One Hundred Years of Solitude Intro to Read Along

Welcome to the first introductory post of the upcoming One Hundred Years of Solitude Read Along, hosted by Ruth and myself.

I’ll try to see if Ruth or I can also open a linky, in case you want to add your contribution to the read along. This is the schedule:

Begin March 6th * Marquez’s birthday

March 6 – March 12
Read pages 1 –  78 (Chapters 1-4)

March 13 – March 19
Read pages 79 – 140 (Chapters 5-7)

March 20 – March 26
Read pages 141 – 222 (Chapters 8-11)

March 27 – April 2
Read pages 223 – 291 (Chapter 12-14)

April 3 – April 9
Read pages 293 – 354 (Chapter 15-17)

April 10 – April 16
Read 355 – 417 (Chapters 18-20)

Final wrap up April 17th * Márquez’s death

Last year, Ruth approached me with this project, reading One Hundred Years of Solitude together and offering a read along to those interested, and it felt right.

This happened in the context of a discussion about long books about family sagas, such as Midnight’s Children by Rushdie. Both employ what’s described as Magic Realism, -I believe for a reason-, and both are difficult for some public. I noticed that those from the places and culture described in the book have a higher rate of success at getting the book and enjoying it at the many layers and levels they display.

Sometimes, listening to those who love and seem to ‘get’ some classics, we may gain in our appreciation for a book, and it can totally change our experience of reading it. However, if, for some reason, we feel a disconnect, there’s to me no use in reading these long books.

There’s so much I’d like to say about the book. Magic Realism. Cultures like India, or Marquez’s Colombia, are very steep in legends, folklore, and have a different way to live and understand life that comes from rich non western cultures that aren’t the children of the enlightenment. The myths and beliefs of this people don’t fit the constrains of what we understand by realism. The excess, the hyperbolic nature of things, the myths and fantasy, can’t be told in a reasonable way. Rushdie’s and Marquez’s magical world is more real than what we call ‘real’, and the responses of their characters to these expressions of fantastical events not bound by the laws of nature are different than ours. The characters seem to accept the magical as their normal.

Some of you have also noted how important it is to keep a genealogy. I found one here, along with interesting questions such as this:

The magical–Keep track of magical (supernatural, strange, unusual) occurrences. How do the characters react to the magical? What is your reaction to their reaction? Do you marvel more at the actual magical occurrence or at the reaction of the character to the magical occurrence?

The name recurrence and repetition are on purpose. Note this too, from the same site:

Characters–The Aurelianos are supposed to be a certain way, and the Arcadios another. What are the supposed characteristics of the Aurelianos and the Arcadios? What are the women like? How do the men and the women differ?

These authors are responsible for putting their countries and cultures on the map for us. While they are not after a historic account of what’s happened in their countries, they choose literature as an artistic medium, and a way to also give us a broader feel for history, philosophy, worldview, life. Rushdie comments how people from India and Pakistan ‘get’ his book, my Guatemalan friend told me how, upon her reread of this book, she saw her Latinamerican culture, their problems, dreams, and fears, beautifully rendered in it.

Are we all who will read the book going to get this much out of it? Of course not! The important thing to me it’s to focus on what we’ll get. As I’m reading The Iliad, hundreds -if not thousands- of things are going unnoticed, yet that which I get, delights me tremendously. What I just wish for with One Hundred Years of Solitude, it’s that some of the many riches in this book can cut through our layers of detachment that our different backgrounds and worldviews place us all at.

A word of caution about the symbolism. If we all make it and complete the reading, in the end, we may reflect and compare notes and thoughts, but I don’t want to look up at too many of those elements before hand. This from that valuable website may help, though.

II. General Overview (1)
This novel can be read as a:

  1. political and cultural history of Colombia and Latin America
  2. chronicle of a town
  3. story of the inhabitants of a town
  4. history of a founding family
  5. individual struggle to shape one’s destiny

It presents:

  1. a human enigma–how can we understand the meaning of our own lives while we are still living (creating) it? and
  2. García Márquez’s interpretation of the problem of Latin America–“that solitude is both the condition and the cause of failure of social action in Latin America”

III. Division of the linear plot (2)
The linear plot is the story of the town and the family. It consists of four main segments:

  1. Foundation of Macondo (chapters 1-4)
  2. Macondo, society and the war years (chapters 5-9)
  3. Years of American intervention (chapters 10-15)
  4. Metafictional (self-reflexive) section (chapters 16-20)

But as you are reading, joy must be at the forefront of your experience. Remember that the best works of literature are tragicomic. Don’t be so stiff in their presence that you adopt this serious and sacred mood that makes you miss the funny remarks. After all, Márquez said he wouldn’t have read his own book had he not written it. :), and that remark makes me laugh. “He doesn’t read bestsellers”. Neither do I, señor Gabriel, neither do I!

At the same time, –like the TED video that Ruth linked in her intro post says-, one summer, as he and his family were heading to Acapulco for a vacation, he couldn’t wait any longer, and asked his wife to support the family financially, while he absconded himself to write the family stories the way his grandma told them. Can you imagine? No wonder he had to find a new way of writing stories. In Europe, we have fables and fairy tales, but now, thanks to Márquez, we have the legends that were concocted by those caught up in the clash and/or blend of the indigenous cultures with those who came from the old continent.

As I already read the first pages of the book, Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children came to mind. In both books, the characters are walking through nature, jungle and forest respectively. In Rushdie’s book this happens towards the hallucinatory and psychotic end, when men are at war but become tangled in this ‘war’ against nature. In Marquez, Aureliano is crossing a hostile forest, in an attempt to go north, towards the civilized world, the one with the inventions. But nature is too powerful for men to subdue, does strange things to our psyches. If mind, thinking, and reason are at ease among the urban and ‘civilized’ settings, the magical, the sensory, and the poetic belong to these primeval environments.

We can read about Latin-american history, or the specific history of each country. And that’s something that needs to be done, no question. And we can also remember that there’s art, books and music, and how powerful and beautiful all this is to give us a feel for what’s being happening in these parts of the world. It’s all part of history and the human experience.

Do we really have to read this book?, like this book? Of course. Oh, no, not more than we have to read Les Miserables, War and Peace, Don Quijote, In Search of Lost Time, Moby Dick, Midnight’s Children… I always, always tell others that if they can’t cope with Marquez’s long books, not to miss any of his other short books. A long book such as this is a commitment, and if one doesn’t enjoy it at least a bit, it’s torture. Replacements can always be found, -I say it again, the shorter titles for Márquez and other authors of different literary traditions, are a wonderful alternative. But I’m going to be blunt, don’t expect most contemporary literature to fill this gap and longing we all have for the best. I’m usually pickier when it comes to these newer titles. Go for the tried and tested classics. They never disappoint. 🙂

If you post about the book in any media, you can add the #OneHundredYearsofSolitudeReadAlong tag. Thanks

33 thoughts on “One Hundred Years of Solitude Intro to Read Along

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  3. I am really excited about starting the book and reading along with you! Your post was great and is making me look forward to it all the more!

  4. How time flies, I can’t believe it’s almost time to start reading this! But I’m looking forward to it. I’m wondering what my response will be on my second read–I loved it the first time around, but I’ve read so many other books since (including other Garcia Marquez) and know I read differently in some ways, that I’m curious to find out what I’ll see this time around. Thanks for this great intro!

  5. I can’t resist reading along with you, Silvia. I picked up my copy and put the reading schedule in my calendar. Maybe I can finish some of the 17 other books I’m currently reading before this starts?!

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  8. Oh, I hate when that happens. Thanks for trying again.

    I have that book, The Underground. But I didn’t know it employed magic realism.
    I’m more and more convinced that it’s the “realistic” medium for the cultures and stories that are very superstitious. The Tin Drum was more surreal than magical. In it, the surreal acted as subversion of the rational order of things. It’s fascinating. If I were a grad student in literature, I may pick this for my paper. 🙂

  9. Oops! I wrote a long comment yesterday and I think it got eaten! I just want to to say I loved your thoughts on magic realism and its uses. It occurred to me the after reading this post that the way Colson Whitehead used this technique in The Underground Railroad which really also worked for me, I think, because of my familiarity with the history and culture.

  10. Hahaha. I don’t plan to. I just don’t want to lead anyone into something very laden with questionable content.

  11. Forget it! You’re not allowed to quit! ………………. Ha, ha, just kidding! I did see your post Karen and will try to respond tomorrow. Sleep well tonight … 😉

  12. Great post, Silvia. It’s always helpful to have a “game-plan” when approaching a novel such as this. I’m looking forward to it with a little trepidation. I hope I can keep up but The Iliad should be finished by that time and even though The Odyssey read-along begins April 1st, I already have many of the posts done so I just have to read. Yay!

  13. It’s a good decision, about The Iliad. The Odyssey I have read as well no long ago, but it’s far easier to enjoy. Actually, it’s a page turner.

    I’m sure Cleo is going to support your decision.

    That’s a good advice, the content note or notes regarding some things, just to warn others. Though I know most of us have our own ways of dealing with those situations, or not choosing to read some of those books.

  14. I struggle sometimes with the feeling that I really should finish reading a book. Not all books. Probably mainly classics because there are some classics I choose to read because I feel I need to have read them and have a familiarity with them. In those cases, I will usually finish the book even if I don’t like it. I read The Iliad this past year and didn’t like it then, but I finished it. I do want to read The Odyssey though (or should I say finish reading it since I did read some of it several years ago). I did end up putting The Iliad back on the shelf yesterday and decided to stop reading it. I must say, it felt good to put it back on the shelf. 🙂 I hope to hop over to Cleo’s blog today and let her know. I do still plan to continue reading her posts and if I have anything to add to the discussion, I will. 🙂

    Regarding One Hundred Years of Solitude, you could simply put a “Content Note” with your introduction letting others know there is some profanity. When I review books, I try to put a note with it to let people know if there’s language, especially strong language. I read books with language, so books containing profanity is usually not an issue for me.

  15. I love your comments and posts so they’re never long to me 🙂

    About your dilemma. I can’t tell you what to do, of course, hahaha, but I think that, if I had read it before not long ago, I would keep reading Cleo’s posts and quit the book.

    I read it in 2014 in English. A hurried read. Now I am reading it in Spanish, a bit here and a bit there, and it’s a pleasant experience, and it doesn’t feel heavy. I know. I sometimes finish books because I am already half way through them and I feel a self imposed obligation. But even with this read along of One Hundred Years of Solitude, I have told Ruth that, if for any reason it doesn’t work for any or either of us, we will quit.

    The magic realism is enjoyable. Our reservation has to do with some profanity and bodily details.

    Long ago I spotted a passage in The Unconsoled that made me not want to read it. This time, I saw it in the middle of a scene where it had its place. It came from a character and his relationship with another one, and it didn’t worry me, besides, it could be glossed over too.

  16. I’ve read a handful of books with magical realism and liked them all. So I’m excited that this book has this element!

    You said: “Sometimes, listening to those who love and seem to ‘get’ some classics, we may gain in our appreciation for a book, and it can totally change our experience of reading it.” You already know this, but I totally agree! Whether it’s a classic or some other genre, I believe that reading it with someone who loves the book or gets the book – or even just reading a book together when no one has read the book before – it can change our reading experience of it, maybe even change what we think about the book. This is what I was hoping for with participating in The Iliad read-along….the potential that I might like it better or at least that I would get more out of it.

    You said: “However, if, for some reason, we feel a disconnect, there’s to me no use in reading these long books.” And that, my friend, is the dilemma I’m struggling with right now with The Iliad. I’ve already read it once and didn’t like it. I also didn’t get much out of it my first reading. But we are now about halfway through and though I have continued to be determined to persevere, I just don’t like it. Period. And it has just become tedious to read. 😦 I am getting more out of the reading experience this time, but not because I’m re-reading The Iliad itself I think. I think that mainly comes from reading Cleo’s wonderful posts and reading the discussion you all are having in the comments.

    Anyway, I think I might just write about it on my blog. 🙂 This comment is becoming long! LOL

    I’m really looking forward to reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. Thank you for this wonderful introduction post with the information. I want to jot down some of these things to remember in a notebook so I have it to look at when I begin reading the book. 🙂

  17. I know, right? Translation is fascinating. At the same time, it will allow you to read it. One challenge I see it’s the presence of fruits and things native to Colombia or Latin America, but understand that, though in Spanish, I from Spain ain’t familiar with them, or not always.

  18. I don’t think I would be able to commit to reading this book in March, but I will be interested to read your posts anyway. I’ve always thought it sounded like a fascinating book.

  19. i wish my Spanish was good enough to read it in that language… i’m very interested in how translations change interpretations, if they do…

  20. 🙂 I totally understand each of you who want to join but may not. It’s the same for me with other titles.

  21. ooh, I would love to do this but I don’t know if I will manage that month. I will read the posts with interest anyway.

  22. I think the perspective on how to approach this book actually helps a lot. It will make a big difference for me. I think an experienced reader can use all of them; so I think I will start with an open mind and see what feels most natural as I read, and that will be the lens (or lenses) I use. We’ll see. BTW, are you going to read in Spanish?

  23. Thank you for sharing this! This is an invaluable intro. I feel like you’ve given me (any of us who take this on) a concrete place to start. I wonder if it is better to choose one or two lenses to read this through, or if it is possible to follow all of it at once (the five possible ways to read it). I will take a look at your link to read more. I’m going to print out the family genealogy list, when we start reading, because that will be helpful to reference. Thank you, again, Silvia. I have a feeling this is going to be a better experience this time around.

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