One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
[José Arcadio Buendía] would spend the day walking through the house. "Incredible things are happening in the world," he said to Úrsula. "Right there across the river there are all kinds of magical instruments while we keep on living like donkeys." (1.10)
It's interesting to think about what happens to a very isolated area that receives infrequent updates of world knowledge. José Arcadio Buendía's attempts to invent ways of using the gadgets the gypsies bring make us think of a guy named Srinivasa Ramanujan, who discovered many higher math concepts by himself with no formal mathematical training. Sure, he was obviously a genius, but once a concept has been discovered and explored, its rediscovery is significant only on a personal level.
The idea of a peninsular Macondo prevailed for a long time, inspired by the arbitrary map that José Arcadio Buendía sketched on his return from the expedition. He drew it in rage, evilly, exaggerating the difficulties of communication, as if to punish himself for the absolute lack of sense with which he had chosen the place. (1.20)
You've got to love the humor of the situation here. José Arcadio Buendía gets angry and draws a sarcastic doodle of a Macondo peninsula – basically a tantrum on paper. Then that drawing is actually taken seriously by everyone around him. There's a recurring theme in the novel of emotions getting in the way of facts and of reason being influenced by the irrational.
But at the time when Úrsula went to lament by [José Arcadio Buendía's] side he had lost all contact with reality. She would bathe him bit by bit as he sat on his stool while she gave him news of the family. […] She thought she noticed, however, that her husband would grow sad with the bad news. Then she decided to lie to him. […] She got to be so sincere in the deception that she ended up by consoling herself with her own lies. (6.6)
This moving scene rings so true. There's something touching about the idea that Úrsula makes herself feel better with the spin about the family she's feeding José Arcadio Buendía. Today this kind of approach would be used as a psychological strategy to heal from emotional trauma: tell yourself a story about what happened to you but reframe the experience.