One Hundred Years of Solitude is widely regarded as one of the most important books of the modern era, written by Nobel laureate and literary master Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The author of One Hundred Years of Solitude traces the rise and fall, birth and death, of the mythical town of Macondo through the lives of the Buendiá family. This novel is a work of literary genius; it is unique, funny, magnetic, sad, and full of unforgettable characters; it is full of truth, compassion, and lyrical magic that touches the soul.
You may be wondering if you should read the book. This book review will tell you everything about this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.
At the end of this book review, I’ll also tell you the best way to get rich by reading and writing.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
One Hundred Years of Solitude Book Summary
Prologue: Though they were cousins, Ursula and Jose Arcadio Buendia courted and finally dared to marry. But Ursula, believing the whispers that such a union would result in the birth of offspring with pigs’ tails, would not let Jose Arcadio consummate the marriage. Frustrated, and angered by the teasing he received concerning his wife’s intransigence, he one day killed a townsman, Prudencio Aguilar, at a cockfight. Jose then returned to Ursula with the pronouncement that they would now commence normal marital relations. After a while, however, haunted by the ghost of Prudencio, he decided that they would have to leave the area. Together with other settlers, Jose and Ursula “crossed the mountains in search of an outlet to the sea.”
After 26 months they gave up the expedition and instead founded the out-of-the-way hamlet of Macondo on the banks of a shallow tropical river embedded with “smooth, white, prehistoric stones.” History was, once again, about to be born.
Every spring a band of gypsies visited the quiet village of Macondo, and Melquiades, their chief, became a valued friend to Jose Arcadio, the town leader. The gypsies always brought with them an assortment of telescopes and other “scientific toys,” along with their flying carpets and magic spells, with which to entice and entertain the community – whose solitude was not only physical but cultural as well.
Ice, a camera, and a pianola were followed many years later by automobiles and factories. But Jose Arcadio was even more captivated by Melquiades’ beguiling Sanskrit writings. Nearly a century afterward, his great-grandson would also be lured by the gypsy writings and would finally devote his whole life to their deciphering.
One year, the gypsy band returned to Macondo minus their clan leader – Melquiades had died.
In honor of his departed friend, Jose Arcadio built a laboratory next to his house.
When the first Buendia son, Jose Arcadio II, was born without the curse of a pig’s tail, Ursula was relieved. He grew to be an immense and strong young man, and his mother went on to bear a second son, Aureliano.
Much later, Jose Arcadio Buendia, now a weathered old man tormented by memories and ghosts, went insane, barking in a strange tongue and “giving off a green froth at the mouth.” Aided by twenty men, Ursula had him dragged to a chestnut tree and securely bound. There he remained, month after month, fettered to the tree, until he joined Melquiades and Prudencio Aguilar in death.
(A few more exerpts are recapitulated here from the elaborately seductive chronicles of Macondo’s appointed ten decades. Each highlights one of the main characters; and together with many other intertwining stories, they all blend in a slow arabesque that finally circles back to the book’s beginning, as Macondo spirals towards its inevitable self-destruction.)
Pilar Ternera, a fortuneteller, “fat, talkative, with airs of a matron in disgrace,” became fond of the oversized Jose II, whom she lured into the granary night after night.
They were exuberant lovers … and they even came to suspect that love could be deeper and more vibrant than the wild but momentary passions displayed during their secret nights.
Then Pilar announced that Jose II was going to be a father. She bore him a healthy son; but soon torn by the calls of the outside world, Jose II left his mistress. Pilar later gave birth to still another son, fathered by Aureliano, Jose II’s brother.
After Melquiades, the gypsy, returned from death to rescue Macondo from a plague of amnesia (the townspeople had desperately compensated for their memory loss by making labels for every article in the village), he once again died – only to re-emerge as a ghost. He continued to use both magic and science as he helped guide Macondo out of its innocence toward “progress” – and at the same time to wrap it deeper in the isolation of parochial myth and sorcery.
Aureliano, the second Buendia son, seeing that civil war was imminent, proclaimed himself a colonel and formed a small militia. In the years that followed, he “organized thirty-two uprisings and he lost them all.” Despite his ineptness, he somehow survived countless attempts at assassination and execution to achieve honor and fame as a great, heroic liberator.
When Colonel Buendia’s nephew, Aureliano Jose, was gunned down at a theatrical performance by a Captain Aquiles Ricardo, the vengeance of the colonel was swift and terrible. “Long live the Liberal party! Long live Colonel Aureliano Buendia!” shouted his loyal followers. Later that same night they filed past and mutilated the captain’s freshly slain corpse. “A patrol had to use a wheelbarrow to carry the body, which was heavy with lead and fell apart like a water-soaked loaf of bread.”
At last the legendary but aging Colonel Aureliano Buendia was forced to give up any further exploits, spending his remaining days in a stupor, fashioning little wooden fishes in his workshop. Along the way, he had fathered seventeen bastard sons – all bearing the name “Aureliano” – by seventeen different women. Each birth was duly recorded in a family ledger by his grandmother, Ursula.
“Meme” (Renata Remedios) spurned the warnings of her withered great- grandmother to break off her affair with Mauricio Babilonia, a local mechanic who was constantly surrounded by clouds of yellow butterflies. Fernanda, the girl’s prudish mother, however, did more than issue warnings; she sensed the source of the insects she found hovering each morning throughout her home. Reporting that “hens were being stolen,” Fernanda convinced the mayor to station an armed guard in the backyard.
That night the guard brought down Mauricio Babilonia as he was lifting up the tiles to get into the bathroom where Meme was waiting for him, naked and trembling with love among the scorpions and butterflies. … A bullet lodged in his spinal column reduced him to his bed for the rest of his life. He died of old age in solitude, without a moan, without a protest … tormented by memories and by the yellow butterflies … and ostracized as a chicken thief.
Meme was shuttled off to a convent and no one in Macondo heard from her again; but her son, Aureliano, was later sent to Macondo to be raised in the Buendia household. Fernanda, ashamed of the truth, always insisted that she had found the child “floating in a basket.”
Jose Arcadio Segundo became involved in a strike against Macondo’s Yankee- owned banana processing factory. An army, called in to break up the strike, fired on the crowd. When Jose Arcadio came to in the darkness, he realized that he was aboard a silent train in the midst of the riddled corpses of three thousand men, women and children. Managing to push himself off the train, he limped back to his village. No one would believe him when he tried to convince the people that the brutal massacre had indeed happened. “Always remember,” he pronounced to his kin, “they were more than three thousand and that they were thrown into the sea.”
Now it seemed as though a curse was brought upon the town. For five years straight, it rained, leaving Macondo in ruins. During the rains, Ursula, the founding mother, by now a centenarian, finally died.
After this, Jose Arcadio II shut himself up in the room in which Melquiades had once lived, in an effort to decipher the strange parchments the gypsy had left behind – the pages that contained the Buendia history and forewarnings of their ultimate end.
Epilogue: Though the Buendias were a robust, dynamic family, their fate had been spelled out from the day of the incestuous marriage a century earlier. Now Meme’s Aureliano – ignoring his great-great grandmother’s century-old superstition, in true, Buendia fashion – took his own Aunt Amaranta Ursula as his mistress. Alas, the prophecy proved to be more than simple folklore when Amaranta Ursula gave birth to little Aureliano, a boy perfect in every way – except for the tiny curl of a tail that protruded from the base of his spine.
That night “Melquiades’ final keys were revealed” to the infant’s father, “and he saw the epigraph of the parchments perfectly placed in the order of man’s time and space.” It said, “The first of the line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by the ants.”
The accursed infant Aureliano was indeed at that moment being assaulted and carried off by a colony of ants, thus ending the Buendia’s reign in Macondo. One hundred years of refusing to acknowledge the world outside of their village had destroyed them; and “races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.”
One Hundred Years of Solitude Book Review
One Hundred Years of Solitude is like stepping into a trance, where past, present and future seem to merge. A dream-like cadence of words combines with a wonderfully readable script to explore all the poles of life – births and deaths, marriages and executions, selflessness and suicide, solidarity and solitude, passion and pathos, love and bitter loneliness.
During a century of life in the village of Macondo, angels appear, a beautiful virgin ascends to heaven majestically veiled in bed linen, gypsy ghosts stalk the Buendia’s library, and a family corpse arrives in the mail, even while family liberals battle conservatives in civil wars and North American capitalists carve out a banana empire in the jungle.
Flying carpets dodge under telegraph wires, the new-fangled icebox amazes Macondo’s isolated citizenry, and countless legitimate and illegitimate Buendia offspring are christened after their aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents, intensifying the circular, surreal structure of the novel.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is not a book to be read casually – nor is it meant to be “studied.” It is, more than anything, a pilgrimage into the mythic panorama of South American history, and into all the universal dimensions of human experience.
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