I’ve read a ton of Marquez’s short stories and a couple of his novellas, but this was my first attempt at one of his long novels. In this post, I put my spin on Marquez’s nobel prize-winning novel.
So, you loved it, right? Well, it’s not so simple. This book took me way too long to read, and I must say, it was difficult. I’m not sure where I fall on the like it/hate it scale for this book, but it has gotten me thinking about different ways to approach a novel.
What was so difficult? Well, a couple of things. First of all, it does not follow a central character. It follows a family, but just as you start to fall in love with a character, Marquez kills him or her off. It’s frustrating at times, but the family carries on. Going through the book, we follow generation after generation of this family, and one of the difficulties is that most every male character is named either Aureliano or José Arcadio. At first it’s pretty easy to follow, but as the generations go on, the family branches out and there are adulteries and bastards and incests (there’s a disturbing amount of this) and strange relations, and the Aurelianos and José Arcadios start to become muddled and confusing.
The book is also rather bleak and depressing (which I often am drawn to). The women in the book are relatively sane and live amazingly long lives, while the men all essentially either die young or go out of their mind as they get old. It’s strange, the pattern of the characters in the book, both male and female, is that they come into a task, whether that be making gold fishes or starting civil wars or reading cryptic parchments, and they become obsessed. Eventually, this is all they do until they die. By the end, there are many literal ghosts in the house, yet the characters that are still living remind me of how people talk about ghosts. I’ve heard it said that ghosts often repeat one act again and again and again, like they’re stuck that way, and in this sense, Marquez almost creates living ghosts.
Solitude, huh? Sounds like a lot of people are in this book. Well, it’s true, there are a number of characters, yet, like I said, they so often become obsessed with a task that they become withdrawn from the family. Often the characters die alone, and sometimes a character is thought to be dead only to be found alive but haggard and emaciated.
This terrible pattern of living is applied to the family, and no one seems to be able to break it. It’s a very insightful way of looking at the family dynamic, because we all live out patterns we learn that our parents learned that their parents learned, and so on.
Well, what did you think? I … am still not sure. It has gotten me thinking so much about the novel form, yet I must admit that it was tough-sledding for me at times. I was relieved when I was through with it. I mean, like all of his works, it was masterfully written, and his characters are so wonderfully flawed and real, yet set in a dream-like state. In that way, it was great to read. Still, the central conflict was hard to pick out, and lacking of a main character to follow made it hard to come back to at times.
I think it is a great book to read, but I would recommend doing so in a healthy and positive mental state.