One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez
Colonel Aureliano Buendía
Talk about a transformation. After a bookish childhood, and a late-life marriage to a young girl who dies mid-pregnancy, Aureliano Buendía becomes involved in Colombian politics, calling himself a colonel and becoming the head of the Liberal party's rebellion against the deeply corrupt Conservative government.
Colonel Aureliano Buendía goes out of his way to show just how political the personal can get. One really interesting thing to think about with Mr. Civil War is the way his personality traits in private life translate into what he's like when he becomes the commander of the rebelling forces. He starts out as a shy, smart, very focused kid. But he's also the kind of kid who doesn't connect well with others and is happiest locked away in Melquíades' room studying goldsmithing.
We don't know what you were like as a kid, but we weren't so much into the goldsmithing. Maybe that's not a good sign. To add fuel to the fire, when Aureliano grows up, he chooses a totally inappropriate love interest: a nine-year-old girl, who not only can't return his feelings but isn't even able to consummate the relationship. Hmm, avoidance of human contact much?
Okay, so Aureliano is kind of wackadoo. If all he did was stay home with his child bride and gold fishes, this would just be a small-scale domestic tragedy. We would be one shoulder-shrug away from not caring about this strange man. What the novel does brilliantly is show what happens when the idiosyncrasies of one guy are expanded on a national, even global scale.
How It Translates
First, let's look at the positives. Aureliano's diligence with the fishes is a pretty good indicator that he will persevere with his political cause. And he does, starting over thirty separate rebellions throughout Colombia during the war. His strange love for Remedios in some ways shows him to be a romantic or an idealist – and this proves true for how committed he becomes to overturning the corrupt Conservative regime and how quickly he abandons the leaders of the Liberal party as soon as he sees them practicing realpolitik. (That's a cool portmanteau word that means political policy based on being practical and realistic about the facts on the ground rather than completely guided by some overarching ideology.)
But then there are the negatives. Aureliano's tendency to avoid people is multiplied to a crazy level when he has real power. He becomes like some too-famous rock star with insane contractual demands. Remember the ten-foot chalk circle that's drawn around him at all times that no one can enter? Yeah, that's nuts. And the whole impossible-love thing? Maybe that explains some of the strangeness of the women who visit his military tent and are gone by morning.
The point of all of this is to make us look around at the leaders in our world. Just how much are their decisions affected by their private lives? Our society tries to keep the public and private lives of national figures separate. What is García Marquez saying about this separation?