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:
- political and cultural history of Colombia and Latin America
- chronicle of a town
- story of the inhabitants of a town
- history of a founding family
- individual struggle to shape one’s destiny
- a human enigma–how can we understand the meaning of our own lives while we are still living (creating) it? and
- 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:
- Foundation of Macondo (chapters 1-4)
- Macondo, society and the war years (chapters 5-9)
- Years of American intervention (chapters 10-15)
- 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