One Hundred Years of Solitude … Garcia Marquez

GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ was born in Aracataca, Colombia in 1928, but he lived most of his life in Mexico and Europe. He attended the University of Bogota and later worked as staff reporter and film critic for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador. In addition to ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, he has also written two collections of short fiction, NO ONE WRITES TO THE COLONEL and LEAF STORM.

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE

Jort Areadio BoendUi

m. Cnula Iguarln

olonel Aurellano Btiendia-

m. Remcdios Moscote

-Jos6 Areadio

m-Rebeca

Aurcliano Jose

(by Pilar Ternera)

17 Aurelianos

R’emedios the Beauty

Areadio

(by Pilar Ternera)

m. Santa Sofia de la Piedad

Aurellano Segundo

m. Fernanda del Carplo

Amaranta

Jose Areadio Segundo

j_Renata

Remedios (Mane)

Aurellano

(by MauHcioBabfionla)

lose Areadio

-..Amaranta

m. Gasti

ranta Orsula

Gaston

Aurellano

(by Aurellano^

28

The newfound harmony was interrupted by the death of Melquiades. Although it was a

foreseeable event, the circumstances were not. A few months after his return, a process of aging had

taken place in him that was so rapid and critical that soon he was treated as one of those useless

great-grandfathers who wander about the bedrooms like shades, dragging their feet, remembering

better times aloud, and whom no one bothers about or remembers really until the morning they find

them dead in their bed. At first Jose Arcadio Buendfa helped him in his work, enthusiastic over the

novelty of the daguerreotypes and the predictions of Nostradamus. But little by little he began

abandoning him to his solitude, for communication was becoming Increasingly difficult. He was

losing his sight and his hearing, he seemed to confuse the people he was speaking to with others he

had known in remote epochs of mankind, and he would answer questions with a complex

hodgepodge of languages. He would walk along groping in the air, although he passed between

objects with an inexplicable fluidity, as if be were endowed with some instinct of direction based on

an immediate prescience. One day he forgot to put in his false teeth, which at night he left in a glass

of water beside his bed, and he never put them in again. When Ursula undertook the enlargement of

the house, she had them build him a special room next to Aureliano’s workshop, far from the noise

and bustle of the house, with a window flooded with light and a bookcase where she herself put in

order the books that were almost destroyed by dust and moths, the flaky stacks of paper covered

with indecipherable signs, and the glass with his false teeth, where some aquatic plants with tiny

yellow flowers had taken root. The new place seemed to please Melquiades, because he was never

seen any more, not even in the dining room, He only went to Aureliano’s workshop, where he

would spend hours on end scribbling his enigmatic literature on the parchments that he had brought

with him and that seemed to have been made out of some dry material that crumpled like puff paste.

There he ate the meals that Visitacion brought him twice a day, although in the last days he lost his

appetite and fed only on vegetables. He soon acquired the forlorn look that one sees in vegetarians.

His skin became covered with a thin moss, similar to that which flourished on the antique vest that

he never took off, and his breath exhaled the odor of a sleeping animal. Aureliano ended up forget¬

ting about him, absorbed in the composition of his poems, but on one occasion he thought he

understood something of what Melquiades was saying in his groping monologues, and he paid

attention. In reality, the only tiling that could be isolated in the rocky paragraphs was the insistent

hammering on the word equinox, equinox, equinox , and the name of Alexander von Humboldt.

Arcadio got a little closer to him when he began to help Aureliano in his silverwork. Melquiades

answered that effort at communication at times by giving forth with phrases in Spanish that had very

little to do with reality. One afternoon, however, he seemed to be illuminated by a sudden emotion.

Years later, facing the firing squad, Arcadio would remember the trembling with which Melquiades

made him listen to several pages of his impenetrable writing, which of course he did not understand,

but which when read aloud were like encyclicals being chanted. Then he smiled for the first time in a

long while and said in Spanish: “When I die, burn mercury in my room for three days.” Arcadio told

that to Jose Arcadio Buendfa and the latter tried to get more explicit information, but he received

only one answer: “I have found immortality.” When Melquiades’ breathing began to smell, Arcadio

took him to bathe in the river on Thursday mornings. He seemed to get better. He would undress

and get into the water with the boys, and his mysterious sense of orientation would allow him to

avoid the deep and dangerous spots. “We come from the water,” he said on a certain occasion.

Much time passed in that way without anyone’s seeing him in the house except on the night when

he made a pathetic effort to fix the pianola, and when he would go to the river with Arcadio,

carrying under his arm a gourd and a bar of palm oil soap wrapped in a towel. One Thursday before

they called him to go to the river, Aureliano heard him say: “I have died of fever on the dunes of

Singapore.” That day he went into the water at a bad spot and they did not find him until the

following day, a few miles downstream, washed up on a bright bend in the river and with a solitary

vulture sitting on his stomach. Over the scandalized protests of Ursula, who wept with more grief

than she had had for her own father, Jose Arcadio Buendia was opposed to their burying him. “He

is immortal,” he said, “and he himself revealed the formula of his resurrection.” He brought out the

forgotten water pipe and put a kettle of mercury to boil next to the body, which little by little was

filling with blue bubbles. Don Apolinar Moscote ventured to remind him that an unburied drowned

man was a danger to public health. “None of that, because he’s alive,” was the answer of Jose

Arcadio Buendia, who finished the seventy-two hours with the mercurial incense as the body was

already beginning to burst with a livid fluorescence, the soft whistles of which impregnated the

house with a pestilential vapor. Only then did he permit them to bury him, not in any ordinary way,

but with the honors reserved for Macondo’s greatest benefactor. It was the first burial and the best-

attended one that was ever seen in the town, only surpassed, a century later, by Big Mama’s funeral

carnival. They buried him in a grave dug in the center of the plot destined for the cemetery, with a

stone on which they wrote the only thing they knew about him: MELQUIADES. They gave him his

nine nights of wake. In the tumult that gathered in the courtyard to drink coffee, tell jokes, and play

cards. Amaranta found a chance to confess her love to Pietro Crespi, who a few weeks before had

formalized his promise to Rebeca and had set up a store for musical instruments and mechanical

toys in the same section where the Arabs had lingered in other times swapping knickknacks for

macaws, and which the people called the Street of the Turks. The Italian, whose head covered with

patent leather curls aroused in women an irrepressible need to sigh, dealt with Amaranta as with a

capricious little girl who was not worth taking seriously.

“I have a younger brother,” he told her. “He’s coming to help me in the store.”

Amaranta felt humiliated and told Pietro Crespi with a virulent anger that she was prepared to

stop her sister’s wedding even if her own dead body had to lie across the door. The Italian was so

impressed by the dramatics of the threat that he could not resist the temptation to mention it to

Rebeca. That was how Amaranta’s trip, always put off by Ursula’s work, was arranged in less than a

week. Amaranta put up no resistance, but when she kissed Rebeca good-bye she whispered in her

ear:

“Don’t get your hopes up. Even if they send me to the ends of the earth I’ll find some way of

stopping you from getting married, even if I have to kill you.”

With the absence of Ursula, with the invisible presence of Melquiades, who continued his stealthy

shuffling through the rooms, the house seemed enormous and empty. Rebeca took charge of

domestic order, while the Indian woman took care of the bakery. At dusk, when Pietro Crespi would

arrive, preceded by a cool breath of lavender and always bringing a toy as a gift, his fiancee would

receive the visitor in the main parlor with doors and windows open to be safe from any suspicion. It

was an unnecessary precaution, for the Italian had shown himself to be so respectful that he did not

even touch the hand of the woman who was going to be his wife within the year. Those visits were

filling the house with remarkable toys. Mechanical ballerinas, music boxes, acrobatic monkeys,

trotting horses, clowns who played the tambourine: the rich and startling mechanical fauna that

Pietro Crespi brought dissipated Jose Arcadio Buendia’s affliction over the death of Melquiades and

carried him back to his old days as an alchemist. He lived at that time in a paradise of disemboweled

animals, of mechanisms that had been taken apart in an attempt to perfect them with a system of

perpetual motion based upon the principles of the pendulum. Aureliano, for his part, had neglected

the workshop in order to teach little Remedios to read and write. At first the child preferred her

dolls to the man who would come every afternoon and who was responsible for her being separated

from her toys in order to be bathed and dressed and seated in the parlor to receive the visitor. But

Aureliano’s patience and devotion finally won her over, up to the point where she would spend

many hours with him studying the meaning of the letters and sketching in a notebook with colored

pencils little houses with cows in the corral and round suns with yellow rays that hid behind the hills.

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