Wednesday, March 3, 2010

100 años de soledad

I read this book in English back when I had no understanding of the magical realism genre. I thought the book was marvelous, unlike anything I had ever read. Because translations like movies never do the origin novel justice, I am happy to be reading this book again and in Spanish.

Marquez mentions incestuous relations, people driven by their passions leaving logic aside, and magical obsessions without the slightest tone of condemnation, surprise or fascination. In this way, as Jon talked about in class today, Marquez creates a narrative that plays with our conceptions of reality, magic, and morality.

One thing I noticed that fell into this category was how Macondo was introduced to readers as being a very primitive town. People live in basic houses without any thought to the world outside the swamp. The rocks shaped as “prehistoric eggs” in the river, the dirt floors of the Buendía house. Marquez’ descriptions of the pueblo lead readers to believe that the story begins in a time long ago before modern inventions. However, the more I read, the more it seems that it is only Macondo that is stuck in time on its own, somehow cut off from the modernizing world around them. Marquez gives us hints of this fact when Ursula returns from her five month sojourn in search of her son. She reveals that there is another town only two days away that they have never known about. Melquíades also gives us knowledge of the scientific world outside of Macondo with the treasures he brings to the town.

I really like this idea of not being able to “trust” the narrator. I had never considered this aspect of the novel when I read it the first time. I’m not sure if I’ve ever really questioned the word of the narrator outside of nonfiction. We so easily fall into the world that Marquez creates that we forget the author’s ability to bend our interpretations. It is easy to critique the protagonist but the narrator we assume to be telling the story from as it exists in their minds. Marquez attempts to do something else with his narrative, something that adds to the magical realism aspect of the novel or perhaps creates it.


pura vida said...

I really enjoyed your comments about our sense of 'trust' in the narrator. This is something that hadn't occurred to me either, but I agree that it influences our take on the story as it unfolds. As always in magical realism: is anything really as it seems?? Thanks for your insight. I have a feeling that I'll be looking at the plot in a different light now that I'm a little wary of GGM ;) haha!

Siena said...

I guess we are all a bit surprised about the narrator having fun misleading us. I'm glad Jon pointed this out to us because it will make us read more carefully and be more critical of what where we're led in the story.
You also mentioned the recurring incest in the novel, which I find interesting because I wouldn't have expected a taboo theme like this to appear in a magical realism book. We discussed it's function as an example of repetition in the book, but I wonder what other purposes it may have...

Jon said...

Yes, absolutely, we need to be wary of the narrator... and of the fact that GGM is quite often having fun with his readers. It can be hard to see when reading a relatively difficult book in Spanish, but this is definitely a novel that has a sense of humor.

Meanwhile, yes, Macondo turns out not to be as isolated as it first seems: as we saw also today, there's civilization just around the corner. It's just that everything somehow seems to come late to Macondo, and then when it arrives to take a strange turn or two.