One Hundred Years of Solitude
How we cite our quotes:
Intelligent, pleasant, ruddy-faced, a man who liked to eat and watch cockfights, [General Moncada] had been at one time the most feared adversary of Colonel Aureliano Buendía. He succeeded in imposing his authority over the career officers in a wide sector along the coast. One time when he was forced by strategic circumstances to abandon a stronghold to the forces of Colonel Aureliano Buendía, he left two letters for him. In one of them, quite long, he invited him to join in a campaign to make the war more humane. The other letter was for his wife, who lived in Liberal territory, and he left it with a plea to see that it reached its destination. From then on, even in the bloodiest periods of the war, the two commanders would arrange truces to exchange prisoners. They were pauses with a certain festive atmosphere which General Moncada took advantage of to teach Colonel Aureliano Buendía how to play chess. They became great fiends. They even came to think about the possibility of […] setting up a humanitarian regime that would take the best from each doctrine. (8.7)
It's easy to assume that what we see in Macondo and the Buendía family is meant to represent all of Colombia. But here is a glimpse of morality and ethics that seems more recognizable. It's too bad none of that influence rubs off on Colonel Buendía: remember what ends up happening to Moncada's widow at his hands?
Colonel Gerineldo Márquez was the first to perceive the emptiness of the war. In his position as civil and military leader of Macondo he would have telegraphic conversations twice a week with Colonel Aureliano Buendía. At first those exchanges would determine the course of a flesh-and-blood war, the perfectly defined outlines of which told them at any moment the exact spot where it was and the prediction of its future direction. Although he never let himself be pulled into the area of confidences, not even by his closest friends, Colonel Aureliano Buendía still had at that time the familiar tone that made it possible to identify him at the other end of the wire. Many times he would prolong the talks beyond the expected limit and let them drift into comments of a domestic nature. Little by little, however, and as the war became more intense and widespread, his image was fading away into a universe of unreality. The characteristics of his speech were more and more uncertain, and they came together and combined to form words that were gradually losing all meaning. (9.1)
We're fascinated by the idea that someone's "tone" could be recognized over a telegraph wire. Why are Buendía's words losing meaning? Because he's falling into bureaucratic military jargon? Because he's no longer connected to any events outside the war and troop movement? Does the description of Buendía's disembodied "voice" over the telegraph line have anything in common with Fernanda's invisible doctors?
[Colonel Aureliano Buendía's] orders were being carried out even before they were given, even before he thought of them, and they always went much beyond what he would have dared have them do. Lost in the solitude of his immense power, he began to lose direction. (9.19)
Wow, that's a really astute insight into the way power turns into tyranny and then paranoia. How creepy is the idea that the people around Buendía are so die-hard that they try to anticipate whatever he wants them to do, or whomever he wants them to kill, and then take things a few steps further. This could easily be a description of what happens around any dictator.