Drop everything and read One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez, now. See other entries in this series here.
Gabriel García Márquez does not blend fantasy and reality into one surreal realm. Mr.Márquez creates instead an environment where each sphere vies for dominance. The reader might forget whether the novel takes place on the Earth the reader understands viscerally until he or she stumbles upon one ethereal scene that impresses upon the reader the book’s dual nature before it dissolves and allows reality to resume. However, I defy the reader to confess that he or she did not feel Mr. Márquez’s universe as the reader feels his or her flesh.
He had not stopped desiring her for a single instant. He found her in the dark bedrooms of captured towns, especially in the most abject ones, and he would make her materialize in the smell of dry blood on the bandages of the wounded, in the instantaneous terror of the danger of death, at all times and in all places.
This narrative manifests for the reader physical and emotional impressions as deeply as a rifle’s butt dully collapsing a soldier’s skull. It is not whimsy that makes so powerful the author’s writing. It is intent. To doubt that Mr. Márquez did not want to thrust a people’s reality into the reader’s side is to miss his motivation.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is allegory. It makes so real to the reader something he or she likely never has felt. Mr. Márquez lays out the personal experience that colonialism imposes upon the individuals who live in it. He reveals the mechanic nature the opposing soldier, army, society, and its enterprises embody. But Mr. Márquez does not stray from writing intense fiction.
Do not mistake One Hundred Years of Solitude for a documentary-novel. It accomplishes more than mere historical fiction can. It entertains wildly. The book is a tempest that catapults the reader into a whirlwind from which he or she emerges in a dazed state. Death, love, sex, animosity, filial piety, and resentment swirl throughout a chaotic collage that comprises so many people- and place-names. The reader may question whether what he read actually was in the book when he encounters its numerous contradictory scenes. To think that every such contradiction was not Mr. Márquez’s intention probably is folly. That the book’s monumental events elude the history of later pages must result from the author’s intent, for the characters too acknowledge the contradictions. The reader will become blissfully estranged in the fantastic tapestry that the author has woven then twisted into a phenomenal work.
Do not allow this tumultuous piece to deter your reading it. It is complex, but it is not convoluted. It demands numerous readings, though. Drop everything, and read One Hundred Years of Solitude now. Then read it again when nostalgia has threatened your progressing through life. You may appreciate how important a living impression is when you have realized that its origin is instantaneous and never will be repeated. You cannot reclaim it in the physical world, it remains only inside you. Returning to the past will not make it real again. Such truth waits inside One Hundred Years of Solitude.