One Hundred Years of Solitude

I saw that title and I knew I had to read it!

I was not disappointed. ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, by Gabriel García Márquez, is one of the Fringiest books I’ve ever read!

I highlighted about a hundred passages that could have come straight from THE FRINGE HIKERS, if only I was as clever a writer as Nobel-laureate Márquez. The book is categorized as ‘magical realism,’ which could also perhaps apply to THE FRINGE HIKERS. Both are not quite Tall Tales, but share many elements with the stories of Daniel Boone, Calamity Jane, and John Henry.

It’s about the Buendía family, showing several generations of life in their South American village. Every member of the family, including the founder who crossed the mountains in search of the sea, is exceptional in some way. None have flashy magic, but there are gypsy fortune tellers, impossible weather events (such as four years of constant rain), and supernatural alchemists. What I’d like to talk about most is the magic of fate in this book, since it ties in to my own manuscript.

The founder of the little town is definitely a Fringe Hiker. At one point, he tries to cross the swamp and finds himself lost for weeks. He returns and proclaims it impassable. When his wife heads out, however, she returns in four days bearing trade goods from the village on the other side of the swamp.

He believes in, and experiences, the perversity of the universe. The harder he tries, the more lost he becomes.

He considered it a trick of his whimsical fate to have searched for the sea without finding it, at the cost of countless sacrifices and suffering, and to have found it all of a sudden without looking for it, as if it lay across his path like an insurmountable object.

Much like a Fringe Hiker, his family proves very hard to kill. Not a single soul in the entire village dies in the first ~thirty years of the story. Even the children who grow up to be soldiers survive against impossible odds.

“Tell him,” the colonel said, smiling, “that a person doesn’t die when he should but when he can.”

From the moment of birth, they seem doomed to share their father’s curse. Each child is different, but their defining feature is solitude, incarnate in many different ways.

He was silent and withdrawn. He had wept in his mother’s womb and had been born with his eyes open. As they were cutting the umbilical cord, he moved his head from side to side, taking in the things in the room and examining the faces of the people with a fearless curiosity. Then, indifferent to those who came close to look at him, he kept his attention concentrated on the palm roof, which looked as if it were about to collapse under the tremendous pressure of the rain.

At least that’s what I see through the lens of someone who thinks about the Fringe all day.

The writing makes the everyday feel supernatural in a way that really inspires me.

He became lost in misty byways, in times reserved for oblivion, in labyrinths of disappointment.

…that paradise of disaster…

…consuming itself in the inner fire of bad news…

The book shows dozens of the ways in which people deal with loss and eternal hopelessness. How they bear it alone. To me, that’s an appealing side of the coin of disaster.

She asked God, without fear, if he really believed that people were made of iron in order to bear so many troubles and mortifications…

It reminded me a lot of BIG FISH: tall tales, interesting larger-than-life people, intense interpersonal trials. I’m a big fan of ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, and I think I shall have to read it again to find all the patterns and brilliant turns of phrase.

One final note: Unlike THE FRINGE HIKERS, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE isn’t appropriate for children. It actually gets quite uncomfortable and weird at times. There are entire chapters focused on violence, sex, and incest. But overall, it’s a fun book, the kind where you don’t even need a happy ending.

1 thought on “One Hundred Years of Solitude”

  1. More quotes and passages!

    “its own space, one of solitude and oblivion, protected from the vices of time”

    “and was lost on invisible paths in pursuit of Úrsula.”

    “his great walking feet”

    “trying to surprise Divine Providence in the midst of the cataclysm”

    “the cemetery, with a stone on which they wrote the only thing they knew about him: MELQUÍADES.”

    “He had been around the world sixty-five times, enlisted in a crew of sailors without a country.”

    “Colonel Aureliano Buendía was finishing the poem about the man who is lost in the rain”

    “We won’t call her Úrsula, because a person suffers too much with that name.”

    “We’ve lost him forever,” Úrsula exclaimed on reading it. “If he follows this path he’ll spend Christmas at the ends of the earth.”

    “The certainty that his day was assigned gave him a mysterious immunity, an immortality or a fixed period that made him invulnerable to the risks of war and in the end permitted him to win a defeat that was much more difficult, much more bloody and costly than victory.”

    “would have looked like a disaster to any man who had kept his memories alive.”

    “for he had reached the end of all hope, beyond glory and the nostalgia of glory.”

    “What’s happening,” she sighed, “is that the world is slowly coming to an end and those things don’t come here any more.”

    “Fernanda was a woman who was lost in the world.”

    “He crossed a yellow plain where the echo repeated one’s thoughts and where anxiety brought on premonitory mirages.”

    “a daily disaster.”

    “a town that had been transformed into a dangerous place overnight.”

    “In the fury of his torment he tried futilely to rouse the omens that had guided his youth along dangerous paths into the desolate wasteland of glory. He was lost.”

    “One night when she was carrying him in her belly she heard him weeping.”

    “The sky crumbled into a set of destructive storms and out of the north came hurricanes that scattered roofs about and knocked down walls and uprooted every last plant of the banana groves.”

    “the rain would not have bothered Fernanda, because, after all, her whole life had been spent as if it had been raining.”

    “marked forever and from the beginning of the world with the pox of solitude.”

    “and he bought an eternal ticket on a train that never stopped traveling.”

    “because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.”

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