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In an essay in the March 30 issue of the New Yorker entitled “What Our Contagion Fables Are Really About,” Jill Lepore offers a wide-ranging, squirm-inducing discussion of the “literature of pestilence.” Early in the article she writes:

The literature of contagion is vile. A plague is like a lobotomy. It cuts away the higher realms, the loftiest capacities of humanity, and leaves only the animal. “Farewell to the giant powers of man,” Mary Shelley wrote in “The Last Man,” in 1826, after a disease has ravaged the world. “Farewell to the arts,—to eloquence.” Every story of epidemic is a story of illiteracy, language made powerless, man made brute.

But, then, the existence of books, no matter how grim the tale, is itself a sign, evidence that humanity endures, in the very contagion of reading. Reading may be an infection, the mind of the writer seeping, unstoppable, into the mind of the reader. And yet it is also—in its bidden intimacy, an intimacy in all other ways banned in times of plague—an antidote, proven, unfailing, and exquisite.

In case you can’t access the article via the link above, I’ve placed a pdf of it in the Google dollar for this class. I’d be eager to read any comment you might have.

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The Buendia Family

one-hundred-years-of-solitude-quotes-by-gabriel-garcia-marquez-1700079

Over the last year, I have noticed that foreign writers have a different writing style than American ones. They capture the human experience so differently, they write about it so beautifully that I wonder if they know something we don’t. Is it because their culture and heritage is older than America’s? Were they raised with such a different view of the world and the human experience? Whatever the answer, their novels speak to my heart in a way that no American author has before. From Nina George, to Aime Cesaire, Franz Fallon, Anton Chekhov, Alice Munro, Yoko Ogawa, and now Gabriel Garcia Marquez, my understanding of writing and all of the style choices that come with it has been expanded for the better. Especially now that I’ve finished One Hundred Years of Solitude, I realize how important it is to read all forms of literature, not just the ones you grew up with, and to read a diverse set of authors. Being a writer, I know reading international authors has opened my eyes to a variety of writing styles, choices, and themes. I haven’t yet read an international author whose work didn’t affect me in some way and Garcia Marquez is no exception.

Yes, his novel has numerous fantastical elements, yes, there is murder, incest, and all sorts of crazy things happening, yes, many of the characters have the same name, but none of that detracts from the heart of the story-it is a story about family. Whether by marriage, blood, or adoption, every character is part of the Buendia family. And they are all so real. Melquiades, with his wisdom and kindness, mentors several of the Buendia men. Jose Arcadio Buendia has his obsession with inventions and progress and alchemy that eventually leads him to go mad. Ursula Buendia, with her strength and fortitude, as well as being a mother, runs a business and the town, keeps her family as safe as she can, and puts them in their places without fear such as in the case of cruel Arcadio. Pilar Ternera, mother of two Buendia boys, always there to comfort and care for the Buendia boys, caretaker of the past. Aureliano Buendia, first a quiet boy, then a colonel in a civil war, the first character we mete, and one of the most memorable. The love Rebeca and Amaranta both feel towards Pietro Crespi that strains their relationship. Rebeca being Pietro’s love until she sees Jose Arcadio and marries him out of passion. Amaranta loving Pietro Crespi but selfishly refusing to accept his marriage proposal, which ultimately sends him to his death. Jose Arcadio pining for a forbidden love and is then murdered in a bath by people he had cared for. All the way up to Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano, every Buendia family member is real. And for Garcia Marquez to make all of them real, to make them all three dimensional, to make the reader care about them all, that takes a brilliant talent for writing.

Many passages of this novel I wrote down to remember, and several of my favorites are at the end. All of them have to do with memory, nostalgia, the past, solitude. The first one is Fernanda :

“She had simply turned the royal regalia into a device for her memory. The first time that she put it on she could not help a knot from forming in her heart and her eyes filling with tears because at that moment she smelled once more the odor of shoe polish on the boots of the officer who came to get her at her house to make her a queen, and her soul brightened with the nostalgia of lost dreams. She felt so old, so worn out, so far away from the best moments of her life that she even yearned for those that she remembered as the worst, and only then did she discover how much she missed the whiff of oregano on the porch and the smell of the roses at dusk, and even the bestial nature of the parvenus. Her heart of compressed ash, which had resisted the most telling blows of daily reality without strain, fell apart with the first waves of nostalgia. The need to feel was becoming a vice as the years eroded her. She became human in her solitude.” (363)

The second is between Aureliano and Jose Arcadio:

“That drawing closer together of two solitary people of the same blood was far from friendship, but it did allow them both to bear up better under the unfathomable solitude that separated and united them at the same time.” (373)

The wise Catalonian has some beautiful words to say:

“One winter night while the soup was boiling in the fireplace, he missed the heat of the back of his store, the buzzing of the sun on the dusty almond trees, the whistle of the train during the lethargy of siesta time, just as in Macondo he had missed the winter soup in the fireplace, the cries of the coffee vendor, and the fleeting larks of springtime. Upset by two nostalgias facing each other like two mirrors, he lost his marvelous sense of unreality and he ended up recommending to all of them that they leave Macondo, that they forget everything he had taught them about the world and the human heart, the shit on Horace, and that wherever they might be they always remember that the past was a lie, that memory has no return, that every spring gone by could never be recovered, and that the wildest and most tenacious love was an ephemeral truth in the end.” (403)

The last is a realization by Aureliano Buendia:

“…and in that flash of lucidity he became aware that he was unable to bear in his soul the crushing weight of so much past. Wounded by the fatal lances of his own nostalgia and that of others, he admired the persistence of the spiderwebs on the dead rosebushes, the perseverance of the rye grass, the patience of the air in the radiant February dawn.” (414)

These quotes capture the overall feeling of the last several chapters.

While I’m not an expert in literature yet, I think it’s appropriate to say that Gabriel Garcia Marquez perfectly and beautifully captures one hundred years worth of family history.

OHYOS

IMG_2555I enjoyed this book. It did take me time to read it, and there were parts that I had to re-read because of the timeline jumping, but I liked the imagery and storyline. Out of all of the notes I made inside the book, this particular statement in the back summed it all up for me. As the New York Review of Books once said, “[Gabriel Garcia Marquez] forces upon us at every page the wonder and extravagance of life.” Which I agree with.

 

 

The Honesty of OHYOS

cien anos de soledadWe have deemed this loss of time and type of isolation elements of the fantastic. However, I would argue that Gabriel García Márquez has managed to tell us the story of not only Colombia’s history but the history of many Central and South American countries. Of which were contempt living as they were before tourism, business, and conquistadors decided they could “help.”

Therefore, the idea of foreigners bringing in things such as an English encyclopedia that could infringe on their culture, or the railroad that led to the banana plantation can have devastating and deadly consequences. Many might believe that an English encyclopedia could be used for nothing more than education, but for many, it is the tool provided by outsiders so that they may acclimate and adjust themselves for the foreigners. These countries have been interrupted, and wars started because they end up fighting to survive, to regain what has been taken from them.

This idea of being stuck so far in the past is the reality for many third-world or “developing” countries that do not have access to technologies and resources that the United States does. Nevertheless, the past of one country may be the future of another, and it just takes them a little while longer to get there.

Gabriel García Márquez has written One Hundred Years of Solitude, as some argue, an easier pill to swallow about the truths of Colombia and other countries.

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IMG-2842In the ending of One Hundred Years of Solitude, I think that Gabriel Garcia Marquez wants one to know that things take time and quite to be done. I also think that he is saying that you may not always be able to teach your findings to anyone that wants to learn it as one may not have another one hundred years to teach his findings and what he has written down on the parchment paper. The characters wanted you to know that these actions are not able to be repeated, as time doesn’t repeat, it will continue and what has happened can’t come back to happen again.

The ending of One Hundred Years of Solitude shows in this one line that you will have to put yourself in a room by yourself and work on something for one hundred years to fully understand why the same person couldn’t recreate and explain their findings.

 

Until death do us part?

With this novel dealing with multiple elements relating to the fantastic, one component that stood out to me was death, or the use of “death” and the ritual surrounding it.

Melquíades’ death, as it was described, was anticipated, but “ the process of aging had taken place in him that was so rapid and critical.” His deterioration was, from what I read, something that happened in a matter of weeks, leading up to his death. While the death itself wouldn’t be considered something fatastic, it was how he was found that was.

That day he went into the water at a bad spot and they did not find him until the following day, a few miles downstream, washed up on a bright bend in the river and with a solitary vulture sitting on his stomach.

When looking this up, I found that the vulture is a symbol of rebirth and purification. Thus, this could be an implication that Melquíades has passed on to become immortal (a spirit). The whole ritual of Melquíades’s death was unusual, with the celebration lasting nine nights. This, again, is something that implies spiritual enlightenment and awakening.

Melquíades remaining as a spirit is later seen in the novel: 

No one had gone into the room again since they had taken Melquíades’ body out and had put on the door a padlock whose parts had become fused together with rust. But when Aureliano Segundo opened the windows a familiar light entered that seemed accustomed to lighting the room every day and there was not the slightest trace of dust or cobwebs, with everything swept and clean, better swept and cleaner than on the day of the burial, and the ink had not dried up in the inkwell nor had oxidation diminished the shine of the metals nor had the embers gone out under the water pipe where José Arcadio Buendía had vaporized mercury.

 

 

 

In my last blog post, I talked about the theme of circular time in One Hundred Years of Solitude. This theme can also be seen in the last pages of the novel, as Aureliano reads Melquiades’s parchments:

Aureliano had never been more lucid in any act of his life as when he forgot about his dead ones and the pain of his dead ones and nailed up the doors and windows again with Fernanda’s crossed boards so as not to be disturbed by any temptations of the world, for he knew then that his fat was written in Melquiades’s parchments…. It was the history of the family, written by Melquiades, down to the most trivial details, one hundred years ahead of time. (415)

The parchments not only tell the story of the family over the course of one hundred years but told them “in such a way that they coexisted in one instant.” (415) While reading the parchments, Aureliano learns about his ancestors, as well as his short future:

Then he skipped again to anticipate the predictions and ascertain the date and circumstances of his death. Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth. (416-417)

All of this proves how time functions circularly in this novel, and I’m particularly interested in the fact that the parchments were written as if everything was taking place at once. This ties into how face-paced the novel feels and how easy it is to get the actions of separate characters confused; it’s all happening in the blink of an eye.

OHYOS

OHYOS

Although the novel has many sad parts, the ending where Aureliano knew he would die touched me the most. Maybe because it was the end of the story or perhaps because it was the end of the family.

“Then he skipped again to anticipate the predictions and ascertain the date and circumstances of his death. Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room… “

positive-thinking

There is an advantage for an author using the novel form with the fantastic versus a short story or combination of stories as we have read previously in class. One advantage is the author’s ability to use foreshadowing and dropping hints of the fantastic. In OHYOS there are many fantastical elements at play. An example of the fantastic is the use of time. The past is constantly interwoven with the present and the future is mentioned. The fantastic, of course, depends on the story’s relation to the context of what is reality in this world. There are things that intertwine from the reality of the readers and the reality in OHYOS. “Around that time a merry, foul-mouthed, provocative woman came to the house to help with the cholera, and she knew how to read the future in cards.” We, in our reality, have psychics who claim to read the future through cards. Some people believe without a doubt that these people can actually see the future and can communicate that to us. We have people we know about in our reality that do this, even if we don’t have a direct link to them like in the realm of normalcy for OHYOS.

Our fantastic is different from OHYOS’s realm of fantastic. The insomnia plague was one that I was particularly interested in this story.

“’If we don’t ever sleep again, so much the better,’ José Arcadio Buendía said in good humor. ‘That way we can get more out of life.’ But the Indian woman explained that the most fearsome part of the sickness of insomnia was not the impossibility of sleeping, for the body did not feel any fatigue at all, but its inexorable evolution toward a more critical manifestation: a loss of memory.”

The idea that the characters are excited about not sleeping when it is usually a much-needed break from things caught my attention, and I realized that it was a way of turning the idea of a plague on its head. A plague is usually referred to when a disease comes with death. This was the death of that break from life rather than a physical death. It was the death of a fragment of reality. A death relating to a part of reality can be just as effective as the death of a person. It is what we know and what we rely on to show the edges of normalcy. There are no fantastic elements if the boundaries of the reality are undefined — even blurry boundaries are boundaries that are required.

One Hundred Years of Solitude focuses more on the men of the story.  They are the ones that go out, get married, make bad decisions, join wars etc etc. However I found women to be the most interesting characters of whole story. Especially seeing what qualities were considered to be the most “virtuous”. Marquez uses a lot of Christian metaphors/references to portray his characters but what makes that interesting is that he doesn’t equate Godly with Good.

One of the most consistent characters is Ursula. She represents a perfect matriarchy, she protects and cares for her entire family without hesitation up until the day she dies at over 100 years old. Now, I think she should be one of the most revered and rewarded characters of the novel, and in a way she is. She only seems to make one mistake and that’s marrying and procreating with her first cousin. She is punished by being forced to live through her decedents doing crazy and disgusting things, being completely inbred, killing people, and getting involved with crazy drama. But in a way her extreme old age is a reward, she gets to watch generation after generation of her children grow up. I also related Ursula and Jose Arcadio Buendía to Adam and Eve characters who arrive in the promise land and begin to populate. So just like Adam and Eve, we can really try to forgive the incest thing.

When I was reading this book I expected the most religious and typically virtuous women to be perceived as the “good” characters. However this wasn’t the case, as proven by Fernanda Del Carpio. She strictly adheres to the catholic faith and tries to teach her children to share her beliefs. She is cold and distant and comes across as a prude. Her husband leaves her despite their shared children and she is disliked for having Meme’s lover killed. So clearly Marques doesn’t link spirituality with virtue. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t use some Christian imagery with virtue. Remedios the beauty is written as literally a heavenly character, eventually she just floats up into the sky. Although beautiful enough that men risk their lives just to see her, she remains completely ignorant of all sin. Like Adam and Eve before eating from the tree of knowledge, she is unaware of sin and particularly her own nakedness. Even though she is never described as any sort of Godly, Marquez uses Godly imagery to represent qualities he admires.

I may be reaching a little too far, but I related the conclusion of the novel to the Bible story of Sodom and Gomorrah and eventually tried to relate it to the bible’s predicted apocalypse. In the story of Sodom, the town had become so sinful and run down that God finally destroyed it in a terrible storm, killing all the sinners inside of it. Marquez even describes that final wind and destruction as “that Biblical hurricane”. As I was reading the ending, I was looking for seals of the apocalypse, or anything biblical that might predict the end of times. Well, I didn’t find any horsemen or swallowing up of seas and falling of mountains, but I did find several curses reminiscent of those God placed on Egypt. The first of which is rivers turning into blood, which I found in Amaranta Ursula’s Death

… Because Amaranta Ursula was bleeding in an uncontainable torrent. They tried to help her with applications of spiderwebs and balls of ash, but it was like trying to hold back a spring with ones hands.

Many of the other plagues include bugs/animals. There is a plague of locusts, frogs, flies and lice. I rolled all of these into the presence of ants in their home and eventually, as the book is ending, the yellow butterflies. Another plague is “Murrain” or livestock pestilence/death. Which happens when Jose Arcadio Segundo and his lover Petra find all their animals dead. I didn’t find any connections between the plagues boils, hail and darkness that wouldn’t be extreme reaches. Maybe darkness could be the 5 years of rain? and Hail could be the reoccurring theme of ice? I’ve got nothing for boils though. However, the final and most devestating plague God sent to Egypt was passover, the killing of firstborn sons. Which is clearly represented with the death of Aureliano and Amaranta’s child.

A Good Ghost Story

A good ghost story is something that has always been able to captivate me. It’s no surprise that the short section about Prudencio Aguilar was such a delight. However, there is something to the way that Garcia Marquez designed the encounter that stands out as both melancholy and terrifying. The terrifying part is in Aguilar’s lack of action. As readers, we know how to handle a vengeful ghost trying to wreak havoc on the living who murdered it. Dealing with a ghost simply lingering in the world is much more difficult.

The interaction with Aguilar reminded me of another Latino creator, Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro deals in the fantastic too, although mostly in the form of films, and two of his movies have dealt with ghosts. There is a book about his first ghost film, The Devil’s Backbone. In the foreword, del Toro wrote “The ghost is not the scariest thing in the tale. It is human cruelty.” Ghosts are treated with a level of kindness in del Toro’s works, as is Aguilar in Garcia Marquez’s.

It is wildly interesting that Jose Arcadio Buendia noted that the ghost must be suffering a great deal. The Buendias worked to treat the ghost well, to the point of leaving town. Having this ghost simply linger in pain allows for a show of compassion from the Buendias that might be less accessible in a non-fantastic setting. What benefit is there to giving water to a ghost that can’t leave? There is none, and the action is only done for the sake of kindness. The ghost story isn’t good because Aguilar is scary. It is good because of the gentle sorrow in the imagery of a ghost trying forever to clean their death wound and the only help coming from those who killed it.

Link to del Toro’s foreword: https://ew.com/books/2017/09/05/guillermo-del-toro-foreword-devils-backbone-book/

In my opinion, Melquiades was one of the most important characters of the book. The fantastic components of the story often involved him and there were many things he seemed to know about that the other citizens didn’t.  He was the one to introduce the inventions to Jose Arcadio Buendia and start his fascination with the sciences, launching the beginning threads of the book. He is responsible for changes and developments of Macando during the beginning of the story, as well. He is a supernatural being in the story that often helps the citizens of Macondo by bringing inventions to them.

One of the most interesting things about Melquiades was when he disappeared, assumed to be dead, then reappears after it was said he had died from a fever. He returns to Macando and lives with the family in a room especially for him to live in. He is considered the first death on Macondo, though he shows a couple of false deaths throughout the book and survives experiences that mortals wouldn’t survive as he does. After his first death, he becomes a ghost and begins frequenting the laboratory after Aureliano Buendia starts working in it.

“One hot noontime, while he was poring over the manuscripts, he sensed that he was not alone in the room. Against the light from the window, sitting with his hands on his knees, was Melquiades.”

He also seems to always have the right inventions, such as in chapter 3 when he returns from a journey with an antidote to the insomnia plague the village is suffering from. He brings the village many different inventions to improve their lives, though some people are skeptical at first, such as Ursula when Jose Arcadio Buendia begins his fascination with them. He also shows up with a daguerreotype, an invention the people of Macondo had never seen before.

Of course, as we all know the entire novel OHYOS is fantastic —  from the timeline, the gypsies, the incest, and the naiveté of the people of Macondo. In the second half of OHYOS there is many fantastic elements in the story. For example, when José Arcadio dies, the blood from his ear forms a trail that leads its way to the home of Úrsula, even “hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs…. They found no wound on his body nor could they locate the weapon.” Also fantastic is the smell of gun powder that is so strong and will not go away, as are the extreme measures they use to try to remove the smell from his body:  “Finally they put him in a barrel of lye and let him stay for six hours.” The smell, though, will not leave. “Although in the months that followed they reinforced the grave with walls about it, between which they threw compressed ash, sawdust, and quicklime, the cemetery still smelled of powder for many years after, until the engineers from the banana company covered the grave over with a shell of concrete.”

When Colonel Aureliano Buendía wrote Úrsula telling her papa was going to die and they moved him to the bedroom, “…he had developed the faculty of being able to increase his weight at will, to such a degree that seven men were unable to lift him and they had to drag him to the bed.” When José Arcadio Buendía did pass, it rained tiny yellow flowers that “covered the roofs and blocked the doors and smothered the animals who slept outdoors.”

Another example of the fantastic, near the end of the book, is when Amaranta Úrsula gives birth to a son born with the tail of a pig from inbreeding, although the baby’s parents were unaware of the family’s history. The child is carried off by ants and eaten. “It was a dry and bloated bag of skin that all the ants in the world were dragging toward their holes along the stone path in the garden.”
Odd how the story starts with the Colonel Aureliano Buendía facing death and ends with death, the last member of the family being eaten by ants.

Two in One

CLOCK IMAGE

We were asked to offer our list of the fantastic or add to JGB’s list in one or two ways… I want to offer an alternative of how two of the fantastic elements that he offered may also be considered one. The idea of “reanimation” and “elasticity of time” happen to coincide in the sense that one needs the other to survive.

The idea of a predetermined fate is widely accepted through Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. As time and nature are cyclical, the nature of their names are cycled through, as well as their fates and the history of the town, suggesting that there is technically no free will and that all their actions, ideas, and experiences are predetermined by the cycle before them. This type of recycling of experiences, of truths, and of time is what might be deemed to be fantastic. We also have a type of overlapping of time and crossing of dimensions in a malleable form. We understand it when José Arcadio Buendía’s spirit from the past appears in the present and is spoken about in the present. And again with the gypsy, Melquíades’ spirit is past, but it is also current since he is the author of the manuscripts.

Additionally, the moments that are described in which it is just as difficult to think of the past as it is the future, this sense of amnesia and the loss of time, fall into this fantastic.

It is only at the end of the novel that we fully comprehend that there are two kinds of time in Macondo, linear and cyclical, which are always happening simultaneously. The notion of ‘reanimation’ depends of the elasticity and recyclability of time, and of story.

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, some of the big conversations are about how reality meets fantasy. Another conversation relating to that is how does the past meet the present (and how the present meets the future). This is where the Gypsies come into play. For years in the fictional town of Macondo, groups of Gypsies would flock to the town and turn it into a sort of carnival. They would show the town’s residents many things, including magic carpets. The Gypsies were the resident’s only contact with the outside world, thus blurring the Lin’s between what was real and what was fantasy. This was of course all before Macondo had their own road to reach the outside world, so all they had were the Gypsies. After reaching the outside world, the lines would blur even more. Was what the Gypsies showed them actually real?

The Gypsies also act as a bridge between characters and events. When certain characters or ideas and events seem unrelated, it was always the Gypsies that connected them. But it’s not just the Gypsies that introduce the fantastic, many other things happen over the course of this story. But since the Gypsies are living, breathing people that have introduced fantastical elements to them before, it would be easier to blame them. The only way the process of believing these Gypsies works, is the fact that Macondo is isolated from the rest of the world.

We first meet the character of Pilar Ternera on page 25 of the novel.

Around that time a merry, foul-mouthed, provocative woman came to the house to help with the chores, and she knew how to read the future in cards.

Initially, Pilar took on the role of seductress: she sleeps with Jose Acardio, a boy of only 14, and becomes pregnant with his child. She later engages with Aureliano in the same manner, making her the mother of two sons of the Buendia family. We learn that she came to Macondo “in order to separate her from the man who raped her at fourteen and had continued to love her until she was 22[.]” (28). One could argue that Pilar is continuing this cycle in her relationship with Jose Acardio, taking advantage of a child on the brink of adulthood like she herself had been.

What’s interesting to me about Pilar is, despite her main trait being promiscuity– we learn at one point in the novel that her family includes two children whose fathers are unknown even to her– she still seems to hold a lot of tenderness for the Buendia boys. We get our first hints of this on page 29, when she is the one to treat Jose Acardio’s wounds following a strike from his father, and again on page 35 when Pilar, already pregnant by an absentee father, takes Ursula’s chores up as her own while Ursula is gone to try and find her oldest son– though, she may have been trying to get in their good graces, as she left Jose Acardio’s son to be raised by his grandparents.

The most striking example of Pilar’s care comes on page 67, when Aureliano comes to visit her.

His clothes were smeared with mud and vomit. Pilar Ternera, who lived alone at that time with her younger children, did not ask him any questions. She took him to the bed. She cleaned his face with a damp cloth, took off his clothes, and then got completely undressed and lowered the mosquito netting so her children would not see them if they woke up….. She felt for Aureliano in the darkness, put her hand on his stomach and kissed him on the neck with a maternal tenderness. “My poor child,” she murmured.

In this passage we see Pilar, a friend to Aureliano, helping him in the one way she knows how to. Unlike her time with Jose Acardio, this encounter reads not as driven by lust but instead driven by care.

Pilar had been a family friend even before she took with Jose Acardio, and it’s unclear the extent to which her loyalty lies with the men of the family or the women. Perhaps she, like all of Macondo, is intertwined with the fate of the Buendia family. In any case, there’s no denying her a spot on the family tree.

One Hundred Years of Solitude demonstrates the extent to which the fragile distinction between reality and fantasy depends on the context and assumptions of time and place. The banana company, as well as Fernanda’s delusions of being a queen, are both powerful examples of how even frustrated ambition ultimately leads a person to succumb to a life of fantasy. The fantastic serves as a way to make exaggerations of real situations seem well… logical. García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude has a fantasy that becomes symbolic of our rational illusions. José Arcadio’s solution to the insomnia plague, for example, is to simply label everything with inked signs. But that in itself is not enough to ensure that people will remember the thing’s function, as well. Clearly, this leads us back to the story of the world, or, in the novel, the resumption of the story of the Buendias and Macondo families. One of many notes I can say about the overall composition of the story is how the line between real truth and consciousness had blurred together and kept the reader interested in turning the page. From my understanding, part of the fantastic is to create a present that seems so real while sounding chaotic and random at the same time. To quote the gypsy Melquiades, ” The world has a life of its own.”

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Time is in flux in One Hundred Years of Solitude. The future is continuously referenced throughout the novel, and the current events are written in the past tense. Because of this, we never quite have a firm stance. Garcia Marquez prepares us for this in the opening line that is both future and past. These references are never long, and often come in the same sentence as the current event. It’s an interesting writing style that Garcia Marquez utilizes; perhaps he wants to show that all things connect.

On page twelve, when Jose Arcadio Buendia and his men are looking for the sea, we get a glimpse of the future:

“The discovery of the galleon, an indication of the proximity of the sea, broke Jose Arcadio Buendia’s drive. He considered it a trick of his whimsical fate to have searched for the sea without finding it…Many years later, Colonel Aureliano Buendia crossed the region again, when it was already a regular mail route, and the only part of the ship he found was its burned-out frame in the midst of a field of poppies.”

A current action and a future event are connected. Not to mention, Colonel Aureliano is once again referenced in connection to the beginning. This is to increase the mystery surrounding him and makes us ponder his actions. Why is he crossing the region?

This again happens on page fifteen. We are engrossed in current actions and then are suddenly given a taste of the future. Jose Arcadio Buendia teaches the children what he knows:

“In the small separate room, where the walls were gradually being covered by strange maps and fabulous drawings, he taught them to read and write and do sums, and he spoke to them about the wonders of the world, not only where his learning had extended, but forcing the limits of his imagination to the extremes…Those hallucinating sessions remained printed on the memories of the boys in such a way that many years later, a second before the regular army officer gave the firing squad the command to fire, Colonel Aureliano Buendia saw once more that warm March afternoon on which his father had interrupted the lesson in physics and stood fascinated…”

Garcia Marquez uses these future moments to not only show the importance of a person, but to also reveal more details. Here we get more details of Colonel Aureliano Buendia in front of the firing squad that add on to the mystery that was introduced in the opening line.

But connecting present events to future events is not only what Garcia Marquez does. He also connects past events to the future. He does this on page twenty-four when we are being told the story of how the people of Macondo journeyed from their ancestral home to found the town:

“One night, after several months of lost wandering through the swamps, far away now from the last Indians they had met on their way, they camped on the banks of a stony river whose waters were like a torrent of frozen glass. Years later, during the second civil war, Colonel Aureliano Buendia tried to follow that same route in order to take Riohacha by surprise and after six days of traveling he understood that it was madness.”

In this way, because he weaves past, present, and future together, Garcia Marquez creates a richer story. We aren’t just the present; we are our past and future. Note again the additional details of Colonel Aureliano Buendia.

The next time we get details about Colonel Aureliano Buendia, it’s not about his actions. Garcia Marquez tells us about the man this time, and the man is not different than the Aureliano we have previously seen. As it’s written on page fifty, “He had the same languor and the same clairvoyant look that he would have years later as he faced the firing squad.” What does this future detail tell us about the current Aureliano? That his current and future self are not that different and it’s strangely comforting to know that.

Garcia Marquez uses the future to connect, to add, but also to shock. On page seventy-one, Arcadio works with Aureliano in his workshop and interacts with Melquiades:

“Arcadio got a little closer to him when he began to help Aureliano in his silverwork. Melquiades answered that effort at communication…One afternoon, however, he seemed to be illuminated by a sudden emotion. Years later, facing the firing squad, Arcadio would remember the trembling with which Melquiades made him listen to several pages of his impenetrable writing, which of course he did not understand, but which when read aloud were like encyclicals being chanted.”

Now we know Arcadio is with Colonel Aureliano Buendia in front of the firing squad. Why is he there? What did he do? We have so many questions and no answers.

People assume time is linear, that the past, present, and future never cross. Garcia Marquez takes this line and bends it. By weaving these events together, you can create a richer, deeper, more interesting story. And why not? The past is always with us and we are always thinking of the future. The writing choice Garcia Marquez makes to make time in flux is one of the reasons One Hundred Years of Solitude is such a literary classic.

 

The concept of mental health in this book was a constantly present theme, particularly in the beginning of the book. There are times, however, when the mental health turns into a fantastic element. The ‘insomnia plague’ was the first major thing I noticed. The people were all concerned about catching a sickness that would cause a lack of sleep and memory loss. The supernatural line isn’t crossed until it affects the entire town. The Indian in their house predicted the entire town getting it, and eventually the entire town got it. This resulted in the town labeling everything to remember the purpose of certain things. The character Melquiades eventually returns with an antidote.

“No one was alarmed at first. On the contrary, they were happy at not sleeping because there was so much to do in Macondo in those days that there was barely enough time.”

Another consideration of mental soundness was Jose Arcadio Buendia and his frenzies of obsession. In the beginning of the book, he became so interested in the things the gypsies bought, he did dangerous things and wasted money and resources.  He often got so absorbed in his work that he stressed needlessly until the point of breakdown. This happened on page 78 when he began thinking too hard about time and began to smash his laboratory to bits.

“On Friday, before anyone arose, he watched the appearance of nature again until he did not have the slightest doubt that it was Monday. Then he grabbed the bar from a door and with the savage violence of his uncommon strength, he smashed to dust the equipment in the alchemy laboratory, the daguerreotype room, the silver workshop, shouting like a man possessed in some high-sounding and fluent but completely incomprehensible language.”

There is also a character in the book named Rebeca. When she is first bought to the village, she acts feral and eats dirt when she is stressed. This habit, while it was minimized for a period, came back for her whenever she experienced high levels of upset or fear.

Overall, the mental health parts of the story added to the complication of the characters. It made them quirky and interesting, and gave them more to their personalities. The fantastic was involved when the entire town caught insomnia and it turned into a plague of forgetfulness. None of the citizens could remember people or situations they were in and an antidote was bought for them eventually, showing the unrealistic nature of the insomnia they were experiencing.

In One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the story is written in a way that shows the time that is being written about.   Marquez is showing this in his writing by having the men be the ones that go to war and doing all of the masculine things and making things in the household, while the women are doing things around the house and doing what will make the men happy.  The woman was also the one that would be taking care of the children during these times. Women also weren’t the ones that were driving around; they always would have the man drive to their destination. Marquez is showing that during this time period there were major gender roles and both genders weren’t allowed to stray away from what was known as normal for their own gender.  You can tell that all of these things are quite different in today’s world and some of these are very obsolete. By these things being obsolete in today’s society it shows that people nowadays have to do what works for the family and what each individual wants to do with their lives. The world has gone away from these gender roles and doesn’t have anything that is really normal for a specific gender.  

That was during the time that Meme was beginning to frequent Mr. Brown’s house and it was still considered improper for a lady to drive a car. (285)

Another thing in One Hundred Years of Solitude that I noticed was that Colonel Gerineldo Marquez shared the last name of the author. Gabriel Garcia Marquez could have done this if he wanted to put part of his past into his novel. He could have done this to show that his background from his lifetime was very similar to what he was writing and he wanted to show that he has had a similar experience with what he is writing about.   

 

“Looking at the sketch that Aureliano Triste drew on the table and that was a direct descendant of the plans with which Jose Arcadio Buendia had illustrated his project for solar warfare, Ursula confirmed her impression that time was going in a circle,” writes Gabriel Garcia Marquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude, and as Ursula’s impressions of time are confirmed, so are our own (221).

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a complicated story, filled with characters who all seem to have the same name and plot points that almost seem to repeat themselves as time progresses in the novel. While there are countless strange and fantastic occurrences throughout the story, I found time to be one of the most interesting aspects. Part of this does have to do with the characters; as Ursula points out in the scene quoted above, certain things about certain characters remind us of previous characters, ones who might have been almost forgotten or confused with another in the scramble of repeated names. Then with these new events with new characters unfolding, we are suddenly reminded of the other character and how the events surrounding them played out. When two (or three, or ten) characters have the same name, it is also easy to forget who did what; one Aureliano could do something and for a moment, we might think it was another. The similarity of the characters’ names adds to the circularity of time because we realize how easily another character could have done the exact same thing years earlier.

The circularity of time also plays a role in the plot, as well. Early on in the novel, when people begin to forget things, they turn to fortune telling, not to learn things about their future but to learn things about their past:

“Pilar Ternera was the one who contributed most to popularize that mystification when she conceived the trick of reading the past in cards as she had read the future before. By means of that recourse the insomniacs began to live in a world built on the uncertain alternatives of the cards, where a father was remembered faintly as the dark man who had arrived at the beginning of April and a mother was remembered only as the dark woman who wore a gold ring on her left hand, and where a birth date was reduced to the last Tuesday on which a lark sang in the laurel tree” (47-48).

These new “discoveries” now become these people’s pasts and affect how they will think of the past in the future, complicating how time is viewed.

There is also the matter of the vision Fernanda sees as a little girl:

“When she was a little girl, on one moonlit night, Fernanda saw a beautiful woman dressed in white crossing the garden toward the chapel. What bothered her most about that fleeting vision was that she felt it was exactly like her, as if she had seen herself twenty years in advance. ‘It was your great-grandmother the queen,’ her mother told her during a truce in her coughing. ‘She died of some bad vapors while she was cutting a string of bulbs.’ Many years later, when she began to feel she was the equal of her great-grandmother, Fernanda doubted her childhood vision, but her mother scolded her disbelief” (206).

This vision, too, regardless of whether it was Fernanda from the future or her grandmother from the past, shows how circular time is.

The way we as readers come to understand things also deals with the matter of time. For example, the opening line of the novel is “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” Because we have this sentence, we know the events we are about to read have already happened, but we do not yet know when these “many years later” are occurring.

I’m sure there are countless other examples of how time relates to One Hundred Years of Solitude, and each example shows how closely intertwined the lives of these characters are.

merlin_170809125_366bff89-5229-489f-86a8-cb4bb23b9c97-superJumboThis morning I came across a brief article online about social distancing and its relation to Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police. Published at Slate, the article is titled “The Dystopian Novel for the Social Distancing Era,” and the author, a D.C.-based writer by the name of Joshua Keating, draws parallels between the permanent disappearances in Ogawa’s novel and the presumably temporary disappearances from our lives as a result of local, state, and national efforts to diminish the spread of the coronavirus. “Perhaps on the front lines in Wuhan, or Milan, or even Seattle,” he writes, “the coronavirus outbreak feels as nightmarish as Contagion, or Station Eleven. Perhaps it will feel that way where I live, in D.C., soon. For now, the outbreak feels more like The Memory Police—things disappearing from our lives before we can even process them.”

The article ends in this manner:

I support social distancing. I want to #flattenthecurve. I’ve read the terrifying accounts from Italy and Wuhan and I don’t value my afternoon coffee break or my dinner plans over anyone’s life. But I still worry about which of the things that disappeared this week are, like the objects in Ogawa’s novel, never going to reappear.

The Memory Police is a political novel as well, and I can’t stop thinking about that either. In the face of a terrifying threat, I see people who have spent the better part of the past three years fretting about the disappearance of democratic norms and civil liberties angrily demanding new restrictions on their lives. I understand why they’re doing it, but I hope they don’t undervalue, or even forget, the things that were so important just a few weeks ago.

It is, as Keating suggests, impossible from our current perspective to  determine what might have been permanently lost as a result of the efforts to save lives from this virus, but for a clear, precise, and powerful discussion of what the consequences of our failure to take such actions might be, read this article from the New York Times: “The Virus Can Be Stopped, But Only With Harsh Steps, Experts Say.”

You may remember that I asked you to attempt to keep track, as you made your way through One Hundred Years of Solitude, of the varieties of the fantastic that appear in the novel. I’d like to identify a few here as a means of spurring an even greater list:

  1. Exaggeration. As we’ve discussed in class, exaggeration becomes fantastic when it exceeds the bounds of — well, probability? possibility? belief? How many cats is fantastic? How many consecutive days of rain? How many children named Aureliano?
  2. Ghosts and Specters. “One night, when she could not sleep, Ursula went out into the courtyard to get some water and saw Prudencio Aguilar by the water jar. He was livid, a sad expression his face, trying to cover the hole in his throat with a plug made of esparto grass.”
  3. Telekenisis. “The child, perplexed, said from the doorway, ‘It’s going to spill.’ The pot was firmly placed in the centre of the table, but just as soon as the child made his announcement, it began an unmistakable movement towards the edge, as if impelled by some inner dynamism, and it fell and broke on the floor.” (Or perhaps this isn’t telekinesis at all and merely the young Aureliano’s Clairvoyance. Of course, that would mean that inanimate objects can animate themselves  — “Ursula, alarmed, told her husband about the episode, but he interpreted it as a natural phenomenon” — which itself seems another variety of the fantastic, not exactly anthropomorphism, since that is merely the attribution of animate qualities to the inanimate, but the inanimate actually possessing the qualities of the animate.
  4. Reanimation. Revival of the dead. Consider Melquíades.
  5. Elasticity of time. Consider Melquíades.

There’s plenty more, of course — flying carpets, sirens, children with pigs’ tails — so I’d like to see your lists or, at the very least, one or two additions to mine.

How many years does it take for something to finally be viewed as fantastic? Five? Twenty? One hundred? I found myself pondering this as I read One Hundred Years of Solitude. As the years go by, we see bits and pieces of the modern world beginning to make their way into the isolated Macondo—the railroad, the cinema, the banana plantation, and the Conservative government of Colombia, to name a few. Ursula, Jose Arcadio, and other natives of Macondo all end up living long enough to witness the coming of these modern inventions, and numerous times, they express disbelief and even distrust over these unfamiliar creations. The younger generations of Buendias, however, simply accept these things as normal aspects of everyday life, going to movies and concerts and partaking in politics with great enthusiasm.

Of course, there have been plenty of individuals in real life who have lived exceptionally long lives, and in interviews, they are often asked for their opinions on the modern world; in an interview from 1977, a 108-year-old woman named Florence Pannell talked about how strange it was that women were now able to work certain jobs, show more skin, and go to college instead of getting married as soon as possible. She also talked about how, when air travel was first invented, she was too afraid to fly, but nowadays she felt more comfortable with the idea. “Nothing is the same,” she stated after being asked what she felt was the biggest change in the world since the 1800s. “Everything has changed.”

In this class, we have been taught that, at a certain point, you just have to accept the fantastic for what it is and keep moving forward; the same thing seems to be true for the characters in One Hundred Years of Solitude, and also for many elderly people in real life. Our grandparents probably never imagined that one day we would have things like the internet and email and social media, and yet I constantly see people in their seventies and eighties taking full advantage of these modern inventions. At what point did they decide to make that leap, to fully embrace all of the conveniences of modern life? At what point did it start to become normal for them—or at least as normal as it can be for someone who has lived most of their life in a time when those things didn’t even exist? When exactly does the novelty—the fantastic-ness—of something so groundbreaking start to wear off?

*I kind of hated this book when I first read it, but lately, it’s really started to grow on me; cue JGB’s triumphant laughter.

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