A 1967 Spanish masterpiece of magic realism by Gabriel Garcia Marquez which takes you through the seven generations of Buendia family to reveal a gruesome truth, placidly removed from the history of Latin America. Marquez, through the thin membrane of magic realism and a plethora of unique characters deals with life, war and death in Colombia.
What to anticipate:
French historian Pierra Nora proposes that “the quest for memory is the search of one’s history.” Marquez exploits this very notion of memory to rewrite the history of the colonized. The novel begins as a recollection of Colonel Aureliano Buendia as he faces a firing squad but is transported back in time with a specific memory of a “distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” A fictional town called Macondo is discovered by Jose Arcadio Buendia, the patriarch of Buendia family who constantly examines and subverts the privileged truth claims.
The novel leads you through an unexpected journey of surreal events that makes one question the thin line that exists between truth and fiction. Be it Macondo going through a spell of insomnia which makes Jose Arcadio hilariously label out everything, or the swarm of yellow butterflies aiding the lovers, people levitating and disappearing into thin air, blood itself trickling down for miles to announce the murder; deciphering of an ancient book written by a gypsy that supposedly holds the prophesy for Buendia family; the intriguing sexual adventures which are at times obscene yet passionate and even incestuous.
Marquez’s art of storytelling is unparalleled, the first page of the novel bears a massive framework of the Buendia family, with characters of same names alternating mostly between Arcadios’ and Aurelianos’ but each with his stark uniqueness. It is not only the characters but the town of Macondo progresses as well from a jungle patch to a modernized town with railroads, finally becoming the ghost town reverberating with silence and solitude.
A narrative which works through sequences of fragile memories tends to get shaped as the heart desires, making the narrator an unreliable source. Should a reader question the narrator’s judgement or merely enjoy it as a fictional tale? Finding the answers to question of “who perceives?” and “who focalizes?” might straighten out a few of the twisted knots. But sometimes it is disorientation which leads to truth.