I recently stumbled across a post from 2015 titled Our Favourite Books and Why We Love Them, in which some of my co-workers shared their favourite reads. One Hundred Years of Solitude appeared twice. I knew of the book as a widely acclaimed, landmark novel that uses magic realism, a style of fiction that blurs fantasy with reality and that has its origins in Latin American literature from the 20th-century. Its reputation combined with the acclaim from my co-workers pushed it up to the top of my “to read” list.
Set in Colombia, the story follows multiple generations of the Buendía family over one hundred years, beginning from their founding of a new town, Macondo.
As you would expect with magic realism, the fantastical is mentioned in passing, as if it was entirely normal. A girl too beautiful for the world ascends to heaven while doing laundry one afternoon. A drop of blood from a fatal gunshot wound travels across town to notify a mother of her son’s death, carefully avoiding rugs to keep from staining them along the way. Ghosts pop by from time to time.
I had to keep referring back to a drawing of the Buendía family tree to keep on track with the characters, as names are repeated multiple times throughout the generations. This fits in with two of the book’s themes: 1. An idea of there being an inescapable repetition of history. 2. Self-love amongst the elite. Both themes are also evident in acts of incest, as well as the fear of bearing a child with a pig’s tail as a result of said incest.
In what may be sacrilege to many literary lovers, the incest, war, and fantasy had me drawing comparisons to the Targaryen and Lannister families in Game of Thrones. In addition, it got me thinking about how we spin up legends and magic from the past in Celtic nations, like here in Wales with our dragons, kings, and ladies living in lakes.
I suspect that there are many layers of the novel that I’m missing, due to my lack of familiarity with Colombian history and culture, but I greatly appreciated how this novel presented the world and its themes.