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Cien Años De Soledad/ 100 Years of Solitude
is a chronicle of fantastic events that mimic the way real history goes, except for the comic overtones ridiculing the human struggle. The saga of the family haunted by incest and madness could continue forever and the author arbitrarily decides when to end it. Given the great number of episodes and continuous developments, it is not surprising that the story sometimes limps ahead and sometimes takes off breathtakingly. The author excels at baroque descriptions of objects and events.
Macondo is an isolated village founded by a group of men and women led by the indomitable Jose Arcadio Buendia when they failed to find the way to the sea. His second son Aureliano (which the first line of the novel reveals will become a colonel and will be executed) was the first person born in Macondo. Nobody has ever died in Macondo as the founders are all young. The village is visited periodically by globetrotting gypsies led by the charismatic Melquiades. This man exerted a profound influence on Jose Arcadio Sr (JAS) because on every visit he would come with new scientific and plainly supernatural inventions that JAS would immediately purchase and turn into dreams of getting rich only to progressively lose all of his money and even his wife Ursula's inheritance. Eventually JAS convinced the other men to set out on an expedition to find a route to the civilized world but they only found the very sea that they had failed to find years earlier. JAS became convinced that Macondo was surrounded by waters and the mountains that they climbed to found it. Melquiades dies but the gypsies kept coming with more fantastic inventions. Indifferent to the powder to become invisible, JAS marvels at a cube of ice.
The reason that JAS had started the exodus had to do with a duel in which he killed aman, Prudencio, who had insulted his virility (the village gossiped correctly that JAS' wife Ursula was still a virgin, Ursula being afraid of having abnormal children because JAS was her cousin). JAS killed Prudencio but the ghost kept haunting his house so eventually the couple decided to move far away, and several others decided to follow.
JAS gets better at alchemy and manages to restore some of his wife's gold that he had spoiled. His son Aureliano helps him and learns, whereas the older son Jose Arcadio Jr (JAJ) is distracted by his first and secret love, Pilar the clairvoyant. The gypsies return with more wonders, notably a flying carpet, but JAS is only interested in alchemy. Then Pilar gets pregnant and this upsets JAJ who falls for a young gypsy and leaves town with the troupe. His mother Ursula tries to catch up with them but instead disappears herself in the swamps.
Months later she reappears leading a delegation from a nearby town: she has found the route to the civilized world that had eluded the men. Macondo is not isolated anymore and soon prospers with trade.
Ursula's younger child Amaranta and Pilar's bastard son Arcadio are raised by an Indio servant, Visitacion. His father abandons alchemy, but Aureliano continues the experiments.
One day an 11-years old girl is delivered to the house with a letter written by people the Buendias do not remember, a strange orphan girl carrying the bones of her unburied parents and fond of eating earth. Rebeca also brings a plague that Visitacion has witnessed before in her village: insomnia. Soon the whole family cannot sleep anymore, and Visitacion warns that the next step is amnesia. The whole town soon starts to forget. They have to label every object and every animal to remember their names and their uses. Pilar started foretelling the past instead of the future. JAS begins to build a memory machine. But they are saved by Melquiades, who has decided to resuscitate and to open a daguerreotype studio in Macondo, the only town where nobody hsd ever died. Melquiades, of course, knows the magic potion to restore memory and sleep.
Thanks to his experimenets, Aureliano becomes an expert silversmith, but he remains a virgin. The only woman to excite him is the youngest daughter of the magistrate sent by the government and reluctantly accepted by Macondo's founders, but this Remedios is still a child. (Aureliano has not been able to make love to the teenager forced by her grandmother to prostitute herself every night with 70 men in order to pay for the house that she has caused to burn down).
A desperate Aureliano loses his virginity to Pilar and tells her of his secret love. Pilar arranges the marriage with the child.
Meanwhile, Rebeca falls in love with Pietro Crespi, a charming pianola installer hired by his mother, and she finally gets her parents' permission to marry him, but Amaranta is secretely in love with the same man and swears never to allow the marriage to take place.
Melquiades dies (again), the first person to die in Macondo, after spending his last years in obscure studies of immortality. JAS goes mad and has to be chained to a tree.
Remedios reaches puberty (although she still wets the bed) and the marriage with Aureliano can be celebrated. On the same day Rebeca should marry Pietro except that he is deceived by an anonymous letter (Amaranta's?) to travel back home where his mother is dying when in fact his mother is traveling to attend his wedding. His wedding is postponed until the newly arrived priest, Nicanor, can finish building the first church of Macondo. The lovers cannot wait the ten years that it would take so Pietro donates the money needed to finish the building. Amaranta is ready to kill Rebeca if that is the only way to stop the wedding. Meanwhile Nicanor has proven the existence of God to everybody with his featsof levitation. The only one who does not believe is the madman JAS, still chained to a tree, who now only speaks in Latin and whose logical arguments almost make Nicanor doubt of God'sexistence (somuch for being crazy).
Amaranta ends up accidentally poisoning the much beloved Remedios instead of Rebeca. Full of remorse, she adopts the bastard son of Aureliano and Pilar, and Rebeca's wedding to Pietro is postponed until after the mourning period.
Suddenly, JAJ returns from his world travels, an incredibly strong man. The prostitutes pay money to sleep with him. The family is disgusted by his barbaric manners, but Rebecca is delirious about his body and eventually offers herself to him.
JAJ decides to marry her even if formally she is his sister. Their mother Ursula bars them from the ancestral house. Pietro ends up proposing to Amaranta.
Aureliano becomes a liberal after witnessing his father-in-law, the conservative magistrate, commit electoral fraud. Civil war breaks out and, horrified by the brutality of the army, Aureliano leads an uprising, liberates the city from the army, and becomes a colonel in the rebels'army, but guarantees the safety of his father-in-law's family.
Amaranta enjoys torturing Pietro, rejecting his proposal. Eventually he kills himself and she is left full of remorse, devoting her virginal life to raising Aureliano's bastard son Aureliano Jose. Aureliano leaves the young Arcadio in charge of the town, and Arcadio soon starts behaving like a brutal dictator, almost executing Remedios' father himself, until his grandmother Ursula takes a whip and flogs him in public like a disobedient child. Arcadio then tries to rape Pilar, not knowing that she is his real mother, but she hires a virgin, Santa Sofia, to sleep with him. Arcadio falls in love with her and starts building a house, using public money for it. When she finds out, Ursula is even more heart-broken: her family has disintegrated. She releases JAS but the old mad man is merely vegetating while she talks to him.
The liberals are losing the war. Aureliano (who will nonetheless go on to become a powerful man) sends a messenger to tell Arcadio to surrender to the conservatives, but Arcadio chooses to fight on, and is easily defeated and summarily executed. Sofia already had a daughter from him, Remedios, and is expecting twins, Jose Arcadio II and Aureliano II. Aureliano is arrested and taken to Macondo to be executed but his brother Jose Arcadio Jr arms himself and stops the execution (that none of the soldiers really wanted to carry out for fear of popular reprisals). Aureliano goes on to lead the revolution and becomes feared by both parties for his legendary feats. His brother is mysteriously assassinated and Rebeca locks herself in the house. Aureliano's trusted deputy Gerinaldo proposes to Amaranta but she rejects him despite loving him madly. JAS can only communicate with Prudencio, the man he killed, and finally dies.
Aureliano is forced into exile when conservatives and liberals make peace but he continues to wage guerrilla wars all over the continent. He has 17 sons by various concubines, who are eventually delivered to Ursula, who names all of them after their father. Eventually he returns victorious but his heart has hardened and he is no better, in fact worse, than the conservatives he fought against. His son Aureliano Jose, who had an incestuous but non-sexual relationship with his aunt Amaranta, has been killed by a conservative.
When Ursula herself threatens to kill him, Aureliano finally wakes up and decides to end the war (which will require him to fight his own man) but he is reduced to a manic depressed man, to the point of trying to kill himself. The government, distrusting him, basically confines him to Ursula's house, where he becomes a solitary goldsmith.
The story shifts to Sofia's children. Aureliano II studies in vain Melquiades' obscure papers, written in a language that nobody can understand. Jose Arcadio II tries in vain to build a canal to the sea, with the only result of importing some French prostitutes who organize the first Macondo carnival. The carnival ends in a political riot with many dead but at least meets his future wife Fernanda, the most beautiful woman of the region. The other stunning beauty is their sister Remedios, but she is mentally retarded. Fernanda is from a decayed aristocratic family and very religious, and does not satisfy Aureliano II's lust, so that he keeps his first love as a concubine.
When the government decides to decorate Aureliano as a national hero, all of his 17 children show up. One of them, Aureliano Triste, not only stays, but even builds the ice factory dreamed by JAS and even brings the railway to Macondo to expand his business. The railway brings cinema, the phonograph and the telephone. It also brings a US capitalist who discovers the value of Macondo's bananas and Macondo soon becomes a boom town, flooded with barbaric gringos. They make the town prosper but they also wreak havoc. Eventually their arrogance manages to irritate even the reclusive Aureliano, who threatens to arm his 17 sons. Hence 16 of the 17 sons are quickly exterminated, and only one, Aureliano Amador, manages to escape.
Men keep dying because of Remedios' beauty and she remains clueless, a simpleton, until a miracle happens and she levitates to heaven.
Ursula is now more than 100 years old and still talks to the ghost of her husband under the tree where he was chained. She has personally raised Fernanda's son Jose Arcadio to become a priest and she sees him off to the seminary. Her goal is to stop the madness that runs in the family.
Fernanda and Aureliano Segundo separate. She remains loyal to the old-fashioned ethics of her aristocratic family, while he moves in with his concubine Petra and starts throwing legendary parties.
Aureliano dies of loneliness. Amaranta sews her own shroud and prepares the house for her own funeral, and then dies, proud of dying a virgin as she was born, only sorry to die before her mortal rival Rebeca.
Fernanda's daughter Meme falls under the decadent influence of her father and leads a reckless life until her mother catches her with a lover from the lower class, Mauricio, who remains paralyzed after being shot by a guard who sees him sneak into the house at night. Then Fernanda forces Meme to enter the convent where she herself was educated. Meme, indifferent to her fate, accepts and never says a word again. Two months later the nuns deliver Meme's son Aureliano to Fernanda, who pretends with everybody that the baby was abandoned.
Jose Aureliano Segundo becomes a leader of the banana company's workers and helps organize a big strike. The authorities trick the strikers into a meeting and then shoot them with machine guns killing more than a thousand of them. Jose Arcado Segundo wakes in a train loaded with dead bodies, the only one to have miraculously survived. He hides in Melquiades' old room and somehow its supernatural powers make him invisible to the soldiers who come to search the house.
It rains for four years nonstop, devastating Macondo, no longer a boom town but an impoverished village. Ursula keeps her promise to die when the rain stops. Rebeca dies too. Aureliano Segundo has tried in vain to discover where Ursula buried a treasure left behind by the revolutionaries: the secret was buried with her. Jose Arcadio Segundo keeps studying Melquiades' obscure texts with the help of Meme's son Aureliano. The twins die at the same time. Aureliano II spends the last months saving money so that his youngest daughter Amaranta Ursula can study in Europe. His son Jose Arcadio is already a theologian in Rome. Jose Arcadio II spends his last months educating Aureliano about the massacre of the workers, still officially denied by the government. Sofia, who has been a diligent meek servant for the family, suddenly leaves the house. Fernanda, the former beauty queen, is incapable of domestic chores and soon dies of melancholy regrets.
Aureliano has found out that Melquiades' texts are written in Sanskrit. He is getting closer to deciphering them, thanks to occasional apparitions of Melquiades himself.
Jose Arcadio returns from Rome and takes control of the house, looking down on the bastard Aureliano, who is however indifferent to the world and perfectly happy to spend his life in Melquiades' room. Jose Arcadio accidentally discovers Ursula's treasure and spends the money like a capricious child in the company of mischievous children. It turns out that he had always lied to Fernanda, living like a bohemian instead of studying theology, and now he has no desire to return to Rome.
The children, however, murder him and steal the gold. Aureliano is left alone in the dilapidated house of the impoverished town; and still a virgin. Then Ursula Amaranta returns to take care of the house, bringing along a much older husband, Gaston, an aviator who wants to set up an air mail service.
History repeats itself as Aurealiano falls in love with his aunt Ursula Amaranta andm, after being initiated by prostitutes and being encouraged by a Pilar who is now over 150 years old, he succeeds in sleeping with her and leaving her pregnant. Her husband conveniently moves back to Europe and they can enjoy absolute freedom. The child is born abnormal, as Ursula always feared would happen to incestuous couples, the mother dies and the child is eaten by ants. Then suddenly Aureliano realizes how to decipher Melquiades' texts: they are simply the history of his family written 100 years earlier, impossible to decipher until that moment because Aureliano is reading how he is about to die and Macondo is about to end.
El Otono del Patriarca/ The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975) is written in
lengthy sentences that frequently shift narrator (from the "I" to the "you" to the "we").
The narrator is both one of the people and all of them.
It is a collective narrator, that collides with the many monologues of the
The novel is a poem to solitude, as the ageless man slowly fades into oblivion
and then into bodily death, irrelevant and despised, having lost everything
he cared for (wife, child, lover, and even the sea).
The novel also sounds like a comic version of a Borges philosophical tale
that uses the double to explore the human psyche and the human condition.
The dictator of a Caribbean nation has not been seen in public for many years.
When the vultures make a hole in the palace, the people finally enter the
rundown building and find his rotting corpse.
Most of them see him for the first time. He also had a double, Patricio
Aragones, who had been caught impersonating the dictator and the dictator had
forced to become his double. Patricio even shared his harem and had children
from the dictator's lovers, and nobody really knew whom was the child of whom.
His only other friend was the generasl Rodrigo de Aguilar, who
had once saved him from an assassination attempt. The only other person who
saw him was his mother, Bendicion Alvarado.
The dictator had died once before. Legend has it that he was killed by six
bullets and that his first lady Leticia Nazareno, kidnapped from a convent in
had cried herself to death. Legend has it that the dictator was over 100 years
old and had kept growing. Word of mouth said that he had sired 5000 children,
all of them seven-monthers, but only one from Leticia, Emanuel,
his legitimate heir.
Legend has it that the dictator had been conceived by his mother without any
sexual intercourse, like the Virgin Mary. Most of the generals who had helped
him seize powers had died, some of them in grotesque circumstances. He himself
had massacred a few, except general Saturno Santos who had escaped.
The dictator was left alone with Rodrigo and with his minister of health.
The notable event in the private life of the dictator was the love for the
beautiful Manuela Sanchez, the queen of the poor who lived in the slums.
He kidnapped her, raped her and killed all her suitors; and his staff demolished
the slums and build a nice neighborhood to make it nice for the dictator
to visit her; but then one day, on the night of the eclipse, she had disappeared
and he had looked in vain for her. His age was now "indefinite", somewhere
between 107 and 232.
The first time, however, the dead body had really been of Patricio Aragones.
The second time they really killed him, and he was surprised to learn from
the minister of health that his death had occurred once before.
The killer was a colonel Narciso Miraval, as predicted by a sybil whom the
dictator murdered after she read his future.
The dictator had also raped Francisca Linero, a modest newlywed who had let
him do what he wanted with her for fear of being killed like he killed her
husband Poncio Daza (in order to avoid that the man would become a mortal
enemy for life). But he was still tormented by the memory of Manuela, whom
might also have been a mere senile illusion.
The dictator also had survived an armed revolt by a general Bonivento Burboza.
A false leper tried to assassinate him but then killed himself out of fear
and the dictator had his body cut in pieces and rosted to be served to the
The dictator realized that his faithful general Rodrigo de Aguilar had in
reality established a sort of parallel government and organized the mutiny.
Rodrigo had decided that the dictator was demented after he had sent 2000
children to die. But the dictator survived the conspiracy and had the body
of Rodrigo served as a meal to his comrades.
The dictator had not been seen in public since the atrocious death of
Leticia. He had been devastated by the deaths of the two women: Leticia and
his mother. He was so fond of his mother that he applied the Vatican to have
her declared a saint. However, the investigation by Monsignor Demitrius
of Bendicion Alvarado's life
revealed that she had been a beggar willing to prostitute herself, and she
didn't quite know who was his own father.
Leticia proved to be a spoiled wife, who went on a spending spree and caused
the government to go technically bankrupt. Her relatives infiltrated all levels
of government until one day she was the target of an assassination attempt.
That one failed but later she and Imanuel were eaten alive by 60 stray dogs
at the vegetable market. The investigation revealed a conspiracy by exiled
dissidents. Two of their agents were captured alive and sentenced by the
dictator to be quartered by horses and their limbs were displayed in public.
The general then fell under the evil influence of Jose Ignacio Saenz de la Barra, an
old-fashioned aristocrat who promised to exterminate all the dictator's
enemies and proceeded to send him their heads, 918 in all, to the point that
the dictator himself felt embarrassed.
A 14-year old girl recounts how she, a teenage prostitute, was hired by Saenz
to please the old dying dictator pretending to be a naive child so as to keep
him distracted while Saenz
ran the country. One day suddenly the dictator realized what was going on
because he saw people watching him on television: unbeknownst to him, Saenz had
arranged a fictitious government and even used a fictitious dictator to give
speeches to the nation. Saenz defended himself claiming he did it in the
interest of the nation, but the dictator realized that Saenz had killed
everybody except the ones who was supposed to kill (the murderers of Leticia)
only to concentrate all powers in himself. The old dictator, busy with his
teenage whores, had been fooled by the sneaky aristocrat. Eventually Saenz
made so many enemies that a revolt erupted and Saenz went to cry at the
dictator's palace that they were alone and defenseless. The dictator calmly
executed him and displayed his corpse with testicles in the mouth to the
acclamation of the crowd. Hence the dictator persisted. Unfortunately Leticia
and Saenz and his own dysfunctional rule had crippled the finances of the
nation that was forced to sell the Caribbean sea to the gringos, while
plague and hurricane devastated the nation. He remained alone, irrelevant,
surrounded by a meager escort (because nobody even cared to assassinate him),
locked in his decaying palace until one night he died ungloriously in his bed,
unaware of the collective jubilation that would welcome the news of his death.
"Cronica de una Muerte Anunciada" (1981) is a novella and a detective story that slowly reconstructs a killing but fails to reconstruct what really happened that caused the killing (who took a girl's virginity).
The narrator begins the story from the day after a big wedding that took place many years earlier.
The bride Angel was returned to her family by the groom because she was not a virgin and her brothers Pedro and Pablo set out to kill Santiago, a young rich man of Arab descent assumed to be the one responsible for it.
The whole town was aware of the killing about to happen except for Santiago and his mother Placida.
Angela's fiance Bayardo had arrived a few months earlier. Obviously rich, he had charmed his way into the poor family of the beautiful Angela. He had eventually revealed being the son of a famous general.
He bought the best home for Angela and paid for a spectacular wedding, but never actually courted Angela who was basically delivered to him by his family. Santiago had actually become a friend of Bayardo's. When Bayardo returned her to her family, Angela told them that Santiago was the man who had taken her virginity.
The narrator had spent the night partying with Santiago till very late. By then the whole town knew that Angela's brothers were out to kill Santiago, but nobody stopped them, partly because nobody believed them.
Santiago's black servant Victoria was toold, but she didn't warn the young man as he left the house to go partying, and probably because she secretely hoped to see him dead before he could molest her own daughter Divina the way his father had done to herself.
The killers were arrested but later released (honor killing being a right not a crime) and moved to another village, afraid of possible revenge by the Arab community. Angela was dispatched by her mother to even more remote village where she led a humble life as a machine embroiderer.
She started writing letters to Bayardo, feeling bad about him. Soon she felt in love with him, now that she had lost him. She spent 17 years writing two thousand letters to him, never receiving an answer.
Then finally out of the blue Bayardo appeared, a balding and fat middle-aged man.
The last chapter finally reconstructs the murder itself. Santiago seemed totally unaware of any danger. A series of fatal coincidences kept people from warning him or stopping the killers, who perhaps themselves hoped that something or someone would stop them.
Santiago called by his fiance Flora, and she slammed the door on his face. Only then did he learn that Angela's brothers were looking for him to kill him. Coincidence made him an easy target for them.
Nothing in Santiago's behavior made him look guilty and nothing of what the protagonists knew of Santiago's love life lent credibility to the idea that he slept with Angela, but Angela continued to claim that it was Santiago who took her virginity.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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