Well, I'm sad to report that it took everything I had for me to finish this book. Honestly, I haven't had such a hard time reaching the end of a book since David Bilsborough's The Wanderer's Tale. I kid you not. . .
As was the case with Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash a few weeks back, Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude had been siting on my shelf for well over a decade, awaiting my attention. Yet every time I decided that the time had come to finally read it, for some reason in the end I would hold back. One Hundred Years of Solitude has become such a classic and is considered a literary masterpiece, and hence is raised my expectations to what I felt was an impossible level to reach. To put it simply, Márquez's signature work had to be the very best novel I had ever read. Anything else would be a disappointment. . .
And what a major disappointment it was. The only reason I finished the book was because two people close to me loved it to such a degree that I felt it would be like letting them down if I didn't read it from one end to the other. One of them called Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind "vulgar fluff" compared to One Hundred Years of Solitude. Sorry, but I get to differ. . .
Here's the blurb:
One of the 20th century's enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement in a Nobel Prize–winning career.
The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the Buendía family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.
Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility -- the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth -- these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel García Márquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master.
Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.
As you undoubtedly know by now, I'm a plot kind of guy. Always have been and always will be. And since Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude is a meandering book following the random tribulations of generations of the Buendía family with no plot to speak of, it was impossible for me to get into it.
Yes, I understand that Macondo is a metaphor for Colombia, and the entire novel is sort of a metaphor for Latin America history. I get all that. But Marquez is all over the place, with storylines going everywhere and nowhere, which prevented me from getting into it. Also, the non-linear narrative spanning a number of generations precludes any sort of depth in terms of characterization.
Gabriel García Márquez's prose is awesome, though. The narrative is smart, witty, humorous, and you find yourself chuckling all the time by various turn of phrases he uses. At the beginning, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. And then I started reading Mitch Albom's Tuesdays With Morrie (Canada, USA, Europe), which is one of the most touching and rewarding books I have ever read. Problem is, for years I had been told that One Hundred Years of Solitude was so touching and rewarding. For all its wit and humor and the metaphoric aspect of the underlying Latin America history, the plot itself was so much fluff that Albom's heartwarming work totally killed Márquez's classic for me. Still, I plowed on, hoping to encounter what made countless people fall in love with One Hundred Years of Solitude. Unfortunately, the narrative remains the same as it focuses on various members of the Buendía family at different points in history.
At one point the whole thing became so pointless that it took me over two weeks to read the last 200 pages or so. The narrative was as fun to read as it had been in the beginning, but the total absence of plot meant that I was just going through the motions, hoping to reach the end without giving up.
I'm aware that my lofty expectations were so high that One Hundred Years of Solitude had no chance of satisfying me. Yet I never expected such a renowned work to be such an epic fail for me. For all of its metaphors, I found the book to be more or less meaningless and impossible to get into. Is Love in the Time of Cholera like this? If so, I'm throwing it into the box of book I donate to libraries immediately.
Incredible prose, but no plot to speak of. Sadly, this one wasn't for me. . .