What makes a classic? One Hundred Years of Solitude
I'll admit that, when I read the title of this book, I pictured someone sitting cross-legged in a cave with a book in their lap, writing down everything that happened while they sat there, in a cave...by themselves...for a really long time. I had my "here comes the slog" reading hat on, and let's just say, it was knocked off by how magnetic and compelling this book is.
It was a while before I stopped expecting someone to go sit in a cave for a hundred years, but I'm glad that things aren't always what they seem.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
So there's this rule, guideline say, that it's kinder to your readers not to have multiple characters running around with the same first letter in their name. They can only take so much John, Jack, Jim, James, Jerry, Joe, and Jeremy at the dinner table before all your painstakingly wrought Thanksgiving food descriptions go out the window along with the copy of your work.
Apparently, Márquez never got on that bandwagon. Within seven generations and four hundred pages, at one point present in the same house, are over twenty characters named Aureliano. But, you know what? Márquez got away with it. I was way more confused by the mere five characters named José. (Honestly though, he really did manage to keep them all straight).
There is something to the repetition of names, though. Something to the constant sense of déjà vu not only in the names but in the personalities, the choices, the inextricable fates. This book has magic. It has myth. But it has also captured the feeling that's all too real that we've been here before, faced this problem, made that mistake, forgotten the things we thought we never would.
One Hundred Years of Solitude or Cien Años de Soledad was published in Argentina in 1967, but its lessons about the importance of our history, our pasts, our memories are relevant to any country, any people, any century.
And that is just one facet of this gem. The story of the Buendía family in their village of Macondo is beautiful, tragic, wise, vivid, entertaining, and unforgettable. It's not necessarily a place you'd want to move to, Macondo, and you might not want a Buendía joining your Christmas dinner; but all the mistakes they will make, how they will take humanity, love and empathy, family, loyalty, magic and meaning for granted, may be one of your most eye-opening journeys to treasuring these things even more.
As for my recommendation, it's probably not for younger ages or for more sensitive audiences. Otherwise, I do think this is one of those classics that everyone should read one day and would enjoy reading. It's a challenge to categorize this book, and maybe that's a good thing. There have to be a hundred ways to describe what it's about, but especially in this holiday season, I'd say it's about remembering where we've been so that we can see where we're going.