Friday, January 4, 2008

One Hundred Years of Loneliness

Gregory Rabassa is one of the twentieth century's great translators, and his translation of Gabriel García Márquez's Cien años de soledad is a masterpiece. Nevertheless, I've always had a problem with the novel's title in translation, One Hundred Years of Solitude. The word "soledad" means loneliness as well as solitude, and all you have to do is read the novel to see that it's clearly about loneliness as opposed to solitude. It should be titled One Hundred Years of Loneliness or, better yet, A Hundred Years of Loneliness. Has anyone else observed or commented on this? I wonder if the title was chosen by Rabassa, García Márquez, or the publisher (Rabassa was present at the ALTA conference in Dallas last November, though I didn't have the chance to speak to him). In any case, I'm sure it is far too entrenched to be changed with any future editions.


Vince Czyz said...

Sorry, but I disagree completely. I don't think the novel is about loneliness--I don't remember any particularly lonbely characters. It is about seclusion--or solitude. Macando is cut off from the world, it it is a world unto itself for the most part. But seclusion does not necessarily engender lonliness. I think isolation--and how the town and its families evolved in that isolation--is what Marquez and Rabassa were getting at.

Steven J Stewart said...

I agree with you as far as the novel being about isolation--I think that's it exactly. But both loneliness and solitude deal with isolation. Solitude is isolation that is chosen and desirable; it virtually always has positive connotations. Loneliness, on the other hand, is isolation that is unchosen and undesirable, and it virtually always has negative connotations.

I've never found the isolation in García Márquez's novel to be pleasing or desirable, and it's certainly not chosen. At risk of sounding like a literature professor or something, a great part of the brilliance of the novel is the way it gets at the pain of isolation inherent in the human condition, which translates to loneliness.

As far as lonely characters, most of the major characters are deeply lonely for all of or for long stretches of their lives. Think of José Arcadio Buendía tied to the tree, Ursula isolated and lonely in her old age, and Coronel Aureliano Buendía living in Macondo surrounded by people who cannot understand him.

Apart from all of this, it's also true that I prefer the word "loneliness" because of its rich Anglo-Saxon feel.

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