The story is a multigenerational history of the isolated town of Macondo and of the family who founds it, the Buendías. The novel begins with a flashback with Colonel Aureliano Buenda recollecting the memories of years immediately following the founding of Mocondo. The book further moves back in time describing the birth of Ursula and J. Arcadio and the years leading to their marriage and Ursula’s discovery of the route that connects Mocondo to civilization. Macondo changes from an idyllic, magical, and sheltered place to a town corrupted by the the outside world through the notoriety of Colonel Buendía. Macondo’s governments change several times during and after the war. What follows is a series of magically carved events that lead to the end of a family doomed to repeat the mistakes of the previous generation, the reason because of which they are perpetually named after each other. The last scene, however, recreates the magic as the last surviving Buendia reads an ancient prophecy realizing that all the events were preordained.
The story is set in the Columbian Colonial period adroitly sketching a picture of the civil war, plantations, labour unrest etc experienced by Marquez’s own home town Anacataca in particular and Latin Amerca at large. It skillfully traces the after effects of organized religion and government, imposed imperialist policies and modern technology-as violent and confusing and causing the loss of innocence to the people of Mocondo.
A central and pioneering text in the movement known as “magic realism”, the novel is characterized by dream-like and fantastic elements woven into the fabric of its fiction. It refuses to reflect reality from a singular ‘objective’ perspective which wasn’t true to the experience of the third world. Thus it sharply undercuts the western homogeneity of narration putting forth multiple perspectives tracing the unique reality and fragmented psyche of a people whose History assumes the subjective quality of memory and is subject to emotional colouring and flights of imagination.
Being a part of the third world my self, this remains one of the most confusing and the most thought provoking novel that I have ever read. From the repetition of names and characteristics to magical events pervading the text, the book magnificently puts forth the unthinkable horrors accompanying colonization. The indefinite chronological framework, the repetition of names, the play of time and place and of memory leaves a lasting impression on one’s mind leading it into a vicious circle of shifting boundaries between reality and fantasy.
Book Reviewed by Ridhi Kukreja
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