Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series
When I found this book in the library, I noticed it was surrounded by other books whose purpose was to analyze and explain it. I wondered if I would need to check one of those out, too, but I decided to venture understanding this modern classic on my own first. I didn’t succeed, and if I want to, I’ll need to go back and read one of those expert’s insights.
I found the language and imagery powerful, the story intriguing at times and tiresome at others. It’s circular as well as strange, full of repetitions, with various errors and obsessions cycling around and around through individual lives and through generations. Names are repeated over the generations, making it challenging to keep track of characters. I’m sure all of this is intentional and has a meaning. None of this is because of poor writing. The author clearly knew what he was doing, even if this particular reader failed to comprehend his purpose.
Macondo, the town where events take place, is to some extent the “lead character.” But it has no will, no goals. The Buendia family could also be seen as a collective protagonist, but its members don’t share the same drives and hopes. The story isn’t driven by any one person’s arc of desire, ambition or discovery, and at times events seem to float into it like things blown on a breeze. The omniscient narrator tells the tale with little dialog and little in the way of conventional dramatic scenes, sometimes in a single paragraph that runs on for two pages. It’s a bit like listening to a poetic and slightly dotty elder tell you the history of his town, without any concern for differentiating fact from fable, mingling them together with equal conviction. I was not troubled by the magical realism, but by the feeling that these remarkable events must be symbols in a code I couldn’t decipher
Characters, for the most part, are defined by obsessions rather than the depth and complexity of whole personalities. The exception is the long-lived matriarch Ursula. She and the Italian Pietro Crespi are among the few sympathetic characters, the few who felt like real people rather than symbolic personifications of various societal ills or aspects of the human condition. (Perhaps, though Ursula is the personification of Female Strength or The All-Enduring Mother, and Crespi the personification of The Arts, especially Music and Dance.)
War, in the form of an endless rebellion, is shown as both cruel and absurd. Romantic love often seems equally cruel and absurd, equally obsessive, and often unwholesome. I can’t say I regret reading this book, but I can’t say I entirely enjoyed it either. I probably should have read one of the books that explained it in advance.