One Hundred Years of Solitude

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One Hundred Years of Solitude  

First US edition
Author Gabriel García Márquez
Original title Cien años de soledad
Translator Gregory Rabassa
Country Colombia
Language Spanish
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Harper and Row (USA) & Jonathan Cape (UK)
Publication date 1967 (translation 25 June 1970)
Media type print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 432 pp (UK hardback edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-224-61853-9 (UK hardback edition)

One Hundred Years of Solitude (Spanish: Cien años de soledad) is a novel by Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. It was first published in Spanish in 1967. The book was an instant success worldwide and was translated into over 27 languages[1]. Lauded critically, the book contributed to the Latin American "Boom" in literature and the development of the postmodernism literary style. It was also an immense commercial success, becoming the best-selling book in Spanish in modern history, after Don Quixote[2]. The product of 15 months of work, during which García Márquez barricaded himself in his house[3], it broke his writer's block and is widely considered García Márquez's magnum opus.

The novel chronicles a family's struggle and the history of their fictional town, Macondo. Although the title implies that the story spans one hundred years, it is unclear exactly how much time the narrative covers. This ambiguity contributes to the novel's treatment of time, as there is a notion that time lapses, repeats, changes speeds, or stops altogether at different parts of the story, and that all the events in some sense happen simultaneously. Like many other novels by Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude crosses genres, combining elements of romance, history, and fantasy. The narrative style of the novel was especially praised and extensively studied - ostensibly objective but often manifestly ridiculous, it combined García Márquez's experience as a journalist with the literary style of magical realism and extensive uses of metaphors and irony.


[edit] Plot summary

The story follows the lineage of the Buendia family, and its offshoots, as well as the town of Macondo, Colombia, more generally.

[edit] Characters

Buendía Family Tree

[edit] First generation

[edit] José Arcadio Buendía

The patriarch of the Buendía family, José Arcadio Buendía is strong-willed, immovable by others (both physically and mentally), but has a deep interest in philosophical mysteries. Buendía is responsible for leading Macondo through its early stages, but disappears from the storyline when he goes insane searching for the Philosopher's stone. Eventually he loses his sanity, speaking instead in Latin. He is tied to a chestnut tree and serves as a reminder of the early Macondo but is released by Úrsula a short time before his death.

[edit] Úrsula Iguarán

José Arcadio Buendía's wife is the matriarch of the family, as well as the member who lives through the most generations. Úrsula runs the family with a strong will and firm hand through several portions of the book, and dies somewhere between the ages of 114 and 122, by that time having shriveled to the size of a fetus.

[edit] Second generation

[edit] José Arcadio

José Arcadio Buendía's firstborn son, José Arcadio seems to have inherited his father's headstrong, impulsive mannerisms. When the Gypsies come to Macondo, a Gypsy woman who sees José Arcadio's naked body exclaims that he has the biggest sex organ she has ever seen. He has an affair with a woman named Pilar Ternera, but leaves her after getting her pregnant. He eventually leaves the family to chase a Gypsy girl and unexpectedly returns many years later as an enormous man, claiming that he'd sailed the seas of the world. He marries his adopted sister Rebeca, causing his banishment from the mansion, and he dies from a mysterious gunshot wound, days after saving his brother from execution.

[edit] Colonel Aureliano Buendía

José Arcadio Buendía's second son and the first person to be born in Macondo, he was named after an earlier ancestor. Aureliano was born with his eyes open after having wept in his mother's womb. He was thought to have premonitions because everything he said came true. He appeared to have inherited his father's pensive, philosophical nature. He studies metallurgy, and joins the Liberal party when war breaks out. He fights the Conservative government in 32 civil wars, and avoids death multiple times. Having lost all interest in the war, he signs a peace treaty and returns home. In his old age, he loses all capacity for emotion or memory, spending each day making tiny gold fish, exchanging them for coins to melt and make more gold fish. He dies while urinating on the tree to which his father had been tied for so many years. He represents not only a warrior figure but also an artist due to his ability to write poetry and create finely crafted golden fish.

[edit] Remedios Moscote

Remedios was the youngest daughter of the town's Conservative administrator, Don Apolinar Moscote. Her most striking physical features are her beautiful skin and her emerald-green eyes. The future Colonel Aureliano falls in love with her, despite her extreme youth. She is so young, in fact, that the wedding must be delayed until she reaches puberty. To everyone's surprise, she makes a wonderful and sweet wife who gains everyone's hearts. She is the only one who takes care of José Arcadio Buendía during his illness. However, she dies shortly after the marriage due to a pregnancy complication.

[edit] Amaranta

The third child of José Arcadio Buendía, Amaranta grows up as a companion of her stepsister Rebeca; her feelings toward Rebeca, however, turn sour over Pietro Crespi, whom both sisters intensely desire in their teenage years. Amaranta even wishes to kill Rebeca so she could have Pietro, but then little Remedios dies and Amaranta suffers an emotional crisis. When Rebeca marries José Arcadio instead, Amaranta rejects any man who seeks her out, including Pietro Crespi, who courts her after Rebeca leaves him; she's so afraid of commitment that she completely rejects Crespi, who kills himself in despair. She is then courted by her brother's close friend and comarade in arms- Col. Gerineldo Marquez, unfortunately she wards off his interest too for the same reason. Her virginal repression expresses itself through her incestuous relationships with her nephews Aureliano José and José Arcardio. Death in the form of an old woman comes to Amaranta and commands her to begin weaving a funeral shroud, and upon the shroud's completion, Amaranta dies that night, a lonely and virginal spinster, but comfortable in her existence after having finally accepted what she had become.

[edit] Rebeca

Rebeca is the orphaned daughter of Ursula Iguaran's second cousins, from Manaure, the capital of La Guajira. At first she is extremely timid, refuses to speak, and has the habits of eating earth and whitewash from the walls of the house (a condition known as pica), and sucking her finger. She arrives carrying a canvas bag containing her parents' bones and seems not to understand or speak Spanish, but responds to questions asked by Visitacion and Cataure in the Guajiro or Wayuu language. It has been suggested by at least one critic that the bag of bones and the ensuing insomnia plague refer to a Guajiro ritual cleansing of human remains for a ritual second burial[4]. Rebeca arrives after Jose Arcadio departs with a tribe of Gypsies, but while raised in the Buendia household, her later marriage to him is viewed by Ursula as disrespectful, and the couple are banned from returning to the house. Jose Arcadio's mysterious death is linked inextricably to Rebeca, who lives in seclusion for the rest of her life. The same character appears in an earlier collection of short stories set in Macondo.

[edit] Third generation

[edit] Arcadio

Arcadio is José Arcadio's illegitimate son by Pilar Ternera. He is a schoolteacher, but assumes leadership of Macondo when Colonel Aureliano Buendía leaves, upon Aureliano's request. He becomes a tyrannical dictator and uses his schoolchildren as his personal army, and Macondo becomes subject to his whims. He attempts to uproot the church, persecute Conservatives living in the town (like Don Apolinar Moscote), and patrols the town with his troops, but when he tried to execute Don Apolinar for a snide remark, Ursula whips him, and takes control of the town. Upon receiving news that the Conservative forces had made a comeback, Arcadio resolves to fight the Conservatives that fall upon the town, with the resources they have, despite gross disadvantages. The Liberal forces in Macondo fall, and Arcadio is shot shortly after the defeat by the Conservative firing squad.

[edit] Aureliano José

Aureliano José is the son of Colonel Aureliano Buendía, also by Pilar Ternera. He joins his father in several wars, but deserts and returns to Macondo because he is obsessed with his aunt, Amaranta, who raised him since his birth. Amaranta initiated sexual relations with Aureliano Jose and they became lovers when he entered into manhood. After he returns from the fighting hopes to rekindle their passion. Amaranta rejects him at first but eventually gives in to their mutual desire. Amaranta begins thinking about Colonel Gerineldo Marquez and she bars her door to Aureliano forever. He came to know who his mother was and accepted her in his life. Finally, Aureliano José is shot to death by a Conservative captain of the guard midway through the wars, for running away from a squad of police; the captain is shot too, and the men of Macondo rebelled over his dead corpse.

[edit] Santa Sofía de la Piedad

Santa Sofía is a beautiful virgin girl and the daughter of a shopkeeper, hired by Pilar Ternera to have sex with her son Arcadio after Arcadio, unaware of their bonds as mother and son, tried to force himself on Pilar. She becomes the wife of Arcadio and the mother of Remedios the Beauty, José Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo, and is taken in along with her children by the Buendías after Arcadio's execution. She is mainly an invisible character in the novel, staying in the background as a maid in the Buendía household more or less voluntarily, apparently since she liked to be nonexistent in the family history. Eventually, she began to feel that the house itself was crumbling no matter what she did to keep it in shape. After Úrsula's death she leaves unexpectedly, not knowing her destination.

[edit] 17 Aurelianos

During his 32 civil war campaigns, Colonel Aureliano Buendía has 17 sons by 17 different women, each of whom he stays with for only one night. It is explained that, traditionally, young women were sent to sleep with soldiers, and the Buendía household is visited by 17 different mothers wanting Úrsula to baptize their sons. Úrsula accepts the fact and baptizes them all with the name Aureliano and the same last name as the mother, hoping that her son will take care of the matter later. Later on the sons return to the Buendía house and are accepted by the Buendías. Four of these Aurelianos (A. Triste, A. Serrador, A. Arcaya and A. Centeno) stay in Macondo and become a permanent part of the family. Eventually, as a revenge against the Colonel, all are assassinated by the government, identified by the mysteriously permanent Ash Wednesday cross on their foreheads. The only survivor of the massacre is A. Amador, who escapes into the jungle, only to be assassinated at the doorstep of his father's house many years later, after being refused admittance by relatives who have never met him.

[edit] Fourth generation

[edit] Remedios the Beauty

Remedios is Arcadio and Santa Sofía's first child, and she inherits her mother's beauty. It is said she's the most beautiful woman ever seen in Macondo, and unintentionally causes the deaths of several men who love or lust over her. She appears to most of the town as naively innocent, and some come to think that she is mentally retarded. However, Colonel Aureliano Buendía believes she has inherited great lucidity: "It is as if she's come back from twenty years of war," he said. This ability to penetrate flamboyant social construct results in Remedios leading a simple life that would be considered idiosyncratic. She rejects clothing and beauty, sewing a cassock as her only clothing, and shaving her feet-long hair to not have to comb it. Ironically, it is her touch with base human instinct that perpetuates her as an object of lust for more men, whom she treats with complete innocence and no reservations. Too beautiful and, arguably, too wise for the world, Remedios ascends into the sky one morning, while folding laundry.

[edit] José Arcadio Segundo

José Arcadio Segundo is the twin brother of Aureliano Segundo, the children of Arcadio and Santa Sofía. Úrsula believes that the two were switched in their childhood, as José Arcadio begins to show the characteristics of the family's Aurelianos, growing up to be pensive and quiet. He plays a major role in the banana worker strike, and is the only survivor when the company massacres the striking workers. Afterward, he spends the rest of his days studying the parchments, and tutoring the young Aureliano. He dies at the exact instant that his twin does.

[edit] Aureliano Segundo

Of the two brothers, Aureliano Segundo is the more boisterous and impulsive, much like the José Arcadios of the family. He takes his first girlfriend Petra Cotes as his mistress, even during his marriage to the beautiful and bitter Fernanda del Carpio. When living with Petra, his livestock propagate wildly, and he indulges in unrestrained revelry. After the long rains, his fortune dries up, and the Buendías are left almost penniless. He turns to search for a buried treasure, eventually almost going insane. He wastes away, and dies of throat cancer at the same moment as his twin. During the confusion at the funeral, the bodies are switched, and each is buried in the other's grave (highlighting Ursula's earlier comment that they had been switched at birth). He represents Colombia's economy: gaining and losing weight according to the situation at the time.

[edit] Fernanda del Carpio

Fernanda is the only major character (except for perhaps Rebeca, and the First generation) that does not originate in Macondo. She comes from a ruined aristocrat family that kept her isolated from the world in her school and is an extremely beautiful woman; she was chosen as the most beautiful girl among 5000 girls. Fernanda is brought to Macondo to compete with Remedios for the title of Queen of the carnival, after her father promises her she will be the Queen of Madagascar. After the fiasco, she marries Aureliano Segundo and soon takes the leadership of the family away from the now-frail Úrsula and manages Buendía affairs with an iron fist. She has three children by Aureliano Segundo (José Arcadio, Renata Remedios aka Meme and Amaranta Úrsula), and remains in the house after he dies, taking care of the household until her death.

Fernanda is never accepted by anyone in the Buendía household, and though the Buendías do nothing to rebel against her inflexible conservatism, she is generally regarded by the family as an outsider, and a "stuck up highlander". In the course of the novel, Fernanda's mental and emotional instability is revealed through her paranoia, her correspondence with the 'invisible doctors', and her irrational behavior towards Aureliano, whom she tries to isolate from the whole world. She is the only one who knows of the true parentage of Aureliano Babilonia until she reveals to her son Jose Arcadio in her letters.

[edit] Fifth generation

[edit] Renata Remedios (Meme)

Meme is the second child and first daughter of Fernanda and Aureliano Segundo. While she doesn't inherit Fernanda's beauty, she does have Aureliano Segundo's love of life and natural charisma. After her mother declares that she play the clavichord and do nothing else, she is sent to school and receives her performance degree along with recognition for her excellent academic grades. While she pursues the clavichord with 'an inflexible discipline', to placate Fernanda, she also enjoys partying and exhibits the same tendency towards excess as her father, even befriending women from the banana plantation.

Meme meets and falls in love with Mauricio Babilonia, a handsome mechanic of Gypsy blood working for the banana plantation, but when Fernanda finds out that they were having sexual relations, she arranges for Mauricio to be shot by claiming that he was a chicken thief, and takes Meme to a convent. Meme remains mute for the rest of her life, partially because of the trauma, but also as a sign of rebellion and determination. Several months later we know she was pregnant because she gives birth to a son, Aureliano, at the convent; he is sent to live with the Buendias. She dies of old age in an unknown hospital in Krakow.

[edit] José Arcadio (II)

José Arcadio, named after his ancestors in the Buendía tradition, follows the trend of the previous Arcadios. He is raised by Úrsula, who intends for him to become the Pope. Returning home from Rome (without having become a priest) after the death of his mother, he discovers a buried treasure and begins to waste it on lavish parties and escapades with adolescent boys. Later, he begins a tentative friendship with Aureliano Babilonia, his nephew. José Arcadio plans to set Aureliano up in a business and return to Rome, but is murdered in his bath by four of the adolescent boys who ransack his house and steal his gold.

[edit] Amaranta Úrsula

Amaranta Úrsula is the third child of Fernanda and Aureliano. She displays the same characteristics as her namesake, Úrsula, who dies when she is only a child: willful, cheerful, tries to work hard for the sake of her happiness and the others. She never knows that the child sent to the Buendía home is her nephew, the illegitimate son of Meme; he becomes her best friend in childhood and early adolescence. She returns home from Europe with an elder husband, Gastón, who leaves her when she informs him of her passionate affair with Aureliano, her nephew, which later evolves into love. She dies of hemorragia, after she has given birth to the last of the Buendia line.

[edit] Sixth generation

[edit] Aureliano Babilonia (Aureliano II)

Aureliano is the illegitimate child of Meme. He is sent to the house and hidden from everyone by his grandmother, Fernanda. He is strikingly similar to his namesake, the Colonel, and has the same character patterns as well: taciturn, silent, emotionally charged. He barely knows Úrsula, who dies during his childhood. He is a friend of José Arcadio Segundo, who explains to him the true story of the banana worker massacre.

While other members of the family leave and return, Aureliano stays at the house. He only ventures into the empty town after the death of Fernanda. He works to decipher the parchments of Melquíades but stops to have an affair with his childhood partner and the love of his life Amaranta Úrsula, not knowing that she's his aunt. When both she and her child die, he is able to decipher the parchments. "...Melquíades' final keys were revealed to him and he saw the epigraph of the parchments perfectly placed in the order of man's time and space: The first in line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by ants." He is assumed to have died along with the rest of Macondo, now a nearly deserted town.

[edit] Seventh generation

[edit] Aureliano (III)

The child of Aureliano and his aunt, Amaranta Úrsula. The child was born with a pig's tail, as the eldest and long dead Úrsula had always feared would happen (the parents of the child had never heard of the omen). The mother died after giving birth to her son, and due to the negligence of his grief-stricken father, the son is devoured by ants. When he sees the corpse, Aureliano is hit with the realization of the parchment's meaning.

[edit] Others

[edit] Melquíades

Melquíades is one of a troop of Gypsies who would visit Macondo every year in March, displaying amazing items from around the world (note: a second, different Gypsy troop begins visiting the town bringing wonders such as magic carpets and ice along with the snake man that prompts Jose Arcadio's disappearance). Melquíades sells José Arcadio Buendía several new inventions, including a pair of magnets and an alchemist's lab. Later, the Gypsies report that Melquíades died in Singapore, but he nonetheless returns to live with the Buendía family, stating he could not bear the solitude of death. He stays with the Buendias and begins to write the mysterious parchments that Aureliano Babilonia eventually translates, before dying a second time; this time he drowns in the river near to Macondo, and is buried in a grand ceremony organized by the Buendias.

After Melquiades' death, Marquez makes reference to one of his earlier short stories, Big Mama's Funeral.

[edit] Pilar Ternera

Pilar is a local woman who sleeps with the brothers Aureliano and José Arcadio. She becomes mother of their sons, Aureliano José and Arcadio. Pilar reads the future with cards, and every so often makes an accurate, though vague, prediction. She has close ties with the Buendias throughout the whole novel, helping them with her card predictions. She dies some time after she turns 145 years old (she had eventually stopped counting), surviving until the very last days of Macondo.

The name "Ternera" is likely a play on the word "Ternura", which in Spanish means "Tenderness". Pilar is always presented as a very loving figure, and the author often uses names in a similar fashion.

[edit] Pietro Crespi

Pietro is a very handsome and polite Italian musician who runs a music school and installs the pianola in the Buendía house. He becomes engaged to Rebeca, but Amaranta, who also loves him, manages to delay the wedding for years. When José Arcadio claims Rebeca for his own wife and she accepts, Pietro begins to woo Amaranta, who is so embittered that she cruelly rejects him. Despondent over the loss of both sisters, he kills himself.

[edit] Petra Cotes

Petra is a dark-skinned woman with gold-brown eyes similar to those of a panther. She is Aureliano Segundo's mistress, as well as the love of his life. She arrives in Macondo as a teenager with her first husband, who starts running the local lottery and dies few years before she meets the twins; she briefly dates both of them, mistaking them to be the same man, and after José Arcadio decides to leave her and never see her again, Aureliano Segundo gets her forgiveness and remains by her side. He continues to see her, even after his marriage, and eventually lives with her; this greatly embitters his wife, Fernanda del Carpio, even after she comes to publicly accept the fact. When Aureliano and Petra make love, their animals reproduce at an amazing rate, but their livestock is wiped out during the five years of rain. Petra makes money by keeping the lottery alive, and provides food baskets for Fernanda and her family after the death of Aureliano Segundo.

[edit] Mr. Herbert and Mr. Brown

Mr. Herbert is a gringo who showed up at the Buendía house for lunch one day. After tasting the local bananas for the first time, he arranges for a banana company to set up a plantation in Macondo. The banana company is run by the dictatorial Mr. Brown. Meme befriends his daughter, Patricia. When José Arcadio Segundo helps arrange a strike, the company traps the more than three thousand strikers and machine guns them down in the town square, stacking the corpses on a secret train and dumping them into the sea. The banana company and the government completely cover up the event, and José Arcadio is the only one who remembers the slaughter. The company arranges for the army to kill off any resistance, then leaves Macondo for good, but not before causing it to rain for four years, eleven months, and two days. That event is likely based on the Banana massacre, that took place in Santa Marta, Colombia in 1928.

[edit] Mauricio Babilonia

Mauricio is a brutally honest, generous and handsome mechanic for the banana company, who is said to be a descendent of the Gypsies who used to visit Macondo in the early days. He has the unusual characteristic of being constantly swarmed by yellow butterflies, which follow even his lover for a time. Mauricio begins a romantic affair with Meme, whom he met at the banana company when she accompanied some gringo girls to check on the new cars, until Fernanda discovers them and tries to end it. When Mauricio continues to sneak into the house to see her, Fernanda has him shot as a chicken thief. He spends the rest of his long life in solitude, confined to a bed due to paralysis. Meme, having endured the shock of having witnessed his crippling, goes mute and spends the rest of her life in a convent imposed by Fernanda. However, Meme is pregnant with the mechanic's son Aureliano. The boy is delivered by a nun to the Buendia house in a basket.

[edit] Gastón

Gastón is Amaranta Úrsula's wealthy Belgian husband. She marries him in Europe and returns to Macondo leading him on a silk leash. Gastón is about fifteen years older than his wife. He is an aviator and an adventurer. When he realizes his wife intends to stay in Macondo, he arranges for his airplane to be shipped over so he can start an airmail service. The plane is shipped to Africa by mistake. When he travels there to claim it, Amaranta writes him of her love for Aureliano (Babilonia) Buendia. Gastón takes the news in stride, only asking that they ship him his velocipede.

[edit] Gabriel García Márquez

He is only a minor character in the novel but he has the distinction of bearing the same name as the author's. He is the great-great-grandson of Colonel Gerineldo Márquez. He and Aureliano Babilonia are close friends because they know the history of the town that no one else believes in. He leaves for Paris after winning a contest and decides to stay there, selling old newspapers and empty bottles—he is one of the few who is able to leave Macondo before the town is wiped out entirely.

[edit] Major themes

[edit] The subjectivity of reality

Critics often cite certain works by García Márquez, such as "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" and One Hundred Years of Solitude, as exemplary of magical realism, a style of writing in which the supernatural is presented as mundane, and the mundane as supernatural or extraordinary. The term was coined by German art critic Franz Roh in 1925.

[edit] The fluidity of time

One Hundred Years of Solitude contains several ideas concerning time. Although the story can be read as a linear progression of events, both when considering individual lives and Macondo's history, García Márquez allows room for several other interpretations of time:

  • He reifies the metaphor of history as a circular phenomenon, through the repetition of names and characteristics belonging to the Buendía family. Over six generations all the José Arcadios possess inquisitive and rational dispositions as well as enormous physical strength; the Aurelianos, meanwhile, tend towards insularity and quietude. This repetition of traits reproduces the history of the individual characters and ultimately a history of the town as a succession of the same mistakes ad infinitum due to some endogenous hubris in our nature.
  • The novel explores the issue of timelessness or eternity even within the framework of mortal existence. A major trope with which it accomplishes this task is the alchemist's laboratory in the Buendía family home, which was first designed by Melquíades near the start of the story and remains essentially unchanged throughout its course as a place where the male Buendía characters can indulge their will to solitude, whether through attempts to deconstruct the world with reason as in the case of José Arcadio Buendía, or by the endless creation and destruction of golden fish like his son Colonel Aureliano Buendía, among a number of other means. A sense of inevitability prevails throughout the text, a feeling that regardless of what way one looks at time, its encompassing nature is the one truthful admission.

[edit] Literary significance and reception

[edit] Adaptations

  • Shuji Terayama's play One Hundred Years of Solitude (百年の孤独, originally performed by the Tenjo Sajiki theater troupe), as well as his film Farewell to the Ark (さらば箱舟) are loose (and not officially authorized) adaptations of the novel by Marquez transplanted into the realm of Japanese culture and history.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Landmarks of World Literatude: 100 Years of Solitude
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Corwin, Jay. La transposicion de fuentes indigenas en Cien anos de soledad. Romance Monographs:1997.
  5. ^

[edit] External links

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