One Hundred Years of Solitude

Interpretation

Literary significance and acclaim

One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race. Mr. García Márquez has done nothing less than to create in the reader a sense of all that is profound, meaningful, and meaningless in life.

— William Kennedy, New York Times Book Review [9]

One Hundred Years of Solitude has received universal recognition. The novel has been awarded Italy's Chianciano Award, France's Prix de Meilleur Livre Etranger, Venezuela's Rómulo Gallegos Prize, and the United States' Books Abroad/Neustadt International Prize for Literature. García Márquez also received an honorary LL.D. from Columbia University in New York City. These awards set the stage for García Márquez's 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. The novel topped the list of books that have most shaped world literature over the last 25 years, according to a survey of international writers commissioned by the global literary journal Wasafiri as a part of its 25th-anniversary celebration.[27]

The superlatives from reviewers and readers alike display the resounding praise which the novel has received. Chilean poet and Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda called it "the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since Don Quixote of Cervantes", while John Leonard in The New York Times wrote that "with a single bound, Gabriel García Márquez leaps onto the stage with Günter Grass and Vladimir Nabokov."[9]

According to Antonio Sacoto, professor at the City College of the City University of New York, One Hundred Years of Solitude is considered one of the five key novels in Hispanic American literature (together with El Señor Presidente, Pedro Páramo, La Muerte de Artemio Cruz, and La ciudad y los perros). These novels, representative of the boom allowed Hispanic American literature to reach the quality of North American and European literature in terms of technical quality, rich themes, and linguistic innovations, among other attributes.[22]

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, García Márquez addressed the significance of his writing and proposed its role to be more than just literary expression:

I dare to think that it is this outsized reality, and not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of the Swedish Academy of Letters. A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily deaths, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.[28]

Harold Bloom remarked, "My primary impression, in the act of rereading One Hundred Years of Solitude, is a kind of aesthetic battle fatigue, since every page is rammed full of life beyond the capacity of any single reader to absorb... There are no wasted sentences, no mere transitions, in this novel, and you must notice everything at the moment you read it."[29] David Haberly has argued that García Márquez may have borrowed themes from several works, such as William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, Virginia Woolf's Orlando: A Biography, Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year, and Chateaubriand's Atala, in an example of intertextuality.[30]

Relation to Colombian history

As a metaphoric, critical interpretation of Colombian history, from foundation to contemporary nation, One Hundred Years of Solitude presents different national myths through the story of the Buendía family,[16] whose spirit of adventure places them amidst the important actions of Colombian historical events. These events include the inclusion of the Roma "Gypsies", the Liberal political reformation of a colonial way of life, and the 19th-century arguments for and against it; the arrival of the railway to a mountainous country; the Thousand Days' War (Guerra de los Mil Días, 1899–1902); the corporate hegemony of the United Fruit Company ("American Fruit Company" in the story); the cinema; the automobile; and the military massacre of striking workers as government–labour relations policy.[12]

Inclusion of the Roma ("Gypsies")

According to Hazel Marsh, a Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies at the University of East Anglia, it is estimated that 8,000 Roma live in Colombia today. However, “most South American history books...exclude the presence of the Roma.”[31] One Hundred Years of Solitude differs from this tendency by including the traveling Roma throughout the story. Led by a man named Melquíades, the Roma bring new discoveries and technology to the isolated village of Macondo, often inciting the curiosity of José Arcadio Buendía.

Depiction of the Thousand Days War

The Thousand Days War in Colombia was fought between Liberals and Conservatives between 1899 - 1902. The Conservatives had been "in control more or less constantly since 1867," and the Liberals, mainly coffee plantation owners and workers who had been excluded from representation, sparked a revolution in October 1899.[32] The fighting continued for a few years, and it is estimated that over 130,000 lives were lost.

In Chapters 5 and 6 of One Hundred Years of Solitude, the Conservative Army has invaded the town of Macondo leading Aureliano to eventually lead a rebellion. The rebellion is successful - the Conservative Army falls - and afterward, Aureliano, now 'Colonel Aureliano Buendía' decides to continue fighting. He departs Macondo with the band of people who helped him oust the Conservative Army to go continue fighting elsewhere for the Liberal side.

Because Macondo is a fictional town created by Gabriel García Márquez, the exact events of the Thousand Days' War as they occurred in the book are fictional. However, these events are widely considered to be metaphorical for the Thousand Days War as experienced by the entire country of Colombia.

Representation of the "Banana Massacre"

The “Banana Massacre” occurred between December 5 and 6 of 1928 in Ciénaga near Santa Marta, Colombia. Banana plantation workers had been striking against the United Fruit Company to earn better labor conditions when members of the local military fired guns into crowds.[33]

This event, which occurs in Chapter 15 of One Hundred Years of Solitude, was depicted with relative accuracy, minus a false sense of certainty about the specific facts surrounding the events. For instance, although Marquez writes that there must have been “three thousand...dead,” the true number of victims is unknown. However, the number likely was not far off, because it is considered that the “number of killings was over a thousand,” according to Dr. Jorge Enrique Elias Caro and Dr. Antonino Vidal Ortega.[33] The lack of information surrounding the “Banana Massacre” is thought to be largely due to the “manipulation of the information as registered by the Colombian Government and the United Fruit Company.”[33]


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