“A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem.”
— Albert Einstein
I love stories. I love fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and gritty dramatic pieces that challenge conventions. They drive my desire to learn more, to feel more. But, I just cannot wrap my head around Gabriel Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. The narrative just doesn’t compel me to continue reading. It winds, it twists, and plods ahead at all costs, dragging the characters and theme along, while offering me very little to dwell on regarding the issues of governance and political corruption. I understand that magical realism, as a genre, purposely uses the fantastic “out of place” as it were. I also know it is the intention of the author to make the ordinary more spectacular by way of its relation to the over-abundance of “magically mundane” occurrences. However, for me, this story just falls short of keeping me interested enough to care. The story is crafted superbly in terms of language and construction, its language is colorful and vibrant. It functions exactly as intended by the author and serves to meet the demand of such a genre. The content however, does not compel me to consume its narrative or seek out the further adventures of its characters.
I am not able to see the depth and weight of the arguments, questions, and ideas posed within the covers because the story obscures them from me in a way that I can only deem purposeful. It feels as though the author’s plan all along was to intentionally lose the reader in silly details about fantastic events that occur with a blinding rapidity and among persons with nearly (and sometimes exactly) identical names. The characters act in a preposterous manner, quite often reacting in ways that are contrary to simple common sense and occasionally sanity. Women are portrayed as stubborn and devoid of an ability to reason rationally. The men are shown to be absorbed in one single-minded, obsessive state of isolated pondering, sex, war, or religious/political zeal respectively and at different times. The novel operates in a limbo between realism and the absurd that holds only the slightest charm of either. Where it could be more realistic and make a strong point it sprinkles madness between the details. And where it should most definitely go all the way with its incredible notion it tries instead to ground it in a false reality, to make it more “of the natural world.”
Now, I understand that is precisely the point of what Marquez is trying to do with his work. I get it. But what I don’t get is how he felt this would be beneficial to the heart of his story. Not all things must operate in an either or paradigm, but some things do need more or less balance depending on the context in which they are constructed and presented. This story is exemplary of just such a case. The middle ground just isn’t effective, at least for me, in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Is the work excellent for what it is? Yes. Is it groundbreaking in terms of challenging the status quo and limitations of literature that came before? Yes. But is it a story that can hold its own as a narrative outside of that context? I’m not so sure it is. I believe many readers may find this work hard to digest or flat out uninteresting. I rarely read a work and think to myself that I find every character thoroughly unlikable. But in this text, I find no one and nothing I can relate to or take hold of moving forward and I truly dislike every character. This is all simply opinion and again, I understand why it was written in such a way. But beyond that, why else would I ever finish a book like this?