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One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude

by Gabriel García Márquez

Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes

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Quote #7

[Macondoans] became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears of affliction had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many felt that they had been the victims of some new and showy gypsy business and they decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortune of imaginary beings. Something similar happened with the cylinder phonographs that the merry matrons from France brought with them which for a time had serious effects on the livelihood of the band of musicians. At first curiosity increased the clientele on the forbidden street and there was even word of respectable ladies who disguised themselves as workers in order to observe the novelty of the phonograph from first hand, but from so much and such close observation they soon reached the conclusion that it was not an enchanted mill as everyone had thought […] but a mechanical trick that could not be compared with something so moving, so human, and so full of everyday truth as a band of musicians. (12.1)

There's a great transition here from the funny (people getting mad that actors switch roles from movie to movie) to the philosophical: the question of which is better, an artistic moment caught in time and endlessly, exactly repeatable, or the unpredictability of a live performance which is never the same twice? In a world in which so much is ruled by fate and so little is left up to chance, maybe it makes sense that the Macondoans prefer the mild chaos of live music?

Quote #8

[Úrsula] concentrated on a silent schooling in the distances of things and people's voices, so that she would still be able to see with her memory what the shadows of her cataracts no longer allowed her to. Later on she was to discover the unforeseen help of odors, which were defined in the shadows with a strength that was much more convincing than that of bulk and color, and which saved her finally from the shame of admitting defeat. In the darkness of the room she was able to thread a needle and sew a buttonhole and she knew when the milk was about to boil. She knew with so much certainty the location of everything that she herself forgot that she was blind at times. [ . . . ] Quite simply, while the others were going carelessly all about, she watched them with her four senses so that they never took her by surprise, and after some time she discovered that every member of the family, without realizing it, repeated the same path every day, the same actions, and almost repeated the same words at the same hour. […]

Nevertheless, in the impenetrable solitude of decrepitude she had such clairvoyance as she examined the most insignificant happenings in the family that for the first time she saw clearly the truths that her busy life in former times had prevented her from seeing. […] She realized that Colonel Aureliano Buendía had not lost his love for the family because he had been hardened by the war, as she had thought before, but that he had never loved anyone, not even his wife Remedios or the countless one-night women who had passed through his life, and much less his sons. […] She reached the conclusion that the son for whom she would have given her life was simply a man incapable of love. […] Amaranta, however, whose hardness of heart frightened her, whose concentrated bitterness made her bitter, suddenly became clear to her in the final analysis as the most tender woman who had ever existed, and she understood with pitying clarity that the unjust tortures to which she had submitted Pietro Crespi had not been dictated by a desire for vengeance [but that her] actions had been a mortal struggle between a measureless love and an invincible cowardice. […] Úrsula began to speak Rebeca's name, bringing back the memory of her with an old love that was exalted by tardy repentance and a sudden admiration, coming to understand that only she, Rebeca, […] the one with an impatient heart, the one with a fierce womb, was the only one who had the unbridled courage that Úrsula had wanted for her line. (13.1,7)

Úrsula has never seen so clearly as in blindness. Her ability to use her other senses to compensate for her loss of sight is heightened into almost a superpower here. What do you think about the way Úrsula reframes her understanding of her children? Do you buy that the Colonel is a completely loveless man? That Amaranta is driven by a mixture of love and fear? And why is José Arcadio absent from these thoughts? It's telling that Úrsula recognizes that change for the Buendías can only come from outside the family, from someone with a new genetic contribution. Unfortunately, this realization comes way too late.

Quote #9

Aureliano Segundo remembered then the English encyclopedia that no one had since touched in Meme's old room. He began to show the children the pictures, especially those of animals, and later on the maps and photographs of remote countries and famous people. Since he did not know any English and could identify only the most famous cities and people, he would invent names and legends to satisfy the children's insatiable curiosity. (16.1)

Maybe Aureliano Segundo isn't displaying much knowledge here, but he sure brings a healthy dose of wisdom to the table, at least in the category of parenting.

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