One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the epic tale of the Buendia family. The patriarch, Jose Arcadio treks across Columbia to create the Utopia he has dreamed of, the town of Macondo. The story follows seven generations of the Buendia family and the extraordinary events that involve them and their town.
Although there is a clear historical time frame for this novel, its magical realism style means that it could quite easily be set any time. The idea of Macondo is to create an ideal, a town which allows it’s settlers to invent a world according to their own ideals. However, over the following generations, people leave and then return to the town, bringing the outside world, railways and wars with them. This is a story of people trying to escape their own history, but throughout the story there is an impending sense of doom. Somehow, the reader knows that the residents of Macondo will never quite manage the peaceful existence they have dreamed of.
The first three generations of the Buendia family are clear, individual characters. However, by the time the third and forth generations are introduced, the numbers have increased significantly so it’s difficult to remember who is who, even more so by the seventh generation. The copy I read had a family tree printed in the front which was invaluable, especially as the Buendia family follows traditions of naming their children after their ancestors. As a result, there are, I think 5 characters named Jose Arcadio Buendia and 22 characters named Aureliano Buendia. Admittedly most of these are minor characters, but it can still get very confusing without a family tree.
This is one of the best known novels from Latin America, and deservedly so. It’s incredibly ambitious yet works really well. There is humour in here and romance and a whole sweeping history of Macondo. The reader really gets a sense of how mighty oaks from little acorns grow. The original Jose Arcadio Buendia had such a heroic ideal for Macondo, but his naivety and idealism were soon squashed by the arrival of the outside world.
“In that Macondo forgotten even by the birds, where the dust and the heat had become so strong that it was difficult to breathe, secluded by solitude and love and by the solitude of love in a house where it was almost impossible to sleep because of the noise of the red ants, Aureliano, and Amaranta Úrsula were the only happy beings, and the most happy on the face of the earth.”
If you like magical realism you might like The War of Don Emmanuels Nether Parts
If you like this author you might like Love In The Time Of Cholera