Why do you read books? Curiosity? Entertainment? To get out of your head and into someone else’s?
Sometimes I read books because I think they’ll be good for me. That’s why I picked up One Hundred Years of Solitude. Curiosity was also a factor. I hadn’t read any Latin American novels and I thought I might as well start with a Nobel Prize winner.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a challenging novel; at the same time, it’s not really challenging at all. Not challenging in the sense that once you let go of your preconceptions about how you think literature should be served up to you, it’s actually a very amenable read.
Even a lack of knowledge of Colombian history – such as mine – does not prevent the novel from being accessible, relatable. (Do I sound like a Supertramp song?) The narrative imaginatively retells the big events of Colombian history, using the fictional town of Macondo as the setting.
The main characters are the founding family of Macondo, along with their long line of descendants. Names are handed down from one generation to the next and this is indeed confusing for the reader. But once you let go of your preconceptions about how you think characters should be named, you realise that the writer makes this work. Interconnectedness, and even incest, are part of the story, as is the propensity for history to repeat itself within the family.
This original novel is ultimately satisfying and I feel more well-read after reading it. I strongly suspect it reads much better in Spanish but something is always lost in translation, isn’t it? Be that as it may, this English translation is a fine piece of work.
I intend to explore more of the literature of Latin America. Suggestions would be welcome.