One Hundred Years of Solitude is a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, written in 1967. The book is considered by many to be Garcia's opus magnum, metaphorically encompassing all of human history. The novel spans one hundred years of the life of a small South American town. "One Hundred Years of Solitude" has been listed as an Oprah's Choice book.
All of the events of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" take place in a South American village, Macondo. The town is founded by Jose Arcadio Buendia, a strong-willed and impulsive leader who becomes deeply interested in the mysteries of the universe when a band of gypsies visits Macondo, led by the recurring Melquiades. As the town grows, the fledgling government of the country takes an interest in Macondo's affairs, but are held back by Jose Arcadio Buendia.
Civil war breaks out in the land, and Macondo soon takes a role in the war, sending a militia led by Colonel Aureliano Buendia, the son of Jose Arcadio Buendia, to fight against the conservative regime. While the Colonel is gone, Jose Arcadio Buendia goes insane and must be tied to a tree. Arcadio, the illegitimate grandchild of Buendia, takes leadership of the town but son becomes a brutal dictator. The Conservatives capture the town, and Arcadio is shot by a firing squad.
The wars continue, with Colonel Aureliano narrowly avoiding death multiple times, until, weary of the meaningless fighting, he arranges a peace treaty that will last until the end of the novel. After the treaty is signed, Aureliano shoots himself in the chest, but survives. The town develops into a sprawling center of activity as foreigners arrive by the thousands. The foreigners begin a banana plantation near Macondo. The town prospers until a strike arises at the banana plantation. The national army is called in, and the protesting workers are gunned down and thrown into the ocean. At this time, Ursula, the ancient wife of Jose Arcadio Buendia, remarks that "it was as if time was going in a circle".
After the banana worker massacre, the town is saturated by heavy rains that last for four years. Ursula says that she is waiting for the rains to stop so that she can die at last. The last member of the Buendia line, named Aureliano, is born at this time. When the rains stop, Ursula dies at last.
Aureliano is finally left in solitude at the crumbling Buendia house, and studies the parchments of Melquiades, who has appeared as a ghost to him. He gives up on this task to have a love affair with his aunt, unbeknownst to him. When she dies in childbirth, Aureliano is finally able to decipher the parchments. The house, and the town, disentigrate into a whirlwind as he translates the parchments, in which is contained the entire history of Macondo. As he finishes translating, the entire town is obliterated from the world.
Marquez writes in the style of magical realism, a style of writing that is analagous to surrealism in artwork. In magical realism, events such as levitation that seem impossible are commonplace, and things are not as they first seem. The theme illustrated in this style is that reality is subjective and is dependent upon the individual. Magical realism is common among Latin American authors, and is often patronized.
In "One Hundred Years of Solitude", time is almost impossible to keep track of. This is exemplified in the rapid switches in time in the narrative, the impossibly long lifespans of some characters, and the motif that "Time is moving in a circle". The characters in the novel often make the same errors as their ancestors, not learning from previous mistakes. A recurring motif is that of memory, which is often absent in Macondo.