reading my way through every country in the world…

#25 Colombia – 100 Years: Yep it feels like it.

One Hundred Years of Solitude
By Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Penguin (2007, first published, 1967)

General reading value: 2.5 /5
Armchair travel value: 3/5

When I arrived at Colombia for my challenge, I knew there was no other book to read but One Hundred Years of Solitude. This is a book that seems to send reviewers and readers into delirious raptures and it frequently hits the top ten of must-read lists. Needless to say I was pumped! But like my recent experience of seeing One Day (how can so many bad things happen to one would-be couple?), the book failed to reach even base camp of the Everest of hype for me. Yes, there were moments of brilliance but they were shooting stars in an otherwise star-free sky.

The book is a magical realist tale primarily focused on the Buendia family who found the fictional village of Macondo and continue to live and love there through several generations. Each of these generation has a male whose name is some combination of Jose, Arcadio or Aureliano. This becomes, I would assume quite intentionally, confusing as the story wears on and after awhile resembles some sort of Marx brothers’ joke.

The family are composed of quite eccentric characters – perhaps a product of their blatantly incestuous ways. Indeed their proclivity towards inbreeding is a recurring sense of worry for the matriarch of the family Ursula who fears their children will all be born with pigs’ tails as punishment. Pigs’ tails aside, the family members do possess unusual characteristics. One is able to see into the future, another has the strength of eleven men; another has beauty icapable of literally causing death.

Interacting with the Buendias are a cast of other characters, some of whom become de facto family members – such as Rebeca who has a habit of eating earth and licking walls -others who are responsible for setting in train the various calamities and celebrations that befall and reward, respectively, the family as it, and the town of Macondo, lives through prosperity, war, industrialisation, immigration, flood and much more.

It has been said that 100 years is an allegory for the history of Colombia from the birth of the nation to modernity. From this perspective, the book is, of course, an amazing accomplishment and certainly a more interesting approach than the usual dry and dull straight historical fiction. I’m just disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it. My recommendation would be to either read this book in episodes interspersed with other reading in between or, alternatively, to listen to an audio version of have someone read it aloud. I imagine that it would have been much more enjoyable had I heard the story told to me by someone who could use different voices and actions to bring the tale to life, much like the way Dickens’ novels were conveyed when first published.

The Literary Nomad xx

More on Colombia…

Largest city: Bogota

Population: 45,925,397

Area: 1,141,748 km2

Language: Spanish

Religion: Christianity

Currency: Peso

Delay your stay: Our Lady of the Assassins by Fernando Vallejo; Even Silence has an End by Ingrid Betancourt; Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez;  A Tale of the Dispossessed by Laura Restrepo.

The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd (and many other books by this author)

A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell

Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

Money – Martin Amis

Downriver – Iain Sinclair

Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

The Iron Age – Margaret Drabble

Anything by Charles Dickens

2 Responses to “#25 Colombia – 100 Years: Yep it feels like it.”

  1. I agree with your analysis of 100 years. It did not have me at hello and took me a month to read. I did like his other book better, Love in the Time of Cholera and I read that one first. It is much shorter and in my opinion more memorable and worthy of great book status.

  2. Alex says:

    I just don’t understand why so many people love 100 Years? I feel like I must be missing something but the more people I speak to about this, the more admissions I find of not enjoying this book. I’ll give Love in the time of cholera a go though on your recommendation :)

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