For your banned book club: One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This book has been challenged or banned by people who object to its offensive language, disrespect for religious and political authority, and sexually explicit, emotionally disturbing scenes and themes, including war, death, incest and implications of the occult. In 1986, it was purged from Wasco, California’s Union High School book list because the Nobel Prize winning author’s book was seen as “garbage being passed off as literature.”  Our nickname for this book:  One Hundred Years of Reading.

What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it. – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Who is this Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

  • Gabriel José Garcia Márquez was born on March 6, 1928 in Aracataca, Northern Colombia. Lived in house of maternal grandfather, Colonel Nicolás Ricardo Márquez Mejía, for eight years. Several superstitious aunts lived with him; later he credited storytelling inspiration to grandmother.
  • 1936–1946, primary and secondary schooling in Colombian highlands; studied law; began writing for El Espectador, Bogotá newspaper.
  • 1950–1955 wrote for several newspapers; novelized and serialized account of Colombian sailor who survived ten days at sea; went on assignment in Europe, while friends published his novella, Leaf Storm.
  • 1956–1957 General Pinilla shut down presses of El Espectador; without income, Márquez stayed in Paris, writing No One Writes to the Colonel; on tour through socialist Europe, wrote 90 Days behind the Iron Curtain; after Pinilla stepped down in 1957, Marquez relocated in Caracas and wrote for Momento.
  • 1958, married Mercedes Barcha in Barranquilla.
  • 1959–1961, sent to Havana to report on Operación Verdad trials. In Bogotá, sets up Prensa Latina, Cuban press agency.
  • 1961-65, moved to Mexico City and published No One Writes to the Colonel; edited; worked in advertising and on film scripts; In Evil Hour awarded prize in Colombia, but published version was heavily edited and he repudiated it; published Big Mama’s Funeral; began work on One Hundred Years of Solitude.
  • 1967, One Hundred Years of Solitude published to global acclaim, winning several international awards.
  • 1967–1975, moved to Barcelona; awarded honorary degree from Columbia University in New York; published Innocent Eréndira; founded Alternativa, leftist newspaper in Bogotá.
  • 1975–present, spent time between Bogotá and Mexico City, working on diverse political causes, film scripts, weekly columns for international papers; published Chronicle of a Death Foretold and Love in the Time of Cholera, among several other works; awarded French Legion of Honor and Nobel Prize for Literature (1982).
  • 1999, diagnosed with lymphatic cancer.
  • 2001, published first volume of biography as Vivir Para Contarla, or To Live to Tell It, best selling book ever in Spanish-speaking world. Currently at work on Volume II, focusing on the writing of his major works, including One Hundred Years of Solitude.
  • The Simpsons citing – Lisa Simpson sits reading Love in the Time of Coloring Books

What do you think about One Hundred Years of Solitude?

  1. How does Marquez see religion, magic and spirituality in the novel?  Who is magical or spiritual? Who is not?  How are they portrayed? What can they accomplish and under what circumstances?
  2. What is the role of science and invention in the novel?  What do you think of the differences between the scientific and the magical and the religious in this novel?  In your world?
  3. Why does Marquez write about incest in the novel?  Who commits incest?  Why?  What are the repercussions? What does this have to do with the overall story? With Marquez’ apparent world view?
  4. What is the role of marriage in the novel?
  5. What does this novel suggest to you about Columbia generally?
  6. Why name the book 100 Years of Solitude?  What should we think about the different kinds of solitude in the novel?
  7. What about the Buendia family dynamics are specific to them? Which reflect family life everywhere and at any time? How do the Buendias relate to your experience and understanding of family life?
  8. What varieties of love occur in the novel? Does any kind of love transcend or transform daily life, politics, warfare, history, or time itself?
  9. Why does Marquez repeat the phrase “Many years later”? What is cyclic time? What expectations does it provoke? Does a teenager’s experience of time relate at all to the cyclic time of this book?
  10. Given the very long list of objectionable passages from 100 Years of Solitude quoted on the Parents Against Bad Books in Schools website, adults have a lot to worry about when kids pick up this novel.  How will an intelligent teenager be affected by the many mature themes of the novel?  What would happen if a less-than-mature reader picked up the book?

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