Reviewing One Hundred Years Of Solitude is a bit like waking up in the morning, recalling a night of dreams deriving from some murky brain lobe where the rules of physics and politeness do not apply, and wondering how many stars to award. Applying numbers and categorisation to dreams is always going to be difficult. The song Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream popped into my mind as I struggled with my star awarding decision.
With no resolution to my quandary in sight, I indulged in some avoidance, idly looking up a Wikipedia article about Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream; and who would have thought it – that song is a good analogy for A Hundred Years Of Solitude. Bob Dylan’s lyrics, according to the article, describe “numerous bizarre encounters and happenings taking place in a highly sardonic, non-linear dreamscape, cataloguing the discovery, creation and merits of the United States.”
Just replace United States with Colombia and you have a description of A Hundred Years Of Solitude.
Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream was released on the Bringing It All Back Home album in 1965 – a few years before the publication of A Hundred Years Of Solitude, on 30th May 1967. Two days later, on 1st June 1967, the Beatles released Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I often thought of Sergeant Pepper during the strange experience of reading Marquez’s book. Sergeant Pepper is an album of the lonely modern age. People used to live on top of each other in open halls with no dividing walls. Now they tend to live more solitary lives in individual rooms, all bunched together in densely populated towns and cities. A Hundred Years Of Solitude features a rambling, old-world family living incestuously close to each other, who nevertheless tend to shut themselves away in rooms, where they engage in such things as obsessive metal work, or dwelling on past grievances. One character dreams of endless identical rooms, and ends up forgetting which room was the “real” one. At least a room of your own offers the chance to switch off and let your mind wander – which wouldn’t be possible out in the hurly burly where people would tell you to stop daydreaming and chop some wood. It’s like Sergeant Pepper’s Fixing a Hole where someone is “fixing a hole” in the roof of a room. Rain comes in through the gap and stops his mind from wandering.
That seemed to be what A Hundred Years Of Solitude was about – a dream version of Colombia’s history describing the contradictory nature of isolation.
Did I enjoy it? That’s a hard question to answer. Do I enjoy a dream which leaves me rattled and reflective when I wake up? Did psychologist Karl Jung enjoy one of the most influential dreams of his life in which God destroys Basel Cathedral by defecating on its roof?
I will say the book was a powerful experience, beautifully written, which takes solitary experience – like reading – and finds a kind of companionship in it.
I decided on five stars.