Friday, May 09, 2008

One Hundred Years Of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A story of generations spanning decades or centuries never fails to touch you, move you and hurt you as you read.

I have read stories of generations before and have been deeply moved and left with a heavy heart each time.

Any story that spans one hundred years contains in it the completion of a cycle.
Birth, sustenance and death. And death hurts.
You read about people coming into this world. You become familiar and even attached with them as they grow, as they enjoy and as they suffer, as they perform great deeds, make sacrifices… And then they die. And that hurts.

People you thought would live eternally retreat into oblivion one day.
And very soon, they are forgotten.

Customs, practices and settlements created by older generations with love, dedication and devotion are uprooted and undone by newer generations.

As you read, a confirmation of impermanence takes away the comfort of immortality and you become disillusioned.

The impartiality with which time erases the noble and the ignoble, the kind and the cruel, the great and the frivolous strikes you as so unfair.
It saddens to see the detachment with which time obliterates men and their deeds of greatness, eroding them away as if they were nothing more than dust.

The unforgiving certainty and effortlessness with which time changes even that which seemed final, perfect and eternal, strike as cruel. In summary any story of generations reinforces human mortality and it hurts perhaps because your own mortality in an eternal time is reinforced.

“One hundred years of solitude” is a story of the rise and fall of a family, of a race, of a village. It would not be an exaggeration to call it an epic. It’s a chronicle of all the things that people of Macondo gained and lost.

The experience of reading this book can be likened to an odyssey through a rough terrain strewn with war, death, sex (without the context of love), incest, solitude etc. but you will relish it for several reasons.

There is a prehistoric charm to the tale… It corresponds to those bygone times when not all of land and water were discovered by and known to mankind; when tribes of people lived in isolation from the rest of the civilisation.

I struggled to get a perspective of another era, another time as I read about 200 year old men, gypsies, flying carpets, daguerreotypes(primitive mirror), cock fights, alchemy, polyandry and phenomena unheard of (like insomnia being contagious and causing memory loss).

Although it is filled with para-natural elements like dead men visiting the house and interacting with living people, flying carpets, disappearance of living people into the sky, accurate premonitions of death, mischievous elves etc, it is so well written that it seems to be based on a real life story.

The story is so alive in print; it must have been much more alive in the author’s mind.

The reading becomes exasperating for a few pages, where there are too many details of war, all repetitive, same killings, executions and court marital…
The only good about those few pages is that they prove the futility of war beyond doubt. The war episode clearly illustrates how those at war don’t know why they are fighting…that the final cause is always personal ego disguised as one of the “real causes”.

The repetition of names throughout the book from the beginning till the end, with father, sons and grandsons all having the same names makes the reading effortful.

I have to mention that I am extremely delighted, and surprised at the mention of Sanskrit in the book(the climax part)!

The style of narration is distinct. The entire narration is a succession of summaries followed by elaborations. Every so many pages, there is the summary (about a character etc) which includes the conclusion as well and the next few pages elaborate the story. For instance, right in the beginning, you know Aureliano would face a firing squad and also that he would die of old age. And the next hundred pages talk about the life of Aureliano. So there is really no suspense.
There is no humour either.

I wish, I could mention a few one liners, quotations, etc…as I usually do. But the narration in its entirety is one beautiful piece and I am not able to extract or separate fragments of literary splendour from a work that is such a harmonious blend of magic, nostalgia, imagery, tragedy, imagination and reality.

Some lines did register in my mind though…

During his last moments as he faced execution, he thought about his people, with a strict closing of his accounts with life, beginning to understand how much he really loved the people he hated most. (I shudder!)

The history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle.

And the last line of the book…
Races condemned to one hundred years of solitude do not have a second opportunity on earth.

A must read for all.

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