One Hundred Years of Solitude
How we cite our quotes:
When he was alone, José Arcadio Buendía consoled himself with the dream of the infinite rooms. He dreamed that he was getting out of bed, opening the door and going into an identical room with the same bed with a wrought-iron head, the same wicker chair, and the same small picture of the Virgin of Help on the back wall. From that room he would go into another that was just the same, the door of which would open into another that was just the same, the door of which would open into another one just the same, and then into another exactly alike, and so on to infinity. He liked to go from room to room, as in a gallery of parallel mirrors, until Prudencio Aguilar would touch him on the shoulder. Then he would go back from room to room, walking in reverse, going back over his trail, and he would find Prudencio Aguilar in the room of reality. But one night, two weeks after they took him to| his bed, Prudencio Aguilar touched his shoulder in an intermediate room and he stayed there forever, thinking that it was the real room. (7.57)
Now we get another view of death and the afterlife as a series of infinite identical rooms: kind of like Chinese boxes or an M.C. Escher drawing. It's an evocative image. What kind of emotional resonance does it bring up for you? Loneliness? Futility? Security?
But actually, during the last two years [Colonel Aureliano Buendía] had paid his final dues to life, including growing old. When he passed by the silver shop, which Úrsula had prepared with special diligence, he did not even notice that the keys were in the lock. He did not notice the minute, tearing destruction that time had wreaked on the house and that, after such a prolonged absence, would have looked like a disaster to any man who had kept his memories alive. He was not pained by the peeling of the whitewash on the walls or the dirty, cottony cobwebs in the corners or the dust on the begonias or the veins left on the beams by the termites or the moss on the hinges or any of the insidious traps that nostalgia offered him. He sat down on the porch, wrapped in his blanket and with his boots still on, as if only waiting for it to clear, and he spent the whole afternoon watching it rain on the begonias. Úrsula understood then that they would not have him home for long. "If it's not the war," she thought, "it can only be death." It was a supposition that was so neat, so convincing that she identified it as a premonition. (9.51)
In this passage, death – or at least mortality – is marked by a decline in determination. We've seen how the novel's insistence on perseverance is linked to the physical upkeep of house and home (see "Perseverance"). Here, because the house is falling apart, and because the Colonel doesn't notice or care, we see how much humanity and life the war has beaten out of him.
When calm was restored, not one of the false Bedouins remained in town and there were many dead and wounded lying on the square: nine clowns, four Columbines, seventeen playing card kings, one devil, three minstrels, two peers of France, and three Japanese empresses. (10.42)
The corpses take on the actual identities that they've only been playing with while alive. Is this transformation funny? Sad? Is it a way of distancing the reader from the massacre?