Gabriel García Márquez said the original idea for “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (or, “Cien Años de Soledad”) began with a trip to Acapulco. The opening line came to him as this: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
The novel spans seven generations of the Buendía family in the fictional town of Macondo. Often eschewing the magical and the fantastical, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is a sprawling epic that draws inspiration from Márquez’s childhood.
As a child, Márquez heard stories of his grandfather, who was a veteran of The Thousand Days War. His grandmother often told him stories that blended the magical and historical, the lines between fiction and fact blending with a stone-faced delivery.
He has often described these stories as being such a strong blend of fact and fiction elements to a point where he could not tell the difference between the two. In his writing he channeled this voice in writing magical realism.
Magical realism is a genre of fiction in which the magical is often taken at face value. Often, the role of the magical is meant to represent another aspect of life, rarely adding or inhibiting the characters of the narrative.
In this way the magic of the world isn’t mystical, but instead just another aspect of daily life. In “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Márquez uses several scenes of magic. This includes, but is not limited to, a boy who is born with a clairvoyance and a repairman who is followed by a parade of butterflies.
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” is more than a novel about magic: it is a novel about history, as there are moments when reality inspires the text. For example, his depiction of the Banana Massacre imitates the real-life massacre of striking workers on a United Fruits plantation.
From these inspirations, Márquez tells the story of the Buendía family. The family history is steeped in drama, passion and violence. From the first José Arcadio Buendía to the final Aureliano, these elements are recreated.
It is in this way that the novel is cyclical. Often, elements, names and events are recreated throughout time. The names José, Arcadio and Aureliano are used throughout the story and each name develops its own connotations and legacy.
Beyond the novel, we see this in the waves of democracy and dictatorships that have affected the region. Narratives, names and regimes are repeated across history, in a way that mimics the structure of the novel.
In this way Márquez explores the way that history is cyclical. In the microcosm of 100 years, we see lives and events recreated, without characters learning. In this way, the allegory of the cyclical nature of history is explored.
The novel is not fatalist though– it is a dictation of this cycle. By understanding the path of the circle, a reader can look beyond the self towards betterment. In the end, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is a tale of histories we choose to remember and forget, and how the legacies of those actions affect us today.
Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him at email@example.com.