One hun­dred years of soli­tude: Imag­i­na­tion and Re­al­ity

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Li Yi Edited by David Ball

In 1982, the then 55-year-old Colom­bian nov­el­ist, Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez, was awarded the No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture in par­tic­u­lar be­cause of his novel One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, in which he tells the sto­ries of seven gen­er­a­tions of the same fam­ily over a pe­riod of one hun­dred years.

In 1982, the then 55-year-old Colom­bian nov­el­ist, Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez, was awarded the No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture in par­tic­u­lar be­cause of his novel One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude. Gar­cía Márquez was uni­ver­sally recog­nised as the most rep­re­sen­ta­tive writer in the magic re­al­ism style. The au­thor was awarded his No­bel award “for his nov­els and short sto­ries, in which the fan­tas­tic and the re­al­is­tic are com­bined in a richly com­posed world of imag­i­na­tion, re­flect­ing a con­ti­nent’s life and con­flicts.” The award­ing com­mit­tee also stated that One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude is “a mon­u­men­tal work re­flect­ing the his­tor­i­cal and so­cial scenes in Latin Amer­ica.”

Gar­cía Márquez cre­ated a unique world with a magic writ­ing style. In One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, he tells the sto­ries of seven gen­er­a­tions of the same fam­ily over a pe­riod of one hun­dred years, the ups-and-downs they faced, the var­i­ous kinds of soli­tude they felt and the lone­li­ness of the 40-plus mem­bers of this mys­te­ri­ous fam­ily.

From Law Stu­dent to Nov­el­ist

One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude cre­ated an in­stant stir in the lit­er­ary world of Latin Amer­ica as well as the en­tire Span­ish­s­peak­ing world when it was first pub­lished in 1967. The novel was soon trans­lated into many lan­guages, earn­ing Gar­cia Márquez world­wide fame.

Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez was born in 1927 in Ara­cat­aca in Colom­bia and was raised by his ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents. His grand­fa­ther was a highly re­spected ex-

colonel and a stub­born but kind-hearted man. His grand­mother would tell him end­less fairy-tales and sto­ries about ghosts. Gar­cía Márquez be­gan read­ing

One Thou­sand and One Nights at the age of seven and of­ten lis­tened to folk sto­ries told by his grand­mother at a young age. Such ex­pe­ri­ences pro­vided im­por­tant ma­te­ri­als for his fu­ture lit­er­ary cre­ations.

For Gar­cía Márquez, grow­ing up in Ara­cat­aca was a spe­cial time. His birth­place was a weird world full of ghosts and peo­ple—a magic yet or­di­nary place. Such an im­pres­sion pro­vided an in­ex­haustible source of in­spi­ra­tion for his fu­ture nov­els. In his works, Ara­cat­aca be­came “Ma­condo,” a fic­tional vil­lage where many sto­ries took place.

At the age of 20, Gar­cia Márquez went to study law at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Colom­bia in Bo­gotá, where he also be­gan to write. Dur­ing his time at univer­sity, Gar­cia Márquez was an avid reader of po­etry from the golden pe­riod of Span­ish lit­er­a­ture and arts—an ex­pe­ri­ence that laid a solid foun­da­tion for his later lit­er­ary cre­ations. A year later, how­ever, he left univer­sity due to the civil con­flict in Colom­bia. In 1955, he was forced to leave Colom­bia to work as a cor­re­spon­dent for El Espec­ta­dor in Europe af­ter ex­pos­ing a govern­ment cover-up of a navy ship­wreck. He later found him­self stranded in Europe af­ter El Espec­ta­dor was shut down by the Colom­bian Govern­ment. It was dur­ing this year that Márquez pub­lished his first novel, Leaf Storm. In 1958, Gar­cia Márquez and his long-time girl­friend Mercedes Bar­cha mar­ried. In 1959, he worked for the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina in Bo­gotá, Cuba and New York. A year later he was in­vited to at­tend the cer­e­mony cel­e­brat­ing vic­tory in the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion.

In 1967, One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude was pub­lished and be­came a lit­er­ary sen­sa­tion in Latin Amer­ica and even across the world. Re­puted as a “lit­er­ary mas­ter­piece worth read­ing by all hu­mans,” the work was trans­lated into nu­mer­ous lan­guages. The novel won Gar­cia Márquez var­i­ous fi­nan­cial re­wards, en­abling him to de­vote him­self to writ­ing full-time. Hav­ing first con­ceived of the novel more than a decade ear­lier, he be­gan writ­ing it in 1965 be­fore com­plet­ing it two years later. The main part of the book is de­voted to de­scrib­ing the leg­endary life of its pro­tag­o­nists, re­flect­ing the his­tor­i­cal fact that dozens of in­ter­nal wars in Colom­bia had claimed the lives of hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple be­tween 1830 and the end of the 19th cen­tury. The book vividly de­picts the hypocrisy of politi­cians, the bru­tal­ity of the coun­try’s rulers and the blind obe­di­ence and ig­no­rance of many peo­ple.

Gar­cia Márquez spent most of his time in Mex­ico City af­ter 1975. He was in­volved in many as­pects of the news in­dus­try and re­mained po­lit­i­cally ac­tive all his life. He was awarded the No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture in 1982, and in the same year, re­turned to Colom­bia fol­low­ing an earth­quake.

Gar­cia Márquez pub­lished Love in the Time of Cholera in 1985, in which “lovers find love in their ‘golden years’.” In 1986, the first edi­tion of Clan­des­tine in Chile: The Ad­ven­tures of Miguel Lit­tín, a non-fic­tion re­port com­pleted by Gar­cia Márquez in 1986, was de­stroyed in pub­lic by the Chilean Govern­ment in San Diego. How­ever, this only guar­an­teed the suc­cess of later edi­tions of the re­port. The work de­scribes a well-known film di­rec­tor liv­ing in ex­ile who re­turns clan­des­tinely to his moth­er­land of Chile to shoot a doc­u­men­tary about the lives of or­di­nary peo­ple liv­ing un­der the rule of the Pinochet govern­ment.

Gar­cia Márquez and his agent Car­men Bal­cells vis­ited China to­gether in 1990. Af­ter suf­fer­ing from lym­phatic can­cer in 1999, Gar­cia Márquez sel­dom wrote lit­er­ary works, and in 2006 he an­nounced that he would not write any more. In 2008, Car­men Bal­cells and oth­ers re­turned to China, spend­ing two months mak­ing var­i­ous in­spec­tions. Fi­nally, China was granted per­mis­sion to pub­lish One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude in 2010. Later, many other works by Gar­cia Márquez were pub­lished in China, in­clud­ing I’m Not Here to Give a Speech and Love in the Time of Cholera.

Márquez passed away in Mex­ico City in 2014 aged 87. As the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Latin Amer­i­can magic re­al­ism, he is one of the most in­flu­en­tial writ­ers of the 20th cen­tury and is re­puted as one of the great­est writ­ers of the past cen­tury. By com­bin­ing imag­i­na­tion with re­al­ism, he de­picted the rapidly-chang­ing, fairy-tale like his­tory of Columbia and even the en­tire South Amer­i­can con­ti­nent. One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude tells the leg­endary sto­ries of seven gen­er­a­tions of the Buendía fam­ily. José Ar­ca­dio Buendía, who is of Span­ish de­scent, lives in a small vil­lage. His wife, Úr­sula Iguarán, re­fuses to sleep with him, out of fear that she would give birth to a child who grows a tail, as hap­pened af­ter her aunt mar­ried her un­cle. Buendía leaves the vil­lage with his wife af­ter be­ing haunted by Pru­den­cio Aguilar, a man he killed in a duel af­ter be­ing ridiculed by him. Af­ter trekking for more than two years, they de­cide to es­tab­lish a town while camp­ing by a river, which later be­comes known as Ma­condo. The sto­ries of the Buendía fam­ily be­gin to un­fold here.

José Ar­ca­dio Buendía is a cre­ative man. Hav­ing seen how a gypsy per­forms won­ders with a mag­net, he de­cides to use the mag­net to mine gold and later to openup a new road out of dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the back­ward life he lives. He leads a group that works painstak­ingly for two weeks but to no avail. Later he be­comes ob­sessed by alchemy and shuts him­self away in his lab­o­ra­tory. As his spir­i­tual pur­suits are all out of tune with the parochial re­al­ity of Ma­condo, he is un­able to re­lease him­self from his lone­li­ness and suf­fers a men­tal break­down. As such, his fam­ily mem­bers tie him to a large tree, where he re­mains un­til his death sev­eral decades later.

There are two men and one woman in

the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of the fam­ily.

José Ar­ca­dio Buendía’s first­born son, also called José Ar­ca­dio, com­mits adul­tery with Pi­lar Tern­era, and they have a child. He even­tu­ally leaves the fam­ily to chase a gypsy girl and un­ex­pect­edly re­turns many years later, un­recog­nis­able to those who once knew him. In spite of ob­jec­tions from his fam­ily, he mar­ries his adopted sis­ter Re­beca, caus­ing his ban­ish­ment from the fam­ily, and he dies from a gun­shot wound in the fam­ily house.

Aure­liano Buendía is Buendía’s sec­ond son. He was thought to have pre­mo­ni­tions be­cause ev­ery­thing he said came true. He spends his days in his fa­ther’s lab­o­ra­tory, con­duct­ing ex­per­i­ments. How­ever, as he grows up, he falls in love with Reme­dios Moscote, the daugh­ter of the vil­lage ad­min­is­tra­tor. Prior to that, his and his brother’s lover Pi­lar Tern­era gives birth to a son named Aure­liano José. Later, Aure­liano be­comes in­volved in the civil war and reaches the rank of colonel. When he re­alises the war has no mean­ing at all, he signs a peace treaty with the govern­ment, bring­ing the war to an end. He then tries to com­mit sui­cide by shoot­ing him­self in the heart but mirac­u­lously sur­vives. Dur­ing the war, he fa­thers 17 sons; all of which co­in­ci­dently go to Ma­condo in search of their roots. Un­for­tu­nately, all but the el­dest are mur­dered by un­known as­sas­sins. When he grows old, Aure­liano Buendía re­turns to his home­town where he spends his time try­ing to turn or­di­nary met­als into gold. He would make two lit­tle gold fish each day— then once he had made 25, he would melt them down in a cru­cible and starts mak­ing them again.

The third child of Buendía and Úr­sula is their daugh­ter, Amaranta, who falls in love with Pi­etro Crespi, an Ital­ian pi­ano tech­ni­cian. How­ever, she re­fuses to marry Pi­etro which leads to him com­mit­ting sui­cide. Out of her re­gret, she de­lib­er­ately burns one of her hands to show her de­ter­mi­na­tion never to marry. She shuts her­self in her room all day, sewing and un­rav­el­ing clothes for dead bod­ies un­til she dies.

There are only two mem­bers in the third gen­er­a­tion of the fam­ily: Ar­ca­dio, the son of José Ar­ca­dio; and Aure­liano José, the son of Aure­liano Buendía. Ar­ca­dio be­comes in­fat­u­ated with his bi­o­log­i­cal mother, not know­ing who she is, al­most bring­ing about a huge blunder. Later, he be­comes a tyran­ni­cal dic­ta­tor of Ma­condo and is shot by a con­ser­va­tive fir­ing squad. Aure­liano José, who matured too early, is ob­sessed with his aunt, Amaranta. Af­ter be­ing re­jected by her, he feels so lonely that he joins the army. How­ever, he can­not dis­pel his love for her even af­ter he en­lists and so seeks con­so­la­tion from a pros­ti­tute. He is even­tu­ally shot to death mid­way through the wars.

There are two males and one fe­male in the fourth gen­er­a­tion of the fam­ily, all of whom are the chil­dren of Ar­ca­dio and his wife Santa Sofía.

Their daugh­ter, Reme­dios, is del­i­cate, charm­ing and em­anates an un­easy scent that causes the deaths of sev­eral men who love or lust af­ter her. Later, she as­cends into the sky while fold­ing a white sheet and dis­ap­pears for­ever.

José Ar­ca­dio Se­gundo and Aure­liano Se­gundo are her younger twin broth­ers. José Ar­ca­dio Se­gundo is a su­per­vi­sor at an Amer­i­can-run ba­nana com­pany and be­comes a leader in the union. When more than 3,000 work­ers go on a strike un­der his lead­er­ship, they are mas­sa­cred by the mil­i­tary po­lice and only he sur­vives. José Ar­ca­dio Se­gundo wit­nesses the govern­ment au­thor­i­ties tak­ing the dead bod­ies of the work­ers to a beach by the sea and dump­ing them there. They an­nounce that the work­ers have been trans­ferred to other sites for the time be­ing. Ar­ca­dio Se­gundo tells who­ever he meets about the mas­sacre, but peo­ple think he has lost his mind. Afraid and dis­ap­pointed, he shuts him­self in his house to study parch­ments left by gyp­sies un­til his death.

Aure­liano Se­gundo aban­dons him­self to wine and women, tak­ing a mis­tress by the name of Pe­tra Cotes, re­gard­less of his wife Fer­nanda del Car­pio. He and his wife have three chil­dren: two girls and one boy. In the end, he dies of an un­known ill­ness at the ex­act same time as his twin brother.

The fifth gen­er­a­tion of the fam­ily mem­bers con­sists of Aure­liano Se­gundo’s two daugh­ters and son. José Ar­ca­dio, the el­dest son, is sent to study at a the­o­log­i­cal col­lege in Rome when he is just a child. How­ever, he shows no in­ter­est at all in be­com­ing a priest, as his mother had wanted. Af­ter the death of his mother, he re­turns to his home­town and sells off the fam­ily prop­er­ties to sup­port him­self. He is even­tu­ally mur­dered by sev­eral boys who ran­sack his house and steal his gold.

Re­nata Reme­dios, or Meme, is the first daugh­ter of Fer­nanda and Aure­liano Se­gundo. She falls in love with Mauri­cio

Ba­bilo­nia, a me­chanic in the ba­nana com­pany, but is for­bid­den from mar­ry­ing him. When Mauri­cio is killed, Reme­dios falls into a deep de­spair. Her mother sends the preg­nant Reme­dios to a con­vent where she re­mains mute for the rest of her life.

Amaranta Úr­sula, the younger daugh­ter, goes to study in Brus­sels at a young age. There she meets and mar­ries a pi­lot by the name of Gastón. Later they re­turn to Ma­condo, only to find the town is in a des­ti­tute con­di­tion and so de­cide to re­vamp the place. An en­er­getic per­son who is full of vi­tal­ity, Amaranta man­ages to en­tirely trans­form her home­town in just three months and de­cides to stay there to help save this disas­ter-rid­den vil­lage.

New Magic Re­al­ism

The sto­ries of the Buendía fam­ily be­gin to come to an end. The sixth gen­er­a­tion con­sists of just Aure­liano Ba­bilo­nia, or Aure­liano II, the il­le­git­i­mate child of Meme. He grows up in soli­tude and his only hobby is hid­ing him­self in the room of Melquíades, a gypsy, where he stud­ies var­i­ous kinds of mys­te­ri­ous parch­ments. He falls in love with Amaranta Úr­sula, not know­ing she is his aunt, and has an af­fair with her. Al­though they are tor­tured by lone­li­ness and love, they feel like they’re the hap­pi­est peo­ple in the world. Later, Amaranta gives birth to a child—a boy born with a pig’s tail—and then dies of post­par­tum haemorrhage.

Aure­liano, the boy with a pig’s tail, is part of the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion of the Buendía fam­ily. He is de­voured by ants at birth. When Aure­liano Buendía sees that only a small piece of skin re­mains of his on, he fi­nally de­ci­phers the Melquíades’ parch­ments. The ded­i­ca­tion at the be­gin­ning reads: “The first of the line is tied to a tree and the last is be­ing eaten by ants.” It turns out that the parch­ments record the his­tory of the Buendía fam­ily. The mo­ment Aure­liano com­pletes de­ci­pher­ing the last chap­ter of the parch­ments, a great wind de­stroys Ma­condo and the vil­lage dis­ap­pears for­ever. The novel ends with the fol­low­ing words: “… 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.”

A large num­ber of unique char­ac­ters are vividly por­trayed in the novel, and the sense of the fam­ily’s soli­tude is also clearly de­scribed. The fam­ily has nei­ther emo­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion nor trust and un­der­stand­ing be­tween hus­band and wife, fa­ther and son, or mother and daugh­ter. The ef­forts made by peo­ple to rid them­selves of soli­tude all end in fail­ure. Soli­tude is the em­blem of the Buendía fam­ily, and each fam­ily mem­ber wears such an em­blem, ei­ther con­sciously or un­con­sciously.

Such soli­tude, as dis­closed by Gar­cia Márquez, is at­trib­uted to the closed, back­ward, cor­rupt and tyran­ni­cal so­cial at­mo­sphere that pre­vailed in Columbia and even all of Latin Amer­ica dur­ing the first half of the 20th cen­tury. The au­thor hopes that the Latin Amer­i­can peo­ple can be united to rid them­selves of this soli­tude. The sense of soli­tude de­picted in One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude mainly re­flects the re­sent­ment and protest of Latin Amer­ica re­gard­ing the fact that it was over­looked in the process of the world’s evo­lu­tion to­wards mod­ern civil­i­sa­tion. It also rep­re­sents Gar­cia Márquez’s thoughts on the fate of Latin Amer­ica over the past 100 years. He at­tempts to use the 100-year his­tory of the Buendía fam­ily to gen­er­alise the his­tor­i­cal evo­lu­tion of Latin Amer­ica. He points out al­most des­per­ately that “the his­tory of Latin Amer­ica is the sum­mari­sa­tion of con­sid­er­able yet fu­tile ef­forts and is the sum of one act af­ter an­other of a drama that is des­tined to be for­got­ten.” Such a his­tory sym­bol­ises soli­tude, hence the novel’s name. When speak­ing about his in­ten­tions in cre­at­ing One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude in 1982, Gar­cia Márquez ad­mit­ted: “I hope to find a per­fect lit­er­ary home for all my child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Fol­low­ing the cre­ative prin­ci­ple of magic re­al­ism that aims to “turn re­al­ity into fan­tasy without los­ing its au­then­tic­ity,” Gar­cia Márquez com­bines alarm­ing re­al­ity with the fan­tasy of fairy-tales and leg­ends and turns them into unique, colour­ful im­ages us­ing his skil­ful con­cep­tion and rich imag­i­na­tion. The sto­ries are in­tri­cate and the sec­ond and third gen­er­a­tions of the fam­ily of­ten adopt the same names. The con­ti­nu­ity in the com­plex re­la­tion­ships in­volved in the fam­ily mem­bers over sev­eral gen­er­a­tions that have the same names pro­duces a sense of rep­e­ti­tion, which deep­ens the magic soli­tude pre­vail­ing through­out the en­tire novel.

In ad­di­tion, Gar­cia Márquez cre­ates sto­ries with un­adorned and lu­cid lan­guage. The au­thor fo­cuses on the struc­ture of the novel, cre­at­ing clear points of view and pre­cise de­tails. For ex­am­ple, the novel be­gins with the fol­low­ing words: “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.” Such a terse sen­tence in­cor­po­rates past, present and fu­ture tenses. The au­thor ob­vi­ously nar­rates the story from a hid­den “present.” The first sen­tence is im­me­di­ately fol­lowed by a re­view of when Ma­condo was be­ing built. Such a tem­po­ral struc­ture is re­peated through­out the novel, build­ing sus­pen­sion.

Magic re­al­ism strongly in­flu­enced a whole gen­er­a­tion of Chi­nese writ­ers. Western lit­er­ary thoughts im­pacted Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture in the 1980s, when China was un­der­go­ing ide­o­log­i­cal eman­ci­pa­tion and the for­eign writer that ex­erted most in­flu­ence was none other than Gar­cia Márquez. At the time, it was con­sid­ered trendy to read One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude and dis­cuss magic re­al­ism. Such a writ­ing style is also em­ployed by many well-known Chi­nese writ­ers in­clud­ing Chen Zhong­shi, Mo Yan and Yan Lianke. The Chi­nese edi­tion of One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude was for­mally au­tho­rised by Gar­cia Márquez and pub­lished for the first time in 2010. The deluxe edi­tion of One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude trans­lated by Fan Ye was pub­lished by Nan Hai Pub­lish­ing Com­pany in 2011, and has be­come the most pop­u­lar edi­tion.

As is de­scribed in the book, “Things have a life of their own. It’s sim­ply a mat­ter of wak­ing up their souls.” Such a work of magic re­al­ism craftily fuses re­al­ity with imag­i­na­tion with its dis­tinc­tive style and fan­tasies. It not only de­scribes the rise and fall of the Buendía fam­ily, hon­our and dis­grace, and the love and ha­tred be­tween fam­ily mem­bers but also re­flects the rapidly chang­ing his­tory of Latin Amer­ica over a cen­tury. It is a clas­sic piece of lit­er­a­ture with its own soul, dis­play­ing a mag­nif­i­cent magic world.

Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez

A scene from the 2007 film adap­ta­tion of Love in the Time of Cholera

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