One Hundred Years of Solitude

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One Hundred Years of Solitude (Spanish title: Cien años de soledad) is a novel by Gabriel García Márquez. It was first published in Spanish in 1967 (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana), with an English translation by Gregory Rabassa released in 1970 (New York: Harper and Row).

The book is considered García Márquez's masterpiece, metaphorically encompassing the history of Greater Colombia. The novel spans one hundred years of the life of a small South American town.

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One Hundred Years of Solitude
Contents

Synopsis

All of the events of One Hundred Years of Solitude take place in the fictional Colombian village of Macondo. The town is founded by José Arcadio Buendía, a strong-willed and impulsive leader who becomes deeply interested in the mysteries of the universe when a band of gypsies visits Macondo, led by the recurring Melquíades. As the town grows, the fledgling government of the country takes an interest in Macondo's affairs, but they are held back by José Arcadio.

Civil war breaks out in the land, and Macondo soon takes a role in the war, sending a militia led by Colonel Aureliano Buendía, José Arcadio's son, to fight against the conservative regime. While the colonel is gone, José Arcadio goes insane and must be tied to a tree. Arcadio, his illegitimate grandchild, takes leadership of the town but soon becomes a brutal dictator. The Conservatives capture the town, and Arcadio is shot by a firing squad.

The wars continue, with Colonel Aureliano narrowly avoiding death multiple times, until, weary of the meaningless fighting, he arranges a peace treaty that will last until the end of the novel. After the treaty is signed, Aureliano shoots himself in the chest, but survives. The town develops into a sprawling center of activity as foreigners arrive by the thousands. The foreigners begin a banana plantation near Macondo. The town prospers until a strike arises at the banana plantation. The national army is called in, and the protesting workers are gunned down and thrown into the ocean. At this time, Úrsula, the impossibly ancient widow of José Arcadio Buendía, remarks that "it was as if time was going in a circle".

After the banana worker massacre, the town is saturated by heavy rains that last for four years. Úrsula says that she is waiting for the rains to stop so that she can die at last. The last member of the Buendía line, named Aureliano, is born at this time. When the rains stop, Úrsula dies at last.

Aureliano is finally left in solitude at the crumbling Buendía house, where he studies the parchments of Melquíades, who has appeared as a ghost to him. He gives up on this task to have a love affair with his aunt, though he is unaware they are related. When she dies in childbirth, Aureliano is finally able to decipher the parchments. The house, and the town, disintegrate into a whirlwind as he translates the parchments, on which is contained the entire history of Macondo. As he finishes translating, the entire town is obliterated from the world. The reader comes to realize that the recently translated parchments are in fact the very book the reader has just finished.

Characters

First Generation

José Arcadio Buendía

The patriarch of the Buendía clan, José Arcadio Buendía is strong-willed, immovable by others, 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 due to visions of ghosts and is tied to a tree for the remainder of his days.

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 at the age of 130+, having slowly shrunken to the size of a fetus.

Second Generation

José Arcadio

José Arcadio Buendía's firstborn son, José Arcadio seems to have inherited his father's headstrong, impulsive mannerisms. He leaves the family to chase a gypsy girl and returns years later as a massive giant. He marries Rebeca and lives away from the family, dying as a result of a gunshot after saving his brother from execution.

Colonel Aureliano Buendía

José Arcadio Buendía's second son, Aureliano, 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 Colombian 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 golden fish. He dies while urinating and is found three days later.

Amaranta

The third child of José Arcadio Buendía, Amaranta grows up a companion of Rebeca, but becomes bitter towards her when she steals her fiance. When Rebeca marries José Arcadio instead, Amaranta rejects any man who seeks her out. She has a brief love interest towards her nephew, Aureliano José, but dies an embittered virgin.

Rebeca

Rebeca is of unknown origins. When she arrived in Macondo, she brought with her her parents' bones and an insomnia plague. Rebeca becomes engaged to Pietro Crespi, Amaranta's former fiancé, but leaves him to marry the returned José Arcadio. Disenherited by Úrsula, the pair move to another home. When her husband dies, Rebeca bars the door and lives in solitude for the rest of her life.

Third Generation

Arcadio

Arcadio is José Arcadio's illegitimate son by the prostitute Pilar Ternera. He is a schoolteacher, but assumes leadership of Macondo when Colonel Buendía leaves. He becomes a despotic ruler who is executed by a firing squad when the Conservatives retake Macondo.

Aureliano José

Aureliano José is the son of Colonel Aureliano Buendía, also by Pilar Ternera. He joins his father in several wars, but returns to Macondo because he is in love with his aunt, Amaranta. The two engage in sexual activities, but Amaranta rejects him once she realizes the full extent of her actions. Aureliano José is shot by a Conservative soldier midway through the wars.

Santa Sofía de la Piedad

Santa Sofía is the beautiful wife of Arcadio. She plays a minor role in the novel, staying in the background as a maid in the Buendía home. She leaves unexpectedly during the final years of Macondo's existence.

Fourth Generation

Remedios the Beauty

Remedios is Arcadio and Santa Sofía's first child, and she inherits her mother's beauty. She causes the deaths of several men who love her, but is naively innocent throughout her life. Remedios ascends into the sky one night as Fernanda looks on.

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 sole survivor of the massacre. He dies at the exact instant that his twin does.

Aureliano Segundo

Of the two brothers, Aureliano Segundo is the more boisterous and impulsive, much like the José Arcadios of the family. He takes Petra Cotes as his mistress, even during his marriage to Fernanda del Carpia. 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 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.

Fernanda del Carpio

Fernanda is the only major character (except for perhaps Rebeca) who does not originate in Macondo. She is brought to Macondo to compete with Remedios for the title of Queen of the carnival, and marries Aureliano Segundo. Soon, Fernanda takes leadership of the family away from the frail Úrsula and manages Buendía affairs with an iron fist. She has three children by Aureliano, and remains in the house after he dies. After the house slowly becomes emptier, she becomes paranoid and dies.

Fifth Generation

Renata Remedios (Meme)

Meme is the first child of Fernanda and Aureliano Segundo. She is sent to boarding school and shows that she is capable of the same ridiculous excesses as her father when she brings home 72 of her classmates. She is impregnated by a mechanic as a teenager, and after watching him get shot and crippled, she is incapable of speech for the rest of her life. She is ostracized and sent away by her mother, Fernanda.

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 papal school after the death of his mother, he discovers a buried treasure and wastes it all on lavish parties. He is murdered in his pool by four schoolchildren who steal his gold.

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. She never knows that the child sent to the Buendía home is her nephew, the illegitimate son of Meme. She returns home from Europe with a husband, Gaston, who leaves her when she informs him of her affair with Aureliano, her nephew. She dies in childbirth, leaving Aureliano the last member of the family.

Sixth Generation

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 of his namesake, the Colonel, and has the same character patterns as well. 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 Amaranta Úrsula. When both she, and her child, die, he is able to decipher the parchments, alone in the house, and is assumed to die along with the rest of Macondo, now a deserted town.

Seventh Generation

Aureliano (III)

The illegitimate child of Aureliano and his aunt, Amaranta Úrsula. The child was born with a tail, as the eldest Úrsula had always feared would happen. The mother died while giving birth to her son, and due to the negligence of his father, the son is devoured by ants.

Themes

The subjectivity of reality

García Márquez writes in the style of magical realism, a style of writing that is analogous to surrealism in pictorial and plastic work. In magical realism, events that seem impossible – such as levitation – are commonplace, and things are not as they first seem. The theme illustrated in this style is that reality is subjective and is dependent upon the individual. Magical realism is common among Latin American authors, though disparaged as self-indulgence by some critics.

The fluidity of time

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, time is almost impossible to keep track of. This is exemplified in the rapid switches in time in the narrative, the impossibly long lifespans of some characters, and the motif that "Time is moving in a circle". The characters in the novel often make the same errors as their ancestors, not learning from previous mistakes. A recurring motif is that of memory, which is often absent in Macondo.

Notes

The song Roderigo by Seven Mary Three was inspired by One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Awards

In addition to García Márquez's Nobel Prize for Literature for his oeuvre as a whole, One Hundred Years of Solitude was awarded Venezuela's prestigious Rómulo Gallegos Prize for literature in 1972.

Editions in print

External links

es:Cien años de soledad ko:백년_동안의_고독

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