One Hundred Years of Solitude
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A burning noonday sun brought out a startling demonstration with the gigantic magnifying glass: they put a pile of dry hay in the middle of the street and set it on fire by concentrating the sun's rays. José Arcadio Buendía […] conceived the idea of using that invention as a weapon of war. Again Melquíades tried to dissuade him, but [José Arcadio Buendía was] completely absorbed in his tactical experiments with the abnegation of a scientist. […] Over the protests of his wife, who was alarmed at such a dangerous invention, at one point he was ready to set the house on fire. He would spend hours on end in his room, calculating the strategic possibilities of his novel weapon until he succeeded in putting together a manual of startling instructional clarity and an irresistible power of conviction. He sent it to the government, accompanied by numerous descriptions of his experiments and several pages of explanatory sketches, by a messenger who crossed the mountains, got lost in measureless swamps, forded stormy rivers, and was on the point of perishing under the lash of despair, plague, and wild beasts until he found a route that joined the one used by the mules that carried the mail. In spite of the fact that a trip to the capital was little less than impossible at that time, José Arcadio Buendía promised to undertake it as soon as the government ordered him to so that he could put on some practical demonstrations of his invention for the military authorities and could train them himself in the complicated art of solar war. For several years he waited for an answer. Finally, tired of waiting, he bemoaned to Melquíades the failure of his project. (1.2)
There are a couple of things going on in this great passage. For one, we're loving this little mini-satire of the military-industrial complex. You've got a half-crazy, half-genius weapons designer, a totally unrealistic and unusable technology, and a government bureaucracy that can't be penetrated. At the same time, you've got an interesting juxtaposition between visionary endeavor and the reality of trying to get anything done (that sad guy struggling to get through to the mail route).
War, in fact, had broken out three months before. Martial law was in effect in the whole country. The only one who knew it immediately was Don Apolinar Moscote, but he did not give the news even to his wife while the army platoon that was to occupy the town by surprise was on its way. They entered noiselessly before dawn, with two pieces of light artillery drawn by mules. And they set up their headquarters in the school. A 6 p.m. curfew was established. A more drastic search than the previous one was undertaken, house by house, and this time they even took farm implements. They dragged out Dr. Noguera, tied him to a tree in the square, and shot him without any due process of law. […] Four soldiers under his command snatched a woman who had been bitten by a mad dog from her family and killed her with their rifle butts. One Sunday, two weeks after the occupation, Aureliano entered Gerineldo Márquez's house and with his usual terseness asked for a mug of coffee without sugar. When the two of them were alone in the kitchen, Aureliano gave his voice an authority that had never been heard before. "Get the boys ready," he said. "We're going to war." […]
Tuesday at midnight in a mad operation, twenty-one men under the age of thirty commanded by Aureliano Buendía, armed with table knives and sharpened tools, took the garrison by surprise, seized the weapons, and in the courtyard executed the captain and the four soldiers who had killed the woman.
[…] Don Apolinar Moscote had trouble identifying that conspirator in high boots and with a rifle slung over his shoulder with the person he had played dominoes with until nine in the evening. "This is madness, Aurelito," he exclaimed. "Not madness," Aureliano said. "War. And don't call me Aurelito any more. Now I'm Colonel Aureliano Buendía." (5.43, 46-47)
Oh yeah, now it's on! This is like the "now it's personal" part of any action movie, when the hero reluctantly saddles up to fight the bad guys.
Another war began [when Colonel Aureliano Buendía and his men] would camp near the towns and one of them, with a small gold fish in his hand, would go in disguise in broad daylight to contact the dormant Liberals, who would go out hunting on the following morning and never return. […] Colonel Aureliano Buendía's men proclaimed him chief of the revolutionary forces of the Caribbean coast with the rank of general. He assumed the position but refused the promotion and took the stand that he would never accept it as long as the Conservative regime was in power. At the end of three months they had succeeded in arming more than a thousand men, but they were wiped out. […] [A] message from the government was sent all over by telegraph and included in jubilant proclamations throughout the country announcing the death of Colonel Aureliano Buendía. But two days later a multiple telegram which almost overtook the previous one announced another uprising on the southern plains. That was how the legend of the ubiquitous Colonel Aureliano Buendía began. Simultaneous and contradictory information declared him victorious in Villanueva, defeated in Guacamayal, devoured by Motilon Indians, dead in a village in the swamp, and up in arms again in Urumita. [Colonel Aureliano Buendía] proclaimed total war against the regime. (7.34)
No matter what these Buendía dudes do, they bring the same m.o. with them. From one perspective, this is some impressive not-giving-up-the-fight attitude. On the other hand, the war is yet another of those high-energy, repetitive, kind of pointless activities that recur throughout the novel. It's also interesting that the myth of Aureliano Buendía has so much to do with him not quite being human, since we know that eventually the war will completely dehumanize him.