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“It had never occurred to him until then to think that literature was the best plaything that had ever been invented to make fun of people…”

The characters in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” are apparitions that are caricatures. A multi-generational, extended family saga that envelopes Macondo, a fictitious town in a rural swamp in Columbia where progress intercedes to its detriment. A parody of revolutionaries and the government; the Church, the pious, and the depraved; it upends time. Magical realism, an abused description of varied meaning, is not only expressed through the myriad of stories. It is also the slaughter of thousands of residents by a foreign banana company and its government supporters that no one in Macondo can remember. This dream-like existence is protest literature. A strong supporter of Castro, the author suffered censorship and exile as a journalist in Columbia.

The novel is imaginative. Its crafted stream of consciousness with generations of characters with similar names that return to an ephemeral reality, can be confusing and exhausting. Fiction is reality in Macondo. The future of the town is revealed through taro cards, gypsies, and a parchment in Sanskrit and other codes which one of the characters tries to decipher. Two revolutionaries from Mexico, exiled in Macondo, even attest to the heroism of Artemio Cruz, a character in one of Carlos Fuentes’ novels. Mr. Fuentes reveres the author, but I prefer Mr. Fuentes’ literature.

“At the beginning of the road into the swamp they put up a sign that said MACONDO and another larger one on the main street that said GOD EXISTS. In all the houses keys to memorizing objects and feelings had been written. But the system demanded so much vigilance and moral strength that many succumbed to the spell of an imaginary reality, one invented by themselves, which was less practical for them,  but more comforting.”

The prose in this novel is third person narrative and in my view undistinguished. Despite the author’s predilection for sexual relationships that are unorthodox, to me the work is matriarchal. Women are mature and the men are little boys.

Having struggled through Moby Dick and to a lesser extent with this novel I am increasing dubious about Classics that are considered to be the “greatest” American, Latin American, or other literature. Reading is personal and is best left at that. I might make an exception for Shakespeare.

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