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Michael Cherry

A Second Opportunity on Earth:
Magical Realism and the Post-Colonial World
in One Hundred Years of Solitude and Beyond
The matter was put down as a duel of honor, but both of them were left with a twinge in
their conscience. One night, when she could not sleep, rsula went out into the courtyard
to get some water and she saw Prudencio Aguilar by the water jar. He was livid, a sad
expression on his face, trying to cover the hole in his throat with a plug made of esparto
grass. It did not bring on fear in her, but pity. She went back to the room and told her
husband what she had seen, but he did not think much of it. This just means that we cant
stand the weight of our conscience. . . . [Finally,] Jos Arcadio Buenda, annoyed by his
wifes hallucinations, went out into the courtyard armed with the spear. There was the dead
man with his sad expression.
You go to hell, Jos Arcadio Buenda shouted at him. Just as many times as you come
back, Ill kill you again. (Garca Mrquez 22-23)
This scene, from Gabriel Garca Mrquezs One Hundred Years of Solitude, depicts a pivotal
event in the lives of the novels patriarch, Jos Arcadio Buenda, and his wife, rsula; it is the event
that necessitates the Buendas departure from their familiar village into that new, uncertain space
later named Macondo. Jos Arcadio Buendas masculinity is questioned by another man, Prudencio
Aguilar. His pride insulted, Buenda kills Aguilar by throwing a spear through his throat. The
murdered man proceeds to haunt the couple, more out of loneliness than ghostly vengeance. He
roams their house at night, looking for water to wet the grass plug he uses to fill the hole in his
throat.
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What makes this such an important and illustrative use of magical realism is not just the way
Garca Mrquez describes this haunting in the calm, descriptive manner of a traditional, realist novel,
free from any Gothic spookiness. Importantly, Jos Arcadio Buenda and rsula realize that he is a
manifestation of their guilty consciences. (rsulas conscience is also troubled, because it is her
refusal to consummate their marriage that leads to the gossip injurious to her husbands manhood.)
Interpreting a ghost as a projection of a troubled conscience is a predictable, modern European
response. Simply seeing the ghost as a real, literal ghost is a typically (or stereotypically) pre-modern
response. In this scene, however, the couple understand that this undead Prudencio Aguilar is a
projection of their troubled psychesThis just means that we cant stand the weight of our
consciencebut rsula leaves the water jars open for him anyway. That he is a product of their
guilt does not make him any less real. Thus, Garcia Marquez brilliantly confounds the typical
narrative expectations fostered by the traditional, European realist novel. The above-quoted
scene serves as a quintessential instance of magical realism, by perfectly manifesting magical
realisms genre-defying hybridity.
Wendy B. Faris explains in her study of magical realist fiction, Ordinary Enchantments: Magical
Realism and the Remystification of Narrative, that briefly defined, magical realism combines realism and
the fantastic so that the marvelous seems to grow organically within the ordinary, blurring the
distinction between them (Faris 1). Nowhere is this more in evidence than in One Hundred Years of
Solitude. According to Maggie Ann Bowers in her book Magic(al) Realism, Gabriel Garca Mrquez . .
. has come to epitomize the image of magical realism . . . due to his innovative use of the technique
(33). His use of magical realism does much more than simply charm the reader; the technique, if it
can be reduced to that, serves to both enchant and unsettle.
This effect runs through the entirety of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Garca Mrquez has
achieved a compelling fusion of the pre-modern magical tale with the modern, European realist
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novel. This is no mere reversion to the sort of mythic storytelling common to the indiginous
peoples of what we now know as Latin America or to the various native cultures of the Caribbean
(or, for that matter, of pre-modern Europe). It is post-colonial in the truest sense; it is a literary
attitude which depends on the prior imposition of modern European culture and the transformation
thereof. Faris notes, [magical realisms] combination of realistic and fantastic narrative reflects,
together with the inclusion of both its narrative mode and its cultural environment, the hybrid
nature of much post-colonial society (Faris 1). Garca Mrquezs Colombia is a crossroads of pre-
conquest Native American culture, the African culture brought in via the slave trade, the various
other cultures of the Caribbean zone, and the culture of the European conquerorsincluding, for
Garca Mrquez, their most modern descendents, such as Faulkner and Woolf. All of these
elements mix in One Hundred Years of Solitude, generating a way of experiencing the world different
from any of its influences, thereby revealing the post-colonial world. This world exists as a tension
between its elements, a mixture so unstable that it threatens to revert at any moment to either of the
prior worldsEuropean and non-European, or modern and non-modernthat compose it.
What does it mean to speak of a post-colonial world, or other, multiple worlds; isnt there
really only one real world? From a phenomenological perspective, the answer is no. One useful way
to approach this idea is found in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. According to him, the
world is not the collection of factual things we might itemize around us. Rather, the worldor,
simply, worldis the orientation we have toward all the people, things, and events. It is what we
make of mere facts, the significance we grant them, the way we see them as an interrelated whole.
The original disclosure of Da-seins own being in a relational-whole constitutes the fundamental
structure of his being as being-in-the-world (qtd. in King 51). For Heidegger, the only world
humanity may know is the world as it is experienced. This sounds like an obvious truism, but
Heidegger shows how this seemingly common-sensical assumption is, in fact, lacking in much of
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Western thought. Heideggers philosophical project is one of reassessment; it is an attempt not to
further the usual ends of Western philosophy but to move outside and beyond them. His work
marks a sort of fault line between Western philosophy, as it has been practiced since Aristotle, and
whatever comes next. This liminal quality renders Heideggers work especially useful for Western
thinkers who are trying to negotiate the spaces between European culture and the various non-
European cultures whose voices are today heard with increasing amplitude. Thus, his work is a
fruitful means by which to consider what is going on with this phenomenon of magical realism,
especially as manifested in One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Many post-colonial theorists are from colonized cultures. It might seem inapposite,
therefore, to use the work of a deeply German philosopher to examine post-colonial issues.
However, Martin Heidegger attempted throughout most of his work to transcend modern Western
culture as it existed in the early and mid twentieth century. His project was the same as that of many
current post-colonial thinkers: he sought a new way of thinking and experiencing reality that did not
omit or extinguish so many non-rational dimensions of reality as does modern, Western techno-
scientific culture. Heidegger was deeply attached to the provincial life of southern Germany, to its
small towns and rugged landscape -- he did much of his writing in a mountain cottage at
Todtnauberg, which he had built in 1923. He disliked big cities and their social and cultural life
(Inwood 4). He disliked modernity.
In his philosophy, Heidegger attempts to start from scratch, intellectually speaking. He
goes back to ancient Greek philosophy to examine what assumptions led to the eventual
development of modern, European, techo-scientific, imperialistic culture. In his view, both Plato
and Aristotle conceived of the lived-in world as a derivation of something more permanent and
more important -- more real. Western thought has since been characterized by a tendency to
presume that true knowledge, and therefore true being, is based on eternal, unchanging truths which
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are known abstractly, and exclusively, by the intellect, rather than being experienced by any other
means. It is a knowledge whose ideal is that of the perspective from a supposedly timeless realm.
Such a fantasy of power and invulnerability culminates in the era of technology (Clark 31).
The changeable and fleeting world we live in is inferior and therefore of less importance; it
becomes acceptable to exploit and destroy what is already inferior to begin with. Heidegger sees this
tradition of Western metaphysical prejudice as culminating in the modern, techno-scientific era.
Heideggers thinking is both a profound philosophy and a radical critique of the fundamental
assumptions of modernity (Clark 2). In the words of Lawrence E. Cahoone, Heidegger is one of
those who see modernity . . . as a movement of ethnic and class domination, European
imperialism, anthropocentrism, the destruction of nature, the dissolution of community and
tradition, the rise of alienation, the death of individuality in bureaucracy (Clark 2). Thus, Western
philosophy since Plato has addressed the question of being in the wrong manner. Heideggers
criticism is of the dominance and primacy of the theoretical in Western life, . . . the notion of . . . a
neutral, detached, impartial observation, the so-called view from nowhere (Clark 16). Being
cannot be apprehended by a view from nowhere; any attempt to answer the question of what
reality is already presupposes certain a priori assumptions and ideas.
A pivotal argument of Being and Time is that to exist means to have, to be in, a world --
always already (Clark 18). World and being are not synonymous in Heideggers writings; however,
world is the way being is manifest to humanity. The world is not a thing, but Da-sein himself is
worldish (King 53). A human -- or Da-sein (literally: there-being) -- exists always in the manner of
being-in-the-world. The world is always a matter of how everything relates to you and me, what use
I make of it, what use you make of it, etc. World is based in the practical, pre-reflective
understanding of the world and each other in which we actually live, as engaged beings going about
our daily tasks (Clark 17). To understand any given situation or phenomenon, it is necessary to
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possess not some theory, but rather an empathetic sense of the embodied human world, its
limits, its weariness and its recreations (Clark 15). In other words, even the most simple,
practical aspects of how we get along in the world are based in our sense of what things mean to us,
for us. The world we experience, as we experience it, uncovers whatever needs or deep interests we
happen to have, consciously and unconsciously, at a given time. This disclosure happens when Da-
sein throws a world over things, within which they can show themselves as and for the things they
are (King 58).
So when I refer to the post-colonial world as it comes through in One Hundred Years of
Solitude, I do not refer merely to the objects present, or to the lexicon, or to the events, or even to
the characters themselves. It is all of these things together, but, more importantly, it is also the way
in which the interrelationship of all of these things is presented. The world I mean to emphasize is
the existential gestalt of the whole book, the basis for experience that this novel throws over things
by means of magical realism.
In Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative, Wendy B. Faris
examines magical realism as it is used in a variety of novels. She identifies some important
characteristics.
Magical realist narrative conjures a narrative space that we might call the ineffable in-
between. It is not the magical events themselves that are ineffable, because they are
often described in detail, but the fact that they are present within an otherwise realistic
narrative makes that narrative the space of the ineffable in-between, a space in which
the realistic and the magical coexist. We might say that defocalization creates a
narrative space of the ineffable in-between because its perspective cannot be explained,
only experienced. [italics mine] (Faris 46).
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Defocalization means that the narrative seems to come from two radically different perspectives at
once (Faris 43). Magical realism, as it is practiced in One Hundred Years of Solitude, destablizes all of
the prior worlds it uses; only by clearing some conceptual space in this way can a new world come
into existence. It transcends the political, but it nevertheless has clear political ramifications.
Magical realism radically modifies and replenishes the dominant mode of realism in the
West, challenging its basis of representation from within. That destabilization of a
dominant form means that it has served as a particularly effective decolonizing agent. . .
[The] combination of realistic and fantastic narrative reflects, together with the inclusion
of both its narrative mode and its cultural environment, the hybrid nature of much
postcolonial society (Faris 1).
Further, insofar as magical realism possesses an irreducible element of magic, the irreducible
element is something we cannot explain according to the laws of the universe as they have been
formulated in Western empirically based discourse (Faris 7). Therefore, the basic assumptions of
the modern, European, realist novel have been undermined, even as its superficial structure is
retained. [Magical realism] creates a new decolonized space for narrative, one not already occupied
by the assumptions of European realism (Faris 135). What Faris calls a new decolonized space, I
see as a post-colonial world. At any rate, magical realisms significance as a way to move beyond the
modern, European cultural impasse should be clear.
Another observation Faris makes about magical realism is that magical realisms
multicultural perspective often originates in the peripheral and colonized regions of the West: Latin
America and the Caribbean, India, Eastern Europe, Africa (Faris 29). This certainly holds true in
the case of One Hundred Years of Solitude, written by a Colombian novelist. Colombias history is not
significantly different from that of other Latin American countries. The region was conquered in
the 16th century. The particular area we now label Colombia is a smaller version of a territory
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that once included current Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador (Colombia). Colombia as it now
exists came into official being around 1830. While there were never any major civilizations such as
the Mayans or the Aztecs, a number of tribal aboriginal peoples occupied the region prior to
European colonization. With colonization came not only the culture of the Europeans, but also the
culture of the slaves and other migrants who arrived from Africa and the Caribbean. These latter
populations eclipsed, but did not totally efface, the culture of the natives. This mlange continues,
in varying concentrations, to the present day, and was very influential upon Gabriel Garca Mrquez.
He spent his boyhood in the sad and unpaved town of Aracataca, in the multi-cultural Colombian
lowlands, raised by his maternal grandparents Tranquilina Iguarn and Colonel Nicols Mrquez
(Bell-Villada 42). Garca Mrquez notes,[my greatest influence was my] grandmother, first and
foremost. She used to tell me about the most atrocious things without turning a hair, as if it was
something shed just seen. I realized it was her impassive manner and her wealth of images that
made her stories so credible (Garca Mrquez/Apuleyo Mendoza 30). Interestingly, the realist
aspect of magical realism is present in germinal form here, as well as the magical. The modern,
European novelistic form can be seen, then, not as something the non-European mind does not or
cannot possess, but rather as an extreme development of something that can be healthy in
moderation. Nevertheless, what is significant about the modern strain is the absence of the magical.
As to the presence of the magical, Garcia Marquez indicates his indebtedness in this area to the
vibrant cultural mix available to him in Colombia.
My grandparents were of Galician origin and many of the supernatural things they told
me about came from Galicia. However, I think this taste for the supernatural also
comes to us through our African heritage. . . . The exuberant imagination of African
slaves, mixed with that of the pre-Columbian natives and added to the Andalusian taste
for fantasy and the Galician cult of the supernatural, had produced an ability to see
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reality in a certain magical way. . . . The Caribbean taught me to look at reality in a
different way, to accept the supernatural as part of our everyday life. (51-52)
In the West, this acceptance of everyday magic went out with the Renaissance. Later attempts to
revive it, such as popular spiritualistic/mediumistic trends and haunted house stories, always
emphasize the spookiness and non-everydayness of the supernatural. Interestingly, it was Kafkas
The Metamorphosis which set off Garca Mrquezs realization that he could write in modern form
while retaining this Caribbean sense of wonder. Bloody hell! I thought, my grandmother used to
talk like that (49). As an Eastern-European Jew, Kafka also wrote from a social and psychic area
marginal in relation to modern Europe. Thus activated, Garca Mrquez was free to make use of
these influences as well as other Western masters such as Faulkner and Woolf. (Insofar as Faulkner
was Southern and Woolf female, they both wrote from a certain marginality, as well, though they
became exemplars of Western high modernism.) Once he got all these influences working together,
Garca Mrquez was able to write the book that would sell over ten million copies in Latin America
alone (Bell-Villada 4), where the people recognized in his powerful rendering their post-colonial
experience of life. He mirrored to them their world. As the novel has been very popular north of
the border, as well as in Europe and even in Russia (where a woman copied out the whole book by
hand in astonishment to make sure she had really read it) (4), there is good reason to conclude this
may be the world we all live in, now.
Again, what I want to emphasize about One Hundred Years of Solitude is the overall effect of
the novel, epitomized and intensified by the scatterings of magical realism throughout, but not
limited to them. In my discussion, I give the story a more linear treatment than does Mrquez,
though the story is predominantly told in chronological order. The plot is so complex, the book
reads almost like the Bible. This complexity gives the novel a rich texture that makes it hard not to
experience it as a world in itself. It also makes it difficult to adequately summarize. Hence, I
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drastically simplify the plot as well as the time structure. As I noted in at the beginning of the paper,
the novel begins -- after the famous first sentence which takes us from somewhere in mid-narrative
back to the past -- at the beginning of the one-hundred-year epic indicated in the title. Jos Arcadio
Buenda and his wife rsula (ne Iguarn), along with a few other intrepid young families (no-one
over thirty) struck out from the town in which Buenda killed Prudencio Aguilar, in a doomed
attempt to find a route to the sea. Finding their way blocked by swamps, rather than go back they
found the town of Macondo, in which all of the novel takes place. (The year is probably around
1830-something; it is never stated.) Almost entirely cut off from the rest of the world, Macondo
exists as a sort of new Eden. The world [italics mine] was so recent that many things lacked names,
and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point (Garca Mrquez 1). Already we have a clear
sense that we are in the midst of a new reality. Soon a band of gypsies come to town with what
seems to the residents of Macondo like the latest in new technology. First they bring magnets,
which Jos Arcadio Buendia tries to use to find gold. Next they bring a telescope and a magnifying
glass; Buendia tries to use the latter as a new-fangled weapons technology. These efforts having
failed, the leader of the gypsies, the mysterious Melquades, gives Buendia back his money and also
gives him an astrolabe, a compass, and a sextant. After a period of wandering around distracted,
muttering to himself, and making strange calculations with these instruments, Buenda one day
announces his discovery: The earth is round, like an orange. rsula lost her patience. If you
have to go crazy, please go crazy all by yourself! (5). This sequence illustrates a key feature of the
novel. The Buendas and the other inhabitants of Macondo undergo their own process of
discovering scientific and technological truths, but they do so in their own unusual way, always
combining these encounters with the outside world with their own magical cultural amalgam. In this
way, there is an interchange between a burgeoning techno-scientific ardor and a contented
rootedness within supernatural tradition. The European history of scientific progress is mirrored,
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but the mirror is of the fun-house variety. Macondo, and the Buenda family in particular, are
seemingly trapped within a strange closed circuit, a world unto themselves.
Eventually Melquades returns and declares that Jos Arcadio Buenda is correct. In
admiration, the former gives the latter something new: the laboratory of an alchemist (5). Thus, in
Macondo, the discovery that the earth is round is followed by an interest in alchemy. Jos Arcadio
Buenda achieves little with his alchemical obsessions and eventually goes mad, ending up tied to a
chestnut tree in the courtyard of the family house, but not before fathering two sons, Jos Arcadio
and Aureliano, as well as a daughter, Amaranta. All of the future sons in the future generations of
the family will be named either Jos Arcadio or Aureliano, further indicating the Buendas
separateness. Typically, the Jos Arcadios are lively extraverts, while the Aurelianos are somewhat
cold introverts. The generational reduplication of Jos Arcadios and Aurelianos, itself verging on
magical, runs through nearly all imaginable permuations of possible life in this century-long span.
Jos Arcadio runs off with the gypsies and ends up a sailor; he returns covered with tattoos. Later
he is mysteriously shot in one of the most striking instances of magical realism in the novel:
As soon as Jos Arcadio closed the bedroom door the sound of a pistol shot echoed
through the house. A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room,
went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went
down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, . . . made a
right angle at the Buenda house, went in under the closed door . . . hugging the walls so
as not to stain the rugs, . . . and came out in the kitchen, where rsula was getting ready
to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.
Holy Mother of God! rsula shouted. (135)
No one ever finds out who killed Jos Arcadio, whether it was his wife or one of the people from
whom he stole land. The use of magical realism underscores the inability of the Buendas to escape
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their strange field of separateness; Jos Arcadio has sailed the world but returns to die in Macondo
where even his blood returns on its own to the house in which he was born. Aureliano, suffers
much the same fate. He becomes the famous Colonel Aureliano Buenda and fights thirty-two
campaigns on the Liberal side of the Liberal-Conservative war -- and he loses them all. Famous even
in his defeat, he nevertheless returns to the gravitiational inevitablity of Macondo and dies in the
Buenda house. None of the many Jos Arcadios and Aurelianos ever escape Macondo; if they
leave, it is not for long. This is the solitude referred to in the title. It indicates a world decidedly
separate from those already familiar. In this world, as already noted, there is an uneasy tension
between European and non-European elements; they converge in the unsettled and unsettling reality
of Macondo. Science and progress, when they reach Macondo, are always a bit late and a bit
distorted. There is a clear sense of a new world, but there is not a sense that this new world is
necessarily one which a sensible person would want to live in.
Garca Mrquezs handles the novels tone in such a way as to evoke a certain feeling of
unease or even dread. Despite the many humorous moments and the emotionally stirring episodes,
the fate of the family seems to get worse with each generation. Another important magical realist
episode involves the fate of Jos Arcadio Segundo, great-grandson of Jos Arcadio Buenda,
grandson of Jos Arcadio, son of Arcadio. (To keep track of the different characters, every
character is always referred to by a very specific full name. Jos Arcadio Buendas name is never
abbreviated as simply Buenda or Jos Arcadio, as is true for Colonel Aureliano Buenda once he
attains this rank. In addition to clarification, this naming has an incantatory power that lends to the
tone already expressed by the magical realism.) One of Colonel Aureliano Buendas sons, Aureliano
Triste, brings the railroad to Macondo. After this, many new visitors to the town pass through the
Buenda house. Among these theatrical creatures, wearing riding breeches and leggings, a pith
helmet and steel-rimmed glasses, with topaz eyes and the skin of a thin rooster, there arrived in
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Macondo on one of so many Wednesdays the chubby and smiling Mr. Herbert, who ate at the
house (231). At first Mr. Herbert is an unintrusive, nearly invisible guest at the busy dinner table.
Then, as is normal for the family, bananas are served. Mr. Herbert eats these with great interest.
What follows is a perfect caricature of the techno-scientific European attitude:
Then he took a small case with optical instruments out of the toolbox that he always
carried with him. With the suspicious attention of a diamond merchant he examined the
banana meticulously, dissecting it with a special scalpel, weighing the pieces on a
pharmacists scale, and calculating its breadth with a gunsmiths calipers. Then he took
a series of instruments out of the chest with which he measured the temperature, the level
of humidity in the atmosphere, and the intensity of the light. (232)
Soon Macondo is transformed by North American businessmen who turn the nearby land into
banana plantations. The coming of the banana company brings a new prosperity to Macondo, but it
is enjoyed mostly by the company owners, who live luxuriously. The workers are mistreated and
exploited. Jos Arcadio Segundo works as banana company foreman for a while, but he soon
organizes the workers to strike against the company. One day, the workers are told that a
government official will come to hear their complaints. Three thousand people gather in an open
square near the train station. The army has set up machine-gun emplacements and soon opens fire.
Jos Arcadio Segundo is in the crowd; he wakes up in a train car filled with corpses. He escapes the
train and heads home. On the way, he tells people what happened at the train station, but they have
been told no such event happened and no one was killed. Even when he makes it back to the family
house, the family believes the story told them by the banana company and the government. After a
three month drought, it begins to pour. The banana company announces that they will sign an
agreement when the rain stops. The army eventually gets around to tracking down anyone left who
might have had anything to do with the strike. When soldiers come to the house, the head soldier
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looks into the room where Jos Arcadio Segundo has been hiding, but they cannot see him. When
he spoke to the soldiers, Aureliano Segundo [twin brother of Jos Arcadio Segundo] understood that
the young officer had seen the room with the same eyes as Colonel Aureliano Buenda (318). The
room in which Jos Arcadio Segundo had been hiding was previously inhabited by the mysterious
Meliquades. To the rest of the family, who still see with the eyes of traditional magical belief, the
room has remained mysteriously pristine all these years and now serves to hide the fugitive Jos
Arcadio Segundo. To those with a merely realistic view, such as the war-weary Colonel Aureliano
Buenda and the soldiers, the room was dirty and clearly inhabited by no one except, possibly,
snakes. Jos Arcadio Segundo is invisible because he exists in a different world from that of the
soldiers. The reader can see both because he, following the narrator, uncovers a new world which
contains them both. Jos Arcadio Segundo remains in that mysterious room, trying to translate
Melquades coded parchments, until he dies. It keeps raining for years, nearly washing away the
ruined town of Macondo.
Jos Arcadio Segundo fails to decipher Melquades parchments. This task is finally
accomplished by the equally reclusive Aureliano Babilonia, bastard grandson of Aureliano Segundo
and great-great-grandson of Jos Arcadio Buenda. His work is slowed by his amorous relationship
with his aunt, Amaranta rsula (though neither quite knows whether they are related), but he finally
cracks Melquades codes. The incestuous relationship produces, as rsula had always feared, a child
with a pig tail, but it is nevertheless a child born of genuine love. Amaranta rsula dies in childbirth,
and a distraught and distracted Aureliano Babilonia wanders around outside for a while before
returning home and noticing that he does not remember where he left the baby. And then he saw
the child. It was a dry and bloated bag of skin that all the ants in the world were dragging toward
their holes along the stone path in the garden (420). But the horrific death of the pig-tailed child is
not the reason Aureliano is suddenly transfixed. [At] that prodigious instant Melquades final keys
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were revealed to him and he saw the epigraph of the parchments perfectly placed in the order of
mans time and space: The first of the line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by the ants (420).
Aureliano Babilonia then realizes that his own fate will be revealed in the parchments. As a
powerful wind begins blowing outside, he reads through the old parchments, understanding the
secret to Melquades coding strategy: The final protection, which Aureliano had begun to glimpse
when he let himself be confused by the love of Amaranta rsula, was based on the fact that
Melquades had not put events in the order of mans conventional time, but had concentrated a
century of daily episodes in such a way that they coexisted in one instant (421). This is also Garca
Mrquezs literary strategy; we are thus led to conclude that we are reading the decoded parchment
itself. As Aureliano Babilonia reads on, discovering all the events the reader of the novel has just
read, the wind becomes a vengeful cyclone. [Aureliano Babilonia] was so absorbed that he did not
feel the second surge of wind either as its cyclonic strength tore the doors and windows off their
hinges, pulled off the roof of the east wing, and uprooted the foundations (422). He reads on, as
his reading converges with our own, finally learning the truth of his own parentage, which had been
kept secret from him. The destruction continues. Macondo was already a fearful whirlwind of
dust and rubble being spun about by the wrath of the biblical hurricane when Aureliano skipped
eleven pages so as not to lose time . . . , and he began to decipher the instant that he was living,
deciphering the last page of the parchments, as if he were looking into a speaking mirror (422).
The saga of the Buenda family in Macondo has been revealed to be not only self-contained but
wrapped in a burial shroud its own narrative foretelling. It is a world unto itself, thrown over itself,
but we discover at the end that this is a world which dies of its own separateness and uniqueness.
Aureliano Babilonia [finished] deciphering the parchments, and [realized] 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 (422).
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Garca Mrquez has remarked of his characters, [where] does the solitude of the Buenda
family come from? . . . From their lack of love, I think. . . . The Buendas were incapable of loving
and this is the key to their solitude and their frustration (Garca Mrquez/Apuleyo Mendoza 75).
Even the love between Aureliano Babilonia and Amaranta rsula fails because it is unwittingly
incestuous; it never transcends the bounds of the closed Buenda circuit. If there is a post-modern
and post-colonial world today, indeed it can be seen to suffer from many of the same problems as
the Buendas and Macondo. It feeds on itself and becomes stale and irrelevant, degenerating into a
mere resentful reaction against imperialistic, techno-scientific Eurocentric modernism. But magical
realism does not need to darken into the apocalyptic cyclone that wipes out Macondo. Wendy B.
Faris speculates, Perhaps the factual uncertainty in magical realism [and the] defocalization . . . not
only point toward the general modern and postmodern condition of indeterminacy but also suggest,
in a very general way, the existence of a mysterious realm of the spirit, even a hidden presence of the
sacred within the profane, which inhabits the narrative space or the ineffable in-between (Faris 63).
Very possibly, this intimation of lost numinosity is what draws readers to One Hundred Years of
Solitude and other magical realist novels. The Buenda family did not escape their solitary century
because they could not reconcile multiple, contradictory, antagonistic worlds. The numinous
promise of magical realism is a call beyond such extinction, a call to love and attunement; it demands
that the nascent post-modern/post-colonial consciousness throw forth a world that makes available
all the possible spiritual and material riches that modern and pre-modern worlds alike leave out. If
we push beyond the self-indulgent obscurantism of dryly materialistic theory, this new vision can
refresh the tired spirit of Da-sein. It can be a second opportunity on earth.



Cherry 17

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Garca Mrquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Trans. Gregory Rabassa. New York:
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