Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, changed my life.
Or perhaps, as Marquez himself says, ‘the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good.’ (Ref. Love in the Time of Cholera) Perhaps the Marquez that I remember, and the eloquent, hallucinatory, but above all, alive novel of his, is nothing but the product of a distortion of the mind. A novel in possession of a face that could be described, at best, as ‘pretty,’ but one that, with time and distance, comes to embody a purity of beauty, a taste of loveliness that transcends the routine of everyday life to become more. Maybe, perhaps – maybe this is all just hyperbole, and I remain only so enamoured with Marquez not so much because of the natural quality of his work, but due to the embellishment that comes with the obscuring clouds of memory.
Regardless, I did truly come to love this novel – it was my introduction to magic realism, and a the guide to my rediscovery of a long forgotten love for stories. The earnestness with which I praise Marquez may come across as a bit much… but it is an earnestness that I feel should be honoured. I remember how I felt on reading the novel at the age of seventeen that Marquez, more than any other writer before that moment, was truly responsible for changing the way that I saw the world. He brought the depth of feeling and the intensity that adolescence had bestowed, but tempered it with the whimsical and a lightness of touch that I have only rarely encountered since.
A couple of my favourite passages:
“At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe housees, built on the bank of a river of clear water than 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.”
“Carmelia Montiel, a twenty year old virgin, had just bathed in orange blossom water and was strewing rosemary leaves on Pilar Ternera’s bed when the shot rang out. Aureliano Jose had been destined to find with her the happiness that Amaranta had denied him, to have seven children, and to die in her arms of old age, but the bullet that entered his back and shattered his chest had been directed by a wrong interpretation of the cards.
I remember this as the kind of novel that I could eat. A novel in which every page is filled with personality and a rushing stream of fairy-tales and fables of the kind that inundate the senses and appeal to an innocence and imagination that I sometimes feel I have lost. It helps me to rediscover that feeling, and in doing so, to remake myself.
The book is not just about life – it is life, in all its random occurrences, removed of its mundanity so that only the underlying incomprehensibiltiy of it all remains. I love it, and have done since I first finished reading it.