matters.) Are you a dreamer? Then this book might be for you!

5 stars
1967, 422 pp

I picked One Hundred Years of Solitude for my Best Books Project from Claire’s list of Best Books Ever. Are you in the love camp or hate camp? You know where I am now. Count me in for the GGM fan club!

First line
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.


“A few months after his return, a process of aging had taken place in him that was so rapid and critical that soon he was treated as one of those useless great-grandfathers who wander about the bedrooms like shades, dragging their feet, remembering better times aloud, and whom no one bothers about or remembers really until the morning they find them dead in their bed.” ~ p72

“In the dream he remembered that he had dreamed the same thing the night before and on many nights over the past years and he knew that the image would be erased from his memory when he awakened because that recurrent dream had the quality of not being remembered except within the dream itself.” ~ p271

“It was a useless torture because even at that time he already had a terror of everything around him and he was prepared to be frightened at anything he met in life: women on the street, who would ruin his blood; the women in the house, who bore children with the tail of a pig; fighting cocks, who brought on the death of men and remorse for the rest of one’s life; firearms, which with a mere touch would bring down twenty years of war; uncertain ventures which led only to disillusionment and madness–everything in short, everything that God has created in His infinite goodness and that the devil had perverted.” ~ p375

1982 Nobel Prize (author for body of work)

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die | Nobel Laureates in Literature

Also reviewed by

Love! — Sasha & The Silverfish | Nonsuch Book
Did not like! — Arukiyomi (comment thread is quite funny!)
Many covers of the book: Signature Illustration Blog

I’m actually surprised to find so few reviews on the book (though I didn’t look especially hard). Perhaps many people have read it pre-blogging time?

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31 thoughts on “One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez”

  1. I really liked this book, but it has been years since I read it. The only thing that I ddn’t like was how many people had the same name. While I understand why, it does not make for great writing simply because I seem to recall getting people mixed up in my head a couple times.

    1. I read One Hundred Years of Solitude and it spawned my deep affection for Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his shorter novels and stories (I wasn’t a huge fan of Love in the Time of Cholera); of multi-generational family sagas, which I am now a sucker for; of magical realism. Oh, how I love magical realism, and count its books and its writers amongst my favourites (Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie and Nights and the Circus by Angela Carter are so often uttered in the same breath as One Hundred Years of Solitude by me).

      Delighted that you enjoyed this one, Mee! Yes, it is not for everyone but I love it when it is for someone.

      1. Claire, my first GGM was actually Memories of my Melancholy Whore, but it didn’t leave a big impression on me. Now I’m a total convert and will happily read more of his books! For multi-generational family saga, another of my favorite is Middlesex by Eugenides. I haven’t tried Rushdie, but he’s on my list. And I’d love to read more Carter too.

        Well said Claire: “ is not for everyone but I love it when it is for someone.” :) I’m delighted that you loved the book as much!

          1. Michelle, yes I think I saw your review a while back. It’s one that appears quite often in the library (as opposed to his other works apart from Solitude and Cholera) and it’s quite thin. I’m guessing we had the same reasons to pick it up.

  2. I read this in the pre-blogging days. Actually, well, it was my first post, haha. [My goodness, that was a year ago, to the day.] Anyhoo: I read this because I felt some little shame inside me that I’d just turned 20, and hadn’t yet read One Hundred Years of Solitude. And so I read it, stayed up all night reading it. I also had to make a more detailed family tree for my own reference, haha. I loved the similar names, don’t get me wrong. It was a lot of work, too. But, you know, GGM had his reasons, and though I can only pinpoint some of them, I bow down to his choices. :]

    1. Sasha, I read your post, but didn’t realize it was your first! Haha. Oh gosh good thing then I read Solitude before I turned 30! :P Now why didn’t I think to make a more detailed family tree? And include the minor characters for good measure. I got the cultural significance of the similar names after I heard so from my Argentinian friends. It makes a lot more sense after that. I mean he didn’t do it on purpose just to inflict us pain.

  3. I’ve only read GGM’s ‘A Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ long before I knew what a great writer he was and because I had seen the film (which I loved). A good friend of mine recommended ‘A Hundred Years of Solitude’ but I still haven’t managed to read it. She did say I should read it rather that ‘Love in a Time of Cholera’…

    1. sakura, my Argentinian friend recommended A Chronicle of a Death Foretold too. I peeked at the summary and it really appeals to me. Hope to read that some time. I didn’t know there’s a movie based on it. Double goodness! Love in the Time of Cholera will be my next GGM though.

  4. Everyone seems to love this more than “Love in the time of Cholera”. It sounded like I might have problem with “Magic Realism”… but then again what do I know? I probably can’t tell the difference between fantasy, surrealism and magic realism. I need a crash course from you!

    Great review. ;)

    1. JoV, I know a couple of people who love Cholera more than Solitude. I can’t say as I haven’t read Cholera to compare, but that will be my next GGM. Will be interesting to see how it compares! About magical realism, I can’t wait to try more now! You should try too. The difference between fantasy, surrealism, and magical realism seems to be arguable, so you don’t have to worry about technicalities! ;)

  5. I loved this book when I read it his passion and use of language is wonderful ,it is a wonderful book ,got his stories sat on tbr pile and rob of rob around books made me consider his autobiography at some point ,all the best stu

    1. Stu, well said about his passion. I got that as well when I read the book. I’d like to try his short stories some time, but will leave his autobiography for much later.

  6. I’m so glad you enjoyed this book so much! I loved how you said this novel changed your preconceptions of what a novel could be, because it did the exact same thing for me. It’s about as far as you can get from a linear narrative with a conventional structure and the magical realism in it is breathtaking. I feel like if I could only read this book for the rest of my life it probably wouldn’t reveal all of its secrets to me…

    1. Steph, glad to know how passionate you are about this book! I don’t say this for many books, but if there were just one book that I could take to read for the rest of my life… This could probably be it!

  7. I didn’t know 100 years was about magical realism! Now I’m interested. I’ve been told by several people that I should not start GGM with Love in the Time of Cholera, and thiat 100 years is a much better book to start with. Glad you’re so in love with the book. Do you think it would be for me too?

    1. Michelle, some people liked 100 Years more and some liked Cholera more and I’ve met both sides. I guess you just need to try them yourself to find out! I think I THINK you will like 100 Years. But it needs some time to get through so you have to be in the mood for epic tale :)

  8. I’ve not read this yet, but I bought it last year because I’d heard so much about it. I’m anxious to read it, and then come back to comment eloquently on your post. Thanks fror the impetus, and now I’m wondering into which camp I’ll fall.

  9. Di, remember you said something once about how we seem t have the same taste in books? I so agree. Felt exactly the same as you. I love this and Cholera equally, but for different reasons. One Hundred Years because it’s just so much richer but Cholera because it is suffused with emotion. I’d recommend GGM’s autobiography (apparently the first of three) Living to Tell the Tale. It reads like a novel!

    I’ll be reading Middlesex soon for you! :)

    1. Claire, our book taste definitely overlaps a lot. The stats don’t lie right? Lol. I look forward to reading Cholera, as the premise always intrigues me (love story about crazy love :D). I love the title of his autobiography! I’ll keep that in mind.

      I’m a bit nervous about you and Middlesex (just because I loved the book so much). Hopefully you’ll like it ;)

  10. i’m definitely in the LOVE camp, too! i read and reviewed the book back in 2007, which was before i had a dedicated book blog and the review is pretty sad (as reviews go).

    i had every intention of re-reading the book this year, but just haven’t been able to find the time. i’m really glad you liked it as much as you did! high five to dreamers!

    1. lisa, happy to know we share our love for Solitude! High five!

      I know what you mean by sad old reviews. I’m so embarrassed now about all the reviews I wrote a year or two after I started book blogging. Reviewing is an acquired skill for me (not that I’m doing it very well anyway, but at least it gets better over time :).

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