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Definition: One Hundred Years of Solitude from Brewer's Curious Titles

(Spanish title: Cien años de soledad). A novel (1967; English translation 1970) by the Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez (b.1928), generally regarded as the archetypal example of Latin American magic realism. The setting is the small, isolated Colombian village of Macondo, a fictional community that had previously appeared in García Márquez's La hojarasca (1955; Leafstorm and Other Stories) and in La mala hora (1962; In Evil Hour). The novel follows seven generations of the increasingly inbred Buendía family, the founders of the village, and their story parallels the history of Columbia itself.


Summary Article: Cien años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1970) from World Literature in Spanish: An Encyclopedia

In 2007, with the publication of a 40th anniversary commemorative edition, the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy) paid homage to this world literature masterpiece, and honored its Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez on his 80th birthday. Earning him a Nobel Prize in literature in 1982, this superbly crafted novel, while humorous and entertaining, reflects on the nature of reality, the human condition, and Latin American history.

Featuring a suspenseful plot with numerous events and characters, One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of six generations of Buendías who live in the fictional town of Macondo, a symbol for Colombia and Latin America in general. Replete with biblical allusions, the novel begins in a narrative style resembling the book of Genesis. After killing a man, patriarch José Arcadio Buendía, his wife Úrsula, and a group of friends leave their home in search of an unpromised land where they found the city of Macondo. Because she and José Arcadio are cousins, Ursula fears giving birth to a child with a pig's tail. Incest and solitude threaten each generation of Buendías until the last couple, who are nephew and aunt, engenders the dreaded child. An apocalyptic wind destroys Macondo as Aureliano Buendía deciphers a manuscript which, he discovers, is in fact the written history of his family. Another character, the family's alchemist friend Melquíades, has written this story, which will end with Aureliano's death at the conclusion of his reading. Thus forced to confront the fictionality of the text, the reader compellingly considers the illusion of boundaries between life and fiction.

Although myth pervades the world of Macondo, the town also incarnates the sociopolitical reality of Latin Americans' past and present. García Márquez uses the narrative technique of magical realism to vividly interpret Latin American culture and history. The novel abounds in hyperbole and impossible events reported with objective detachment, as if commonplace. Readers familiar with Latin America recognize the historical fidelity that novelistic accounts of political violence, civil wars, rigged elections, and portrayals of liberals and conservatives present. These narrative events reveal both the general historical tradition of Latin America, and very specific proceedings such as the banana strike and massacre that took place in Ciénega, Colombia in 1928.

Among the many themes of this novel, time and intertextuality predominate. Arranged in episodic fashion, One Hundred Years of Solitude confounds the reader with its puzzling notions of time. In the unspecified century that the novel unfolds time is linear and sequential, but may also retreat, circle, and stop. Clearly influenced by Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, William Faulkner and Miguel de Cervantes, García Márquez has in turn renovated Western literary tradition in writing a novel that critics have acclaimed as Latin America's Don Quijote.

See also Don Quijote de la Mancha in Spanish American Literature and Culture; Nobel Prize Literature in Spanish.

Work:
  • García Márquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Trans. Gregory Rabassa. Perennial Classics New York, 1998.
  • Work About:
  • Bell-Villada, Gene H., ed. Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Oxford University Press New York, 2002.
  • Olmedo, Rebeca Rosell
    Copyright 2011 by Maureen Ihrie and Salvador A. Oropesa

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