First Edition Provenance: García Márquez, Gabriel. Cien Años de Soledad. Argentina: Editorial Sudamericanos, 1967. Print
Excerpt Provenance: García Márquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. Print
Introduction to the Selection by Camille Vélez
Known as the novel that established Gabriel García Márquez as a world famous author, One Hundred Years of Solitude brings magical realism to life via the tale of the Buendía family in the fictional town of Macondo. Written in 1967, García Márquez (1927 -2014) has expressed that the inspiration for his masterpiece came from the folklore stories his grandparents told him when he was eight years old and emphasizes that they told these stories as if they were all true, which led young Gabriel to confuse what was real with what was not. This characteristic of storytelling can be identified in the novel itself, where fantastical things occur and are written as if it was naturally happening.
Before writing One Hundred Years of Solitude, García Márquez was a journalist in Colombia, a place he described as “uncomfortable…uncertain and troubling for a writer” (Márquez 2), which made him find a home in Mexico later on in his life. The idea for the novel came about when he was vacationing in Acapulco in 1960, ten years after visiting the empty house of his deceased grandparents, where he remembered all the stories his grandmother used to tell him. Inspired by the way in which his grandmother told the stories, he reinforced his writing technique by referring to Kafka and his depiction of wild things in a natural tone. It took him eighteen months to write his masterpiece, during which he experienced extreme poverty and pawned almost all of his possessions in order to finish the manuscript and mail it to Editioral Sudamericana in Argentina. He describes his experience of writing the novel as
“In previous attempts to write, I tried to tell the story without believing in it. I
discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself and write them with
the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face.
Nowadays, it is translated into thirty seven languages and is considered one of the best fiction books of the twentieth century.
It is speculated that the town of Macondo, which in the story parallels with the life of the Buendía family, is inspired by his hometown Aracataca, where there was a banana plantation of the same name as the fictional town. The novel itself begins with the settlement of this town by the Buendía family, who is fleeing from Riohacha, Colombia to find a better home ( parallel to the author’s life leaving Colombia) and tells all the adventures and happenings as the town began to thrive until interestingly enough a banana plantation is established at its highest peak and slowly leads to the downfall of Macondo and the Buendía family alike. The storyline covers one hundred years in this fictional town, where history repeats itself many times within the seven generations of the Buendía family, all of which its members contain the same names which causes the reader to immerse himself or herself into the story in order to grasp everything that is happening. Many characters start realizing the repetition of history within the town and Buendía household and often comment on it in the story, which reinforces the reality aspect within the magical realism genre. The story begins with Ursula’s fear that there can be a Buendía born with a pig’s tail due to family incest and the story ends with the birth of this foreseen member of the family as the town is being destroyed and forgotten.
The household and town reflect the happenings of the family. The town’s thriving period parallels with that of the family and their downfall mirrors the destruction of Macondo by a giant wind gust. García Márquez uses architecture to display the emotions of each of the characters and to emphasize the solitude that each and every person in Macondo experiences. Each member of the family is born normally and as they reach puberty are immersed by a feeling of solitude that causes each of them to withdraw from society. He uses the landscape and nature to symbolize feelings and emotions, as in the case of the yellow butterfly flock that appears around the town every time Mauricio Babilonia enters Meme’s room.
The excerpts I have chosen reflect these rise and fall of the town and the Buendía family. Below is the family tree to better understand the different characters and identify which is which in the excerpts.
Excerpt 1 (pp. 1-9):
The story begins with a vivid description of the beginnings of Macondo as it is founded. Note that Gabriel García Márquez “discovered” ice with his grandparents and begins his novel with that same event.
“ MANY YEARS LATER as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions. First they brought the magnet. A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Melquíades, put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned alchemists of Macedonia. He went from house to house dragging two metal ingots and everybody was amazed to see pots, pans, tongs, and braziers tumble down from their places and beams creak from the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge, and even objects that had been lost for a long time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind Melquíades’ magical irons.
Since his house [José Arcadio Buendía] from the very first has been the best in the village, the others had been built in its image and likeness. It had a small, well lighted living room, a dining room in the shape of a terrace with gaily colored flowers, two bedrooms, a courtyard with a gigantic chestnut tree, a well-kept garden, and a coral where goats, pigs, and hens lived in peaceful communion…Thanks to her [Ursula Iguarán] the floors of tamped earth, the unwhitewashed mud walls, the rustic, wooden furniture they had built themselves were always clean, and the old chests where they kept their clothes exhaled the warm smell of basil.
José Arcadio Buendía, who was the most enterprising man ever to be seen in the village, had set up the placement of the houses in such a way that from all of them one could reach the river and draw water with the same effort and he had lined up the streets with such good sense that no house got more sun than another during the hot time of day. Within a few years Macondo was a village that was more orderly and hardworking than any known until then by its three hundred inhabitants. It was a truly happy village where no one was over thirty years of age and where no one had died.”
Excerpt 2 (pp. 54-55):
As the town is thriving so is the Buendía family. José Arcadio and Ursula have four children, one of which, Rebeca, appeared at their doorstep one day holding a briefcase with her deceased parents’ bones. This growth in the family leads to making changes to their original house. Additionally, a new magistrate has entered the village and started to impose new rules.
“ Then she [Ursula] took out the money accumulated over long years of hard labor, made some arrangements with her customers, and undertook the enlargement of the house. She had a formal parlor for visits built, another one that was more comfortable and cool for daily use, a dining room with a table with twelve places where the family could sit with all of their guests, nine bedrooms with windows on the courtyard, and a long porch protected from the heat of noon by a rose garden with a railing on which to place pots of ferns and begonias. She had the kitchen enlarged to hold two ovens. The granary where Pilar Ternera had read José Arcadio’s future was torn down and another twice as big was built so that there would never be a lack of food in the house. She had baths built in the courtyard in the shade of the chestnut tree, one for the women and another for the men, and in the rear a large stable, a fenced in chicken yard, a shed to milk the cows, and an aviary open to the four winds so that the wandering birds could roost there at their pleasure. Followed by dozens of masons and carpenters , as if she had contracted her husband’s hallucinating fever, Ursula fixed the position of light and heat and distributed space without the least sense of limitations. The primitive building of the founders became filled with tools and materials, of workmen exhausted by sweat, who asked everybody else please not to molest them, exasperated by the sack of bones that followed them everywhere with its dull rattle. In that discomfort, breathing quicklime and tar, no one could see very well how from the bowels of the earth there was rising not only the largest house in town, but the most hospitable and cool house that had ever existed in the region of the swamp. José Arcadio Buendía, trying to surprise Divine Providence in the midst of cataclysm, was the one who least understood it. The new house was almost finished when Ursula drew him out of his chimerical world in order to inform him that she had an order to paint the front blue and not white as they wanted.”
Excerpt 3 (pp. 131-132):
José Arcadio, José Arcadio Buendía and Ursula Iguarán’s son, has returned after leaving Macondo with the gypsies and now finds himself living with Rebeca in another house since Ursula does not want him in the original Buendía house due to the fact that him and Rebeca are together and she fears for the birth of a Buendía with a pig’s tail. There have been a series of wars in Macondo led by Colonel Aureliano Buendía, his brother in which the Conservative party is fighting the Liberal one. After this happening the household and mental state of Rebeca decay rapidly and she is believed to be dead as well due to her solitude confinement.
“In the new house, located on the best corner of the square in the shade of an almond tree that was honored by three nests of redbreasts, with a large door for visitors and four windows for light, they set up a hospitable home. Rebeca’s old friends amongst them four of the Moscote sisters who were still single, once more took up the sessions of embroidery that had been interrupted years before on the porch with the begonias. José Arcadio continued to profit from the usurped lands, the title to which was recognized by the Conservative government. Every afternoon he could be seen returning on horseback, with his hunting dogs and his double barreled shotgun and a string of rabbits hanging from the saddle. One September afternoon, with the threat of a storm, he returned home earlier than usual. He greeted Rebeca in the dining room, tied the dogs up in the courtyard, hung up the rabbits up in the kitchen to be salted, and went on to the bedroom to change his clothes. Rebeca later declared that when her husband went into the bedroom she was locked in the bathroom and did not hear anything. It was a difficult version to believe, but there was no other more plausible, and no one could think of any motive for Rebeca to murder the man who had made her happy. That was perhaps the only mystery that was never cleared up in Macondo.
A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta’s chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José , and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Ursula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.
“Holy Mother of God!” Ursula shouted.
She followed the thread of blood back along its course, and in search of its origin she went through the pantry, along the begonia porch where Aureliano José was chanting that three plus three is six and six plus three is nine, and she crossed the dining room and the living rooms and followed straight down the street, and she turned first to the right and then to the left to the Street of the Turks, forgetting that she was still wearing her baking apron and her house slippers, and she came out onto the square and went into the door of a house where she had never been, and she pushed open the bedroom door and was almost suffocated by the smell of burned gunpowder, and she found José Arcadio lying face down on the ground on top of the leggings he had just taken off, and she saw the starting point of the thread of blood that had already stopped flowing out of his right ear.”
Excerpt 4 (pp. 221-222):
Years after the thirty two wars are over, Colonel Aureliano’s seventeen sons come to Macondo, one of which has a vision to bring the railroad to Macondo which then leads to the Americans settling and opening a banana plantation. Macondo has already thrived and is beginning its descent.
“We have to bring in the railroad,” he said.
“That was the first time that the word had ever been heard in Macondo. Looking at the sketch that Aureliano Triste drew on the table and that was a direct descendent of the plans with which José Arcadio Buendía had illustrated his project for solar warfare, Úrsula confirmed her impression that time was going in a circle. But unlike his forebear, Aureliano Triste did not lose any sleep or appetite nor did he torment anyone with crises of ill humor, but he considered the most harebrained of projects as immediate possibilities, made rational calculations about costs and dates, and brought them off without any intermediate exasperation. If Aureliano Segundo had something of his great-grandfather in him and lacked something of Colonel Aureliano Buendía, it was an absolute indifference to mockery, and he gave the money to bring the railroad with the same lighthearted air with which he had given it for his brother’s absurd navigation project.
“It’s coming” she finally explained “Something frightful, like a kitchen dragging a village behind it.”
At that moment the town was shaken by a whistle with a fearful echo and a loud, panting respiration. During the previous weeks they had seen the gangs who were laying ties and tracks and no one paid attention to them because they thought it was some trick if the gypsies, coming back with whistles and tambourines, and their age old and discredited song and dance about the qualities of some concoction put together by journeyman geniuses of Jerusalem. But when they recovered from the noise of the whistles and the snorting, al the inhabitants ran to the street and saw Aureliano Triste waving from the locomotive, and in a trance they saw the flower-bedecked train which was arriving for the first time eight months late. The innocent yellow train that was to bring so many ambiguities and certainties, so many pleasant and unpleasant moments, so many changes, calamities, and feelings of nostalgia to Macondo.”
Excerpt 5 (pp. 316-332):
After the banana plantation settled in Macondo a period of decay started for the both the village and the Buendía family. All of these events including a supposed massacre in the railroad station led to a rainfall that lasted four years, eleven months, and two days.
“The worst part was that the rain was affecting everything and the driest of machines would have flowers popping out among their gears if they were not oiled every three days, and the threads in brocades rusted, and wet clothing would break out in a rash of saffron-colored moss. The air was so damp that fish could have come in through the doors and swum out the windows, floating through the atmosphere in the rooms. One morning Ursula woke up feeling that she was reaching her end in a placid swoon and she had already asked them to take her to Father Antonio Isabel, even if it had to be on a stretcher, when Santa Sofía de la Piedad discovered that her back was paved with leeches. She took them off one by one, crushing them with a firebrand before they bled her to death. It was necessary to dig canals to get the water out of the house and rid it of the frogs and snails so that they could dry the floors and take the bricks from under the bedposts and walk in shoes once more.
Macondo was in ruins. In the swampy streets there were the remains of furniture, animal skeletons covered with red lilies, the last memories of the hordes of newcomers who had fled Macondo as wildly as they had arrived. The houses that had been built with such haste during the banana fever had been abandoned. The banana company tore down its installations. All that remained of the former wired-in city were the ruins. The wooden houses, the cool terraces for breezy card-playing afternoons, seemed to have been blown away in an anticipation of the prophetic wind that years later would wipe Macondo off the face of the earth. The only human trace left by that voracious blast was a glove belonging to Patricia Brown in an automobile smothered in wild pansies. The enchanted region explored by José Arcadio Buendía in the days of the founding, where later on the banana plantations flourished, was a bog of rotting roots, on the horizon of which one could manage to see the silent foam of the sea. Aureliano Segundo went through a crisis of affliction on the first Sunday that he put on dry clothes and went out to renew his acquaintance with the town. The survivors of the catastrophe, the same ones who had been living in Macondo before it had been struck by the banana company hurricane, were sitting in the middle of the street enjoying their first sunshine. They still had the green of the algae on their skin and the musty smell of a corner that had been stamped on them by the rain, but in their hearts they seemed happy to have recovered the town in which they had been born. The Street of the Turks was again what it had been earlier, in the days when the Arabs with slippers and rings in their ears were going about the world swapping knickknacks for macaws and had found in Macondo a good bend in the road where they could find respite from their age-old lot as wanderers. Having crossed through to the other side of the rain, the merchandise in the booths was falling apart, the cloths spread over the doors were splotched with mold, the counters undermined by termites, the walls eaten away by dampness, but the Arabs of the third generation were sitting in the same place and in the same position as their fathers and grandfathers, taciturn, dauntless, invulnerable to time and disaster, as alive or as dead as they had been after the insomnia plague and Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s thirty-two wars. Their strength of spirit in the face of ruins of the gaming tables, the fritter stands, the shooting galleries, and the alley where they interpreted dreams and predicted the future made Aureliano Segundo ask them with his usual informality what mysterious resources they had relied upon so as not to have gine awash in the storm, what the devil they had done so as not to drown and one after the other, from door to door, they returned a crafty smile and a dreamy look, and without any previous consultation they all gave the same answer: Swimming”
Excerpt 6 (pp. 416-417):
The only two members of the Buendía family are Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano. Macondo has declined and been emptied due to the fact that almost all of the inhabitants have left and the Buendía household followed the same fate with the death of most of its members. In this scene pig tailed Aureliano has been born and Aureliano has deciphered the manuscript left by Melquíades, the gypsy from the beginning. These reveal the life of the whole Buendía family in Macondo one hundred years before it happened.
He was so absorbed that he did not feel the second surge of wind either as its cyclonic strength tore the doors and windows off their hinges, pulled off the roof of the east wing, and uprooted the foundations. Only then did he discover that Amaranta Úrsula was not his sister but his aunt, and that Sir Francis Drake had attacked Riohacha only so that they could seek each other through the most intricate labyrinths of blood until they would engender the mythological animal that was to bring the line to an end. Macondo
was already a fearful whirlwind of dust and rubble being spun about by the wrath of the biblical hurricane when Aureliano skipped eleven pages so as not to lose time with facts he knew only too well, and he began to decipher the instant that he was living, deciphering it as he lived it, prophesying himself in the act of deciphering the last page of the parchments, as if he were looking into a speaking mirror. 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.