THE ONE

el-imaginario-macondo

book Every time somebody asks me to pick my favourite one, whatever the topic is, I am never that prompt and if I attempt to give an answer I change my mind after two seconds. The truth is that actually but I don’t have THE song , THE memorable movie, THE actor, THE band, THE man of my life……uhmmm, oh no, THE man I have (oooops) ; I’ve got many options that have changed according to age, situations, places. But if you instead ask me what book I loved THE most, well, in this case no doubts cloud my mind: it is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Applause.

imagesLR4Y8UZ0 I am not exaggerating If I say that, when I read it long time ago, I fell under the spell of the magnificent prose of the Colombian author after only a few words. It was first sight love. It is just like when you are convinced to prefer a blond-haired, blue-eyed, Prince Charming looking kind of man and you end up seduced by his dark opposite and with moustache too. This novel, in fact, was so different from those I had read at university and loved till then. It had an unusual intoxicating flavour that totally engaged my mind and senses so that in a second  I could see or better be there, in Macondo, the city of mirrors, sweating under the lazy south American sun and hearing a melancholy air, just like one of the Buena Vista Social Club: “Óigame compay! No deje camino por coger la vereda………..”.

imagesW0DI9BQ5Bedtime stories have always had the function to make kids, even the most reluctant ones, drift off to sleep. When you pick a book of fairy tales and start reading slowly: “Once upon a time…..”  you realise that these words have the amazing power to ease the mind of every child immediately, because they let him quit the little frustrations of the present and jump into the world of timeless magic with the eyes of wonder. And I, as a child, fell in a literary dream soon after Marquez‘ s first words:

At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.”

At that time?”  What time? The novel is actually set in the early 1800s until the mid 1900s, however, Marquez puzzles us telling that Macondo was already a village, but things had yet to be named, therefore all at once he pushes us back to the beginning of time as this is a clear allusion to the biblical tale of Adam naming the animals. Henceforth we understand that Macondo was a sort of Garden of Eden, pure, uncontaminated, enchanted, where time is no clock time and the space is surrounded by an aura of magic. José Arcadio Buendía, the founder of Macondo, and his wife Úrsula Iguarán, as new Adam and Eve, are the progenitor of the Buendía clan.

one_hundred_years_of_solitude_by_strelenka-d5bnnl7The age of innocence will be broken by the coming of gypsies, who will bring with them the wonders of magic and technology. In particular one of them Melquíades befriends Arcadio Buendia, who is a curious, intelligent sort of man, and guides him in his intellectual pursuits. Arcadio, turning his back to the ancient world of magic in favour of scientific experimentation, eats his forbidden fruit, thus pushing his family into the world of modernity and hastening the end of Macondo’s Eden-like state as well. His incessant, obsessive quest will drive him mad eventually, till he is seen as a danger to the  family. Therefore Ursula decides to make the Buendía backyard his new abode, where he will pass his last years tied to a tree . Alone.

imagesCGJG99KLThe village starts to establish contact with other towns in the region, thus slowly abandoning their solitary state of innocence. This will make Macondo and Arcadio’s descendants experience the real, brutal side of life: violence, tragedies, wars. However, despite the harsh realism, what binds the incessant whirl of events is magic, rather than clock time, as all the characters become actors of Melquíades’ prophecy, whose meaning will be revealed only in the end. Therefore they are not free, they are doomed.

butterfliesOne Hundred Years of Solitude belongs to that literary genre which is defined magic realism. Professor Matthew Strecher defines magic realism as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.” A beautiful example of magic realism is the story of Meme (she belongs to the fifth generation of Buendias) and  Mauricio Babilonia. They love each other secretly, and must escape her mother’s control. Meme has a peculiarity: wherever she goes she is followed by a cloud of butterflies and for this reason she will be found with him by the guard her mother has hired. He will shoot at him and Mauricio will end up paralyzed for the rest of his life and Meme in a convent. Don’t try to understand why butterflies followed Meme, you’ ve got to believe it.

100_Years_of_Solitude_Family_T_by_ClothosI know that the greatest objection of the many readers who couldn’t finish the novel, is the great number of characters, who more or less share the same names: Aureliano or Jose Arcadio.  Frustrated by the impossibility of memorizing characters and associate them to their actions, they just surrendered. As far as I am concerned, I didn’t record any name, I just went with the flow of narration, after all if Marquez had wanted me to recognize them as singular beings, he would have taken the trouble of choosing other names. All the characters together, in fact, represent human nature as un unchangeable whole. “Óigame compay! No deje camino por coger la vereda………..”.

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41 thoughts on “THE ONE

  1. Your wonderful description has put this book on my must read list. I’ve read Love in the Time of Cholera, but nothing else. Thanks for following me–I’m glad to discover your blog.

    • Hi,thank you so much for dropping by and your nice words. I’ve read Love in the Time of Cholera and all the other novels Marquez wrote, but according to my taste they were all far below One hundred years of Solitude. There is the genius touch here. Cheers. Stefy.

  2. Great post!

    I also have a hard time answering that question of the one… the answer depends on the moment, and what my memory coughs up in that moment.

    I do know my favourite book without any need for digging in memory’s archives or hesitation – The Count of Monte Cristo – Dumas

    I also loved One Hundred Years of Solitude, and also just let the story flow and the characters flow with it. Beautiful book, like being inside a time capsule.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I hope Mr Run didn’t read your post:) I am. Reassured to hear you say you go with the flow of the narration. I find when reading that trying to keep track of the myriad of who is who and where they belong decreases the enjoyment a great deal.

  4. The curse of having too many favorites I suppose, is knowing when to list them, how to list them, and in which order to list them, except Mr. Run of course, Stefy! And interestingly, I have several quotes I have collected from Marquez, but have never read the book. It is on my list now … Thanks for sharing.

  5. It all makes sense.
    This morning I was reading through a culture section of a well-known Italian newspaper and I was first spellbound by the title ” why are we interested in Monsters?”.
    The word monster derives from Latin monstrum meaning either prodigium or ‘to point’, to indicate.
    Few minutes ago I read your post and it is just correlated. The whole saga narrated by Márquez points out the fact that newborn people bump into something that is outside them and as “the world was so recent that many things lacked names[..]in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.” Have Ursula and José been punished by a God? and are they bound to live in a world of monsters and cannot but keeping pointing others? Is it solitude a monster as well?

    P.S. I can’t record the names as well, better if I go back to Macondo.

  6. Thank you for reminding me of this book. I haven’t read it for many years; but will again soon. I like the name Arcadio. Sets the Edenic theme.
    My favourite book of all I think is The Lord of the Rings which I think I’ve read 10 times. no. 11 coming up this year. I’m reading the Hobbit now but it’s not in the same galaxy. The narrator’s voice is intrusive in it, talking down to the reader; perhaps because he intended it for children. But the themes are there which are developed into a master story in the trilogy.

    • Hi Cristina,thank you for stopping by. You’ve read The Lord of the Rings 11 times!! Amazing! I tried to read it many years ago, but I couldn’t finish it. Maybe it was the wrong moment,I’ll have to give it another chance . Cheers. Stefy.

  7. I need to read that book again. I think when I tried I wasn’t in the frame of mind to enjoy it. Sometimes good books happen to the wrong people–or the right people at the wrong time. Will give it a second airing after this post!

  8. Excellent review Gabriel García was a great writer, he absolutely deserved the Nobel Prize and got it…

    “Gabo” was Magic Realism´s most well known ´s agent… This book by him is a great one. You can get to read my review here :

    http://aquileana.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/garcia-marquez/

    Finally I wanted to highlight that he has also written beautiful short stories as the ones included in “Doce Cuentos Peregrinos” (In english “Strange Pilgrims”) which I absolutely recommend…

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22175.Strange_Pilgrims

    Happy to connect with you, Cheers Aquileana :)

  9. I have the advantage of having read the book in Spanish (I’m from Barcelona) and adore it. I love magic realism and although don’t know how it translates to English I also loved Isabel Allende’s ‘House of the Spirits’ that inspired me to write one of my stories… I agree with the comments about the artwork. Gorgeous post!

    • I read it in Italian, as I am Italian, and then I read bits in Spanish and I can’t find the words to express the beauty of the sound of the original language. I also read Allende’s works and the “House of the Spirits” is certainly an amazing novel, but in the “Hundreds..” there is the genious touch. :)

  10. Always an interesting read, didn´t know about the author let alone there was a genre called “magical realism” That sounds like something I should check out. I saw in one of your comments you read a little of Spanish and like it. I find quite the opposite, I love reading the english words.

    But this is for you : Mira, me ves? Porque yo solo veo mis pies. Pero cuando leo algo tan bonito como esto…..lo demas me parece un desierto.

    Almost forgot. I have an issue with one of those first lines about “the man I have ooops” First you didn´t even remember! And second is like me owning a pet, I have a pet(actually two beast). You don´t have him, is not property, he has a little heart that goes pim pim and also cries.

    Love ya, read ya.

    • Hola Carlito,
      Muchas gracias, me gustó muchissimo lo que escribiste. Entonces yo creo que eres siempre mehor leer – si es posible – la novela en el su idioma original, y el lenguaje de Marquez es maravilloso.
      Besos.
      Stefy :)

  11. I was looking for an image of Meme’s yellow butterflies and came across your blog, such is the weirdly forking paths of the internet. And the irony? Just today a 14yo student in my class asked me what was my all time favourite novel (and why). You can guess the answer which I gave with the same alacrity and lack of doubt as you do here. In appreciation for your lovely posting, I’ll leave you with a tribute I once used to win a competition for “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die”.
    Many years later, as you lie on your deathbed, you will remember that afternoon when time, space and history were contained within the pages of a Columbian novel like the crystalline wonder of your favourite childhood memory. :-)

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