One Hundred Years of Solitude
Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
In reality, José Arcadio Segundo was not a member of the family, nor would he ever be of any other since that distant dawn when Colonel Gerineldo Márquez took him to the barracks, not so that he could see an execution, but so that for the rest of his life he would never forget the sad and somewhat mocking smile of the man being shot. That was not only his oldest memory, but the only one he had of his childhood. […] [It was] the memory of the executed man which had really set the direction of his life and would return to his memory clearer and clearer as he grew old as if the passage of time were bringing him closer to it. (13.39)
Wow, that's one traumatic memory, right? Also, check out how this is another way that historical fact is transformed when it's held as a memory (rather than, for example, written down in a book or read about in a newspaper article). Memory infuses fact with emotion; it's the only thing that allows the characters to create meaning out of events. Here the memory is so powerful that it's both past and future ("the passage of time is bringing him closer to it"). What do you think that means?
Amaranta was too wrapped up in the eggplant patch of her memories to understand those subtle apologetics. She had reached old age with all of her nostalgias intact. When she listened to the waltzes of Pietro Crespi she felt the same desire to weep that she had had in adolescence, as if time and harsh lessons had meant nothing. […] She had tried to sink [her memories] into the swampy passion that she allowed herself with her nephew Aureliano José, and she tried to take refuge in the calm and virile protection of Colonel Gerineldo Márquez, but she had not been able to overcome them […]. [B]ut what pained her most and enraged her most and made her most bitter was the fragrant and wormy guava grove of love that was dragging her toward death. Just as Colonel Aureliano Buendía thought about his war, unable to avoid it, so Amaranta thought about Rebeca. But while her brother had managed to sterilize his memories, she had only managed to make hers more scalding. (14.7)
It's interesting that in a novel so obsessed with the tragedy of forgetting the past, there is this long passage about all the useless effort Amaranta makes to try rid herself of her memories of Pietro Crespi. Why does García Márquez include the contradictory idea that for this woman it's the presence and not the absence of memory that's so painful?
"There must have been three thousand of [the dead]."
"It must have been all of the people who were at the station."
The woman measured him with a pitying look. "There haven't been any dead here." She said. "Since the time of your uncle, the colonel, nothing has happened in Macondo." In the three kitchens where José Arcadio Segundo stopped before reaching home they told him the same thing: "There weren't any dead." […]
People did not believe the version of the massacre or the nightmare trip of the train loaded with corpses traveling toward the sea either. […]
The official version, repeated a thousand times all over the country by every means of communication the government found at hand, was finally accepted: there were no dead, the satisfied workers had gone back to their families, and the banana company was suspending all activity until the rains stopped. (15.34, 36-38, 40)
Here we have yet another case of what happens when fact is transformed into memory. In this instance, the government has wised up to the fact that memories don't necessarily match the truth. By bombarding people with false facts, it gets to write history the way it wants. But is there some ambiguity here? José Arcadio's experience is that no one believes him from the start. But later, this paragraph says that people "finally" accepted the government's version, making it sound like they were on the fence at first. Which is it? Can we tell?