Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is a novel that Salman Rushdie called ‘the greatest novel in any language of the last fifty years’. The novel follows the life of the Buendia family in the small town of Macondo through one hundred years.

The story is filled with shocking revelations containing both science fiction and biographical-like elements. Marquez allows the reader to forget the science fictional features such as the flying carpet by presenting it in a manner that gives the reader no choice but to believe that it is in fact true. The Buendia family are all given variations of the same name, however, Marquez depicts the characters in such a distinct and unique way that the reader is always aware of whether the writer is referring to Jose Acardio Buendia or his son Jose Acardio or his son Acardio or his uncle Aureliano Buendia or his son Aureliano Jose or the other 17 Aurelianos who are also the sons of Aureliano Buendia.

The unexpected aspects of the plot makes it almost impossible for the reader to put the book down. The novel, although seemingly uninteresting at first glance, as it is a story of a small town, changes and transforms the town into a place one barely recognises in the end. It forces the reader to familiarise themselves with the landmarks and neighbours as if they were their own city landmarks and neighbours, their own streets and shops.

The structure of the novel is simplistic as it follows a chapter by chapter format. However, the new characters are not often introduced at the start of a new chapter but instead the readers are met with another Aureliano halfway through a story about a different Aureliano. Similarly, each generation is not given its own section, but as with the chapters, just flow through the book.

After first reading this book, I did not know what to make of it, but now, after much reflection, I can truly see why Rushdie called it “the greatest novel in any language in the last fifty years”. Although I do not agree with Rushdie’s statement, I do understand why he made the statement as the novel provides evidence of its greatness. I truly believe that when Christian Grey uttered the most cringe worthy lines in both literary and cinematic history, “I’m fifty shades of fucked up”, he was in fact referring to his emotional state after reading this book. Due to this, I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.

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Re-Education Through Rap

One thing I’ve been enjoying this week, is learning about Black History through rap. I’ve found myself falling in love with rap again and being moved by the poetry of the lyrics. It has been a re-education of things that I thought I once knew. One song that has been on repeat throughout the week is Gangland by Lecrae. The lyrics have taught me more about black history than any history lesson (and this is coming from someone who has an English and History Degree). Below is the first verse with links to key people and organisations you should read up on.  

He ain’t have no sense of dignity, his daddy was a mystery

He’ll probably end up dead or sittin’ in a penitentiary

And tell the judge he can go to hell for the sentence

And it probably make no sense to you but listen to the history

The new Jim Crow or the old one

People out here fightin’ for equality and honestly I think they owed some

Back and forth some

Cleaver got a message for the people

Bunchy with ’em and they tryna stop the evil

And they cliqued up with they fist up

The whole neighborhood feelin’ like they meant somethin’

Then it was a mix-up, Fed’s got ’em fixed up

End of the movement, back to the bricks, bruh

And Raymond Washington about to start the Crips up

They gettin’ bigger every day and tryna fix stuff

They saw Geronimo Pratt dodgin’ bullets from attacks

Guess they figure, “We don’t really want it this much” You know originally, the gangs were created to protect everybody in the community. There was lynching and bombing going on and the gangs were there to protect. What people don’t understand is that a lot of the leaders died. Medgar Evers (has been shot), Bunchy Carter (has been shot), Fred Hampton (has been shot), MLK (has been shot in Memphis Tennessee). These youngsters didn’t have any direction. No leaders to look up to so they imploded on themselves.

Thank you for reading.

If Not Now, Then When?

I stood on the packed metropolitan line train, going over the muddled and angry thoughts that were racing through my head. I hadn’t been this angry in a very long time. As commuters shuffled in and out of the train at Finchley Road, I scurried to find an empty seat. I sat down, took out my phone and contemplated my choices. If this was about me, I would have happily stayed silent, just as I had so many times before. Just as I had with all the racists remarks and comments I had endured during my time at work. But this wasn’t about me. This was about racism depriving someone else of an opportunity. Racism stopping a black man from getting a job he had worked hard for. I hadn’t imagined that a day of sitting on interview panels would leave me feeling so much pain and anger on behalf of someone else. I finally decided to act, not just for myself and all the times I had stayed silent, but for him. I unlocked my phone and wrote the email. With so much rage running through my veins, I didn’t have time to spellcheck. I clicked send, got off the train, and walked the rest of my journey home.

Not all of us are fortunate enough to have racism stand in the way of job opportunities. For some, racism takes a much darker turn, it kneels down on their neck as they cry out for breath, whilst the light of life fades from their eyes. This is not the first time that this has happened, and unfortunately, it will not be the last. Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and George Floyd are some of the few lucky enough to gain a hashtag. This has to stop. Not just police brutality, but the everyday racism, microaggressions and unconscious biases that leads one to believe that Black Lives Matter less.

The challenge we face is how does a society built on structural racism and injustice fight for justice. How can we, as organisms of organisations play a role. We all want the freedom to be who we are without abuse, assaults or oppression. Everyday we have a choice. A choice to speak up when we see that something is not right. Not to sit back as a Muslim woman is verbally assaulted on the train. A choice to learn more about other people’s experiences, to read books such as Americanah and Girl, Woman, Other, to watch documentaries such as Now They See Us, and 13th. We have a choice to sign petitions and to write to our political representatives urging them to act. These are small steps that will lead to a fairer society. One where white police officers are no longer allowed to murder unarmed black men. One where minorities can apply for jobs trusting that their qualifications and experience will be the deciding factor.

My choice led to a discussion, it led to an apology and most importantly, it led to changed behaviour. Now is the time to act and take a stand against injustice. Because if not now, then when? And if not you, then who?

Thank you for reading.

Book Review: White Teeth

White Teeth, a novel by Zadie Smith, unravels the lives of two soldiers who fought in World War II and the friendship that stems from their shared experience. The novel follows the two men back to London, intertwining their wives and children. It explores the racial identity of immigrants in the UK and the treatment of those who fought for the Empire.

Smith’s characters did not only grow up in the same area as me but went to school and hung out in all the places that I did. This meant that reading White Teeth ignited a sense of nostalgia of high school days and places long gone. Reading White Teeth felt like I was reading a story of my own coming of age, as a teenage growing up in Brent, I too felt the emotions of the characters as well as some of the experiences detailed in the novel.

One thing that took me a while to get used to was the style of writing. The Realism caught me off-guard as the last time I had read something similar was Zola’s L’Assommoir. Realism, although brilliantly used by Smith, is by far my least favourite writing style unless used by Balzac. Furthermore, the novel’s inconsistency in personal pronouns sometimes leaves the reader confused when trying to decipher whose perspective the chapter is in.

The biggest criticism I have for the novel is the lacklustre ending. In less than two pages, Zadie attempts to succinctly summarise years of experiences in a few lines leaving the audience with a sense of unfulfillment. The ending felt like a tv series that has been cancelled too soon, before viewers could have their questions answered.

Although I adored the familiarity of the places and experiences described in the novel, the style of writing made it difficult for me to get into the novel as it took almost 50 pages before I could begin to enjoy the novel. This is a novel I would recommend to a friend as I feel like it outlines part of my experiences growing up in Brent. However, due to its slow start and uninspiring ending, I would rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you for reading.

Nature’s Call

One of the best things that has happened due to lockdown is that I am able to spend more time with nature. I have been able to discover places in my local area that are filled with lush greeneries and even some body of water. Living in London usually contains the hurry and bustle of my everyday life, due to this, I have not explored the green spaces close by. Covid-19 has given me the opportunity to explore my local area and to fall in love with it.

One of my colleagues, realising where I lived, asked me if I’ve ever been to the reservoir, during our virtual team meeting. I, thinking she was insane as there was no body if water anywhere near me, told her that of course not because no such thing existed anywhere near me. After further instructions from her, I discovered the reservoir 15 minutes walk away from my house.

I also discovered a country park 22 minutes walk away from me (the opposite direction from the reservoir).

I could not believe that all this empty green space was so I close by, especially after discovering the reservoir.

I have loved every moment of walking around both the park and the reservoir. Although I desperately want the lockdown to end, I am very glad that I have somewhere beautiful to escape to in the meantime.

Thank you for reading.