This was the long-delayed fulfilment of a promise to myself to read Marquez who always seemed so off-putting. How wrong I was. Not that this long, strange novel isn’t without it’s challenges. There’s no plot as such, just a long stream of strange and wonderful things happening to the Buendía family over more than a century. The fact that the characters pass around just a handful of names across the generations and that those generations seem to stick around long after they’re supposed to makes it complicated to work out who’s who.
Despite, or rather, because of those complications and Marquez’ wonderful way with imagery and spinning a story, it’s a wholly immersive experience.
I suppose the key to understanding it lies in what the fortune-teller Pilar Ternera says. She’s one of the crucial non-Buendía characters who knows them better than they do.
There was no mystery in the heart of a Buendía that was impenetrable for her because a century of cards and experience had taught her that the history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progression and irremediable wearing of the axle.
It does feel as if it could go on forever, but for that wearing of the axle. I found that once I was caught up in the turning of the wheel I didn’t want it to stop. Spellbinding.
“What did you expect?’ he murmured. “Time passes.”
“That’s how it goes,” Ursula said,”but not so much.”