I know that this is one of the classic pieces of literature of our time,
a seminal work, etc etc etc. I found it confusing and despondent.
For a start, every male character seemed to
be called José Arcadio or Aureliano. Every single one. One character called
Aureliano has 18 sons, all called Aureliano. Given the mixing of generations
due to poverty, laziness and incest, it was at times impossible to figure out
which man was which!
The positive parts were dreamlike – stories
of alchemy and little gold fishes and Sanskrit manuscripts and incredible
riches brought on by unnaturally fertile farmyards – and thus unbelievable. The
negative parts, in which people died of insanity, frustrated love, or simply
wandering off into the world never to be heard from again, were so tragic that
they became melodramatic and laughable. Also the “magical realism” was present
in the wrong quantities – it came across as a nifty way out of a plot-hole,
rather than a running thread, as women lived to be 145 and rain fell steadily
for 5 years.
However, the book is 500 pages long and I
found myself churning through it at over 100 pages per hour, so there is
clearly something to be said for the writing. Marquez (Garcia Marquez?) evoked
the Caribbean atmosphere with the oppressive heat, dreamy men and feisty women
with skill. I just wasn’t interested in the story he told.