A book review on this blog is more rare than a legendary pokémon in any corresponding game. You don’t need to catch it, though I’d like it if you did.
Upon the request of a friend, I documented a PDF source to this novel years ago, lying dormant until the chance I would give it life. Admittedly, I did not read this novel on in one dedicated trek; I started it many months ago—and after a couple chapters, left it to its dormant chamber once again. Not until last week, when I had my freak period, did I pick it back up and commit to it until the end.
To those who may flirt with the thought, there wasn’t anything about the first couple chapters that immediately put me off to One Hundred Years of Solitude. The loss of interest was a general one, such that I didn’t have the capacity to enjoy a novel without the right kind of mindset, one similar to that of any particular subject. I was actually fond of the wacky nature of the first two chapters, but the lengthy descriptions certainly took some getting used to. I suppose I should start there.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a very descriptive novel. The page count (according to Goodreads) is 417 pages for a standard hardcover copy. (My PDF source was 302, with minimal spacing and larger pages.) I would hazard a guess and say about twenty of those 400-something pages could consist of all the dialogue present in this book—if that. A novel for those who love a deep and detailed presentation of storytelling, consisting of physical descriptions, metaphors, character interactions, character’s inner thoughts, and otherwise. One could say it is a very introspective story, one that focuses on the remote and deeper recesses of the human psyche and the tumultuous world we inhabit.
This overwhelming amount of description is likely the only concrete hazard one should consider before giving this a go. If dialogue is your fancy, stay away. If realism and the safety of proof and evidence makes a great piece, stay away. Much of what’s within One Hundred Years seems an overanalyzed, repetitive, and trite mess of names, events, and actions. One must truly commit to absorbing the details of everyday life within the fictional town of Macondo; losing even a chunk of important information that might seem inconsequential at first may impact the strength of the final chapter. With this context, the story seems almost as much a challenge of resoluteness as a simple tale of a family tree.
With the “warning” there and done, I will now gush over how great this novel really is.
There’s a common criticism out there for aspiring critics going into the field of films or stories and what-not, one that focuses on the strength of a particular viewpoint or moral a story tries to tell. “What’s the point?” they would ask, giving the latest mindless horror film from Sony a 2/10. Indeed, I agree that the notion of some context for existence should embody part of what a story intends to portray through its words or picture, but there’s a slight alteration that can happen. Within the case of One Hundred Years, it’s not so much that it says a specific thing, but that it says something. Occasionally, stories will come along and leave the point of their being ambiguous, such that any viewer/reader can interpret for themselves the potential message being shown, brought up through evidence within the work. This novel does this splendidly, though also, perhaps, scandalously.
I will be frank here and admit that I have no idea what this novel is trying to say concretely. I have various theories, of course, with this jet-plane-mind I have swirling around at 3,000 miles per second. What’s difficult to argue is that the novel really even says anything, as the expansive style of its world and interactions and content are filtered through a blend of realism and fantasy—the latter used often to cover up unusual circumstances. But the point wasn’t so much that it does, in fact, say something, only that I think it does. Little indications placed throughout the novel feel as though there’s more to the story of the Buendías than on the surface. The fantasy elements, the cryptic vocabulary, and the focus on repetition is eloquently conceived to destroy the mind of the reader, asking all sorts of “What ifs” and trying to bridge the elements of reality back to fiction. Even if there isn’t one thing, One Hundred Years may very well be placing traps to start up the brain.
While the dialogue is spread incredibly thin, there is no shortage of characters within this novel. I’ll list a few now: José Arcadio Buendía, Úrsula, Amaranta, José Arcadio, Aureliano Buendía turned Colonel Aureliano Buendía, Rebeca, José Arcadio Segundo, Aureliano Segundo, “Little Aureliano,” Amaranta Ùrsula, Aureliano Triste; do you see something here? When I stated above that this novel was a challenge, the basis comes down to simply keeping track of who is whom and where they fit within the story of a gargantuan family tree. It doesn’t help that many are named after various ancestors, including naming seventeen children with the same name as their father. The names provided only make up a portion of the characters one will meet reading this story—those listed probably make up a quarter (if that) of the characters that will eventually be important for varying spurts of time throughout the novel’s length. Arduous as it may sound, there’s a great flow to the story that makes it slightly more beneficial.
While I’ve warned of it many times throughout this post, the ample description of events and characters provides great detail and emotional impact later on as the characters bear the weight of their lives in their old age. It was during the latter portions of this novel’s course that I began to appreciate the majesty of the writing on display, which bears the same emotional boost as would any novel with the adequate conditioning of empathetic circumstances. The focus on nostalgia, while brought up minimally by itself, is such a heavy factor on the actions of characters and the focus of their later years that I can’t help but be charmed by the events that had taken place prior, to feel with them the circumstances of their regrets and the impact of those when life wasn’t as stagnant. Even with so little dialogue, I feel I know these characters without having any of them chant a syllable.
On various circumstances, One Hundred Years appears humorous in the presentation of its writing style. I documented—and will likely remember for the rest of my life—the three(-ish)-page rant of a certain character that consisted of a single run-on sentence, detailing the burdens she had to put up with throughout her adult life due to her strict personal regime. A run-on sentence that took up three-ish pages. That’s amazing. The fantasy elements present also detail some of the quirkier moments in the novel, all of which come at random times and, typically, within crucial moments. These sequences all embody a certain prophetic sense that the novel incorporates throughout, something I saw akin as being inspired by the mystical qualities of the Bible, with all its mind-bending scenarios. Without offering any context, one can expect people ascending to Heaven, talking to dead spirits, and appearing invisible within a certain corner of a room.
A splendid read in a time where I could most appreciate it. One Hundred Years of Solitude is something of a challenge, particularly to those who aren’t completely invested in the written word. Its repetitive nature and overanalyzing description will likely turn many off to the seemingly inconsequential events that transpire in the town of Macondo. For those more open to methodical interpretation, there’s a lot on display here that makes for an insightful and fascinating read, one that I would happily recommend to those vast thinkers within the world. Bearing emotional as well as mental sharpness, it’s considered a classic for a reason.
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.