An End to Secular Solitude: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Editors: Roger Matuz and Cathy Falk
Date: 1991
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 5,443 words

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(essay date 1977) An English critic, translator, and educator who specializes in Latin American studies, Brotherston is the author of Spanish American Modernista Poets: A Critical Anthology (1968) and The Emergence of the Latin American Novel (1977). In the following essay from the latter work, Brotherston offers a practical overview of One Hundred Years of Solitude, relating the book to Garcia Marquez's previous works set in Macondo.]

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions. First they brought the magnet. A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Melquiades, put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned alchemists of Macedonia. He went from house to house dragging two metal ingots and everybody was amazed to see pots, pans, tongs, and braziers tumble down from their places and beams creak with the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge, and even objects that had been lost for a long time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind Melquiades's magical irons. `Things have a life of their own,' the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. `It's simply a matter of waking up their souls.' Jose Arcadio Buendia, whose unbridled imagination always went beyond the genius of nature and even beyond miracles and magic, thought that it would be possible to make use of that useless invention to extract gold from the bowels of the earth. Melquiades, who was an honest man, warned him: `It won't work for that.' But Jose Arcadio Buendia at that time did not believe in the honesty of gypsies, so he traded his mule and a pair of goats for the two magnetized ingots. Ursula Iguaran, his wife, who relied on those animals to increase their poor domestic holdings, was unable to dissuade him. `Very soon we'll have gold enough and more to pave the floors of the house,' her husband replied. For several months he worked hard to demonstrate the truth of his idea. He explored every inch of the region, even the riverbed, dragging the two iron ingots along and reciting Melquiades's incantation aloud. The only thing he succeeded in doing was to unearth a suit of fifteenth-century armour which had all of its pieces soldered together with rust and inside which...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100001284