Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

When I read most novels, I enjoy them while I am reading them and, when I finish, I feel a keen sense of disappointment at the joy having had to come to an end. In this case of this book, however, it is the opposite that is true. I enjoyed the book very little while I read it but closed it with a sense of accomplishment and, after some significant time in reflection and discussion, came to appreciate the idea and purpose, even if I am far from inspired to once more take up the book.

Perhaps the most difficult and disconcerting aspect of the book is that it is not written as most novels are written. It is not, in other words, written as a story in the modern sense of that word. Instead, it is written in a manner that is perhaps more similar to a historical narrative than to other modern works of fiction. In many ways, the style, including pace, diction, and even subject matter, are quite similar to the way stories are told in the Old Testament of the Bible. While this is undoubtedly intentional on Márquez’s part, I could not help but feel that sticking so firmly to this style detracted from rather than contributed to the book.

At its best (the opening and closing, for example), the book is a stunning masterpiece. At other points, and all too frequently, it becomes bogged down in the sort of way that the Bible does when a list of begats spanning the entire page appears to break up the narrative. Unfortunately, and, again, much like its biblical source and inspiration, these are not times when the reader can, as he might naturally be inclined to, tune out; instead, each sentence is imbued with such meaning and significance to the totality of the book that any missing piece means dozens of pages of incomprehensible text. This is, of course, both a great strength and a weakness.

I can certainly understand why this book is considered one of the greatest works of Latin American prose. I can also understand why Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. But I feel no obligation to try to like the book for the sake of this understanding. And, in the end, while I am happy to have read it, I did not enjoy it and so I cannot recommend it.

Locke’s advice on teaching

The great skill of a teacher is to get and keep the attention of his scholar: whilst he has that, he is sure to advance as fast the learner’s abilities will carry him; and without that, all his bustle and pother will be to little or no purpose. To attain this, he should make the children comprehend, (as much as may be,) the usefulness of what he teaches him; and let him see, by what he has learned, that he can do something which he could not do before; something which gives him some power and real advantage above others, who are ignorant of it. To this he should add sweetness in all his instructions; and by a certain tenderness in his whole carriage, make the child sensible that he loves him, and designs nothing but his good; the only way to beget love in the child, which will make him hearken to his lessons, and relish what he teaches him.

John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, 161