I have friends who truly think this is an amazing book. You have to help me. Just not sure I get it. No, it isn’t the magical realism thing. I get that and got used to crazy things like insomnia plagues, gypsies with flying carpets, children being carried away with the laundry. Garcia Marquez definitely has a creative imagination!
The story in brief centers around the mythical town of Macondo, somewhere in Latin America, settled by people escaping Western colonialists. They were led by Jose Arcadio Buendia and his cousin-wife Ursula. Much of the plot focuses around the decadence of this inbred, incestuous family who keep breeding sons named Jose Arcadio or Aureliano. At one point there are even 17 Aurelianos who are all systematically hunted down and killed as the government tries to snuff out the revolutionary movement led by Colonel Aureliano Buendia. From a glorious beginning, the village and the family spiral down into insanity and decadence, abetted by the banana planters, the government executioners, and a several year monsoon that rotted everything and was followed with termites and ants who literally ate the village.
Yes, we see a chronicle of human nature, almost a second creation and fall story. We see a story of family tragedy. We see the inevitability of decline and fall in this miniature, fantastic civilization. But we also have a tawdry tale of incest, child abuse, and sexual obsession. It occurred to me that this would be a great family for Dr Phil to do an intervention with.
Yes, this is a book beautifully and imaginatively written. Yes, it exposes the dark underside of our human nature and our inability to escape our own inner demons, of ourselves. While I don’t expect serious fiction to have “they all lived happily ever after” endings and it doesn’t surprise me to see the tawdry elements of life, there is nothing elevating or ennobling about this book. It seems we are either nothing more than the sum of our physical desires, or deluded if we think there is anything more to it. There is no redemption. Religious figures are simply buffoons, other than the magician Melquiades, who, if anything simply captivates the men of this family in delusion and a fatalism that leads to their destruction.
I know this is supposed to be one of the great books of this past century. At this point, I have to admit that I am scratching my head wondering why? Maybe those of you who really loved it can illuminate me.