One Hundred Years of Solitude
Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
On the following day Colonel Aureliano Buendía had lunch with [his Conservative archenemy] in Úrsula's house, where he was being held until a revolutionary court-martial decided his fate. It was a friendly gathering. But while the adversaries forgot the war to remember things of the past, Úrsula had the gloomy feeling that her son was an intruder. […] He was preserved against imminent old age by a vitality that had something to do with the coldness of his insides. He was taller than when he had left, paler and bonier, and he showed the first symptoms of resistance to nostalgia. (8.38)
Here we see the difference between Aureliano Buendía the human being and Colonel Aureliano Buendía, the dehumanized man who emerged from the war. This is a pretty common description of hardened soldiers, but notice how García Márquez conveys the change by having Aureliano gradually lose his ability to color his memories with feelings. It isn't that he can't remember; it's that he's unable to feel nostalgia, which is a specific way of thinking about the past while longing for its return.
[Colonel Aureliano Buendía] was weary of the uncertainty, of the vicious circle of that eternal war that always found him in the same place, but always older, wearier, even more in the position of not knowing why, or how, or even when. […] Alone, abandoned by his premonitions, fleeing the chill that was to accompany him until death, he sought a last refuge in Macondo in the warmth of his oldest memories. (9.19)
Again, check out the insistence that the main way we express our humanity is by coloring our memories with feelings. The Colonel wants his memories to be "warm."
The only one who had not lost for a single minute the awareness that [Rebeca] was alive and rotting in her wormhole was the implacable and aging Amaranta. […]Always, at every moment, asleep and awake, during the most sublime and most abject moments, Amaranta thought about Rebeca because solitude had made a selection in her memory and had burned the dimming piles of nostalgic waste that life had accumulated in her heart, and had purified, magnified, and eternalized the others, the most bitter ones. […] Úrsula, on the other hand, who had suffered through a process opposite to Amaranta's, recalled Rebeca with a memory free of impurities, for the image of the pitiful child brought to the house with the bag containing her parents' bones prevailed over the offense that had made her unworthy to be connected to the family tree any longer. (11.36)
Here we get two different versions of what can happen to our memories as we age, while we reconfigure our life stories. What does it say about Amaranta that the main memories left to her are the most bitter ones? Is she a victim? What does it say about Úrsula that she forgets and forgives Rebeca's almost-incest? Does this mean it was a mistake to blame Rebeca in the first place?