I re-read this for a book club. The first time I read it was almost twenty years ago and I could not remember a lot of the details. My main memory was being blown away by the beauty of the language and imagery, and I had read the English translation. This time it was harder to read (possibly because I was a student and used to thinking a lot when I read it the first time, now I am a full-time mum and do less of this kind of thinking these days), but still wonderful.
This is the long and winding story of one family who establish a town in Colombia. Their offspring are all confusingly named after the founding couple’s children. There is a family tree at the front of the book, and I used it a lot, but I got confused several times about which Aureliano we were currently talking about.
I like the magical-reality genre, and Marquez is king of this style of writing. Each chapter is sort of a story on its own. The book almost follows a chronological time line (although, ultimately, time is cyclical) but the chapters feel like Marquez saying “… and then there was the time when…” He makes reference to things that have yet to happen (the Colonel’s firing squad, Remedios’ ascension) and then if you have not paid attention you are left wondering if you missed that bit, or if it is yet to come.
There is not a lot of dialogue on this book, and it is a very dense 400+ pages. Marquez writes long sentences and, what with jumping around in time, and all these characters with the same name you do have to work hard to keep up. But it is well worth the effort. I had to keep re-reading sentences to take in the poetry of the phrasing and to fully visualise whatever weirdness what being described to me.