Sunday, September 20, 2009

15: One Hundred Years of Solitude


Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

The setting of One Hundred Years of Solitude is in Macondo, a village founded by José Arcadio Buendias, the first Buendias that we are concerned with. He is a leader of men and of good intelligence but also of a solitary nature. He starts keeping a laboratory of equipment that he buys off of passing gypsies, allowing him to have solitary realizations such as “the earth is round like an orange”, while everyone else ridiculed him. His solitude, the act of shutting out the outside world, infiltrates through his line and the titular years of solitude belong to his descendants.

The descendants have wild stories infused with magic realism. There is a general of a revolution, children who live to see a banana plantation kill its striking workers in Macondo, and children who live to see a world that has forgotten the revolution and the plantation – who are alone in their memories of those events and the roles of their family members. Through the generations, the family names are recycled and traits belonging to a name are passed on. Once in a while, one of the female characters notes that the José Arcadios carry out their solitude in wildness and revelry or that the Aurelianos shut themselves away from the world in the laboratory, making little gold fish or reading in pursuit of esoteric knowledge. The idea of avoiding the names is always fleeting. The last Amaranta wanted to throw open the windows and doors of the house, invite the world in, and have children named Gonzalo or something other than Aureliano and José Arcadio – but it, like any other attempt on the parts of the Buendias to partake in the outside world, never comes to pass.

There are so many Aurelianos – 22 to be exact. I remember reading and loosing track of which Aureliano and which generation I was reading about and having to consult the family tree to get my bearings. In retrospect, I think the point was to get lost in the generations of repeated names and repeated traits. I always thought it would be interesting to write a story in which there is no continuity between the chapters and the main characters occur in a different manifestation of themselves each chapter, to tell the story in a different way.

This book is exactly like that. All of the Aurelianos collectively form the character “Aureliano”; they have been placed in different stories and live out different lives, but with each Aureliano, we see more of the Aureliano character. Different traits are brought to the surface layer. All of the Aurelianos feel a disconnect with the world which drives them into isolation. General Aureliano let the memory of the wars he lost drive him into an endless routine of making little gold fish in his workshop. The last Aureliano to reach adulthood is the only one to be mentioned to have friends and yet he let them fall away without much regret, to retreat into a world closed to the outside with his lover.

The thick, lush weaving of so many stories that this book contained seems to be so rich, but I don’t know what to think about it. Politics and history are not important to the story; they are only ways in which the solitude of the Buendias can be seen. Love stories and the lives of the characters are likewise vehicles of the conveyance of solitude. It’s about solitude amongst people – which is the worst kind of solitude. But why? From whence did their solitary streak arise? Is solitude a plague?

1 comment:

  1. Ahh, I've read this a while ago. I had a post about it, but I deleted that journal, so the post is gone. I remember thinking about the unlikely names and lives of the characters. Reading it made me reach a very dream-like state (maybe it was because of the too many Aurelianos :)), of which I would be sharply awakened sometimes to see a very vivid scene, like the ending, which I cannot get out of my mind, ever, even if I forget everything else about the book.
    I wish I would read as much as you do nowadays :) (uff, I will sometime again :))