One Hundred Years of Solitude

“…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. (Gabriel Carcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude)

People love listing and memorizing famous first lines of books, but what about last lines, or, in the case of this book, all of the lines which come before? In terms of prose, nothing happens simply in this book. Words were not merely indecipherable; they “looked like clothes hung out to dry on a line”.  People do not have sex or even make love; they “manage to thank God for having been born before [loosing themselves] in the inconceivable pleasure of that unbearable pain”. Reading One Hundred Years of Solitude is like visiting Prague; every street corner and every bit of every sentence is so beautiful that even a photograph wouldn’t convince your friends and family of the fact. They simply have to go there themselves.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a way of expressing the entire life of a person in one instant, trait or accident. Take Rebeca for instance: her essential being is not found in the tumultuous events of her life, but in the infinitesimal characteristic Marquez zooms in on: “Mad with desperation, Rebeca got up in the middle of the night and ate handfuls of earth in the garden with a suicidal drive, weeping with pain and fury, chewing tender earthworms and chipping her teeth on snail shells”. It is as if eating dirt sums up Rebecca as a person far more than who she married or how she died. And perhaps, it does.  According to Marquez, people are not defined by the whole events of their lives, or even the decisions they make, but instead by that one uncontrollable moment, usually from childhood, generally buried in shame. It is thrilling and not a little frightening to try to name what Marquez would label as your defining trait.

Beverage… The Buendia’s always drink their coffee black, an inherited preference, along with incest and solitude. But the rest of Macando drinks theirs sweetened with milk, if you would prefer.

Reminds me… of Midnight’s Children in its mythical, almost bordering on unreal, events.


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