“One Hundred Years of Solitude” is a 1967 novel by the famed Spanish author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The book has received universal recognition and has been translated into 37 languages. It was also cited among the works which earned Garcia Marquez the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
The book tells the story of six generations of the Buendia family in a small, isolated village called Macondo. The patriarch of the family, Jose Arcadio Buendia, founds the town after moving there with his new wife Ursula. Jose Arcadio dreams that the town will be a city of ice and Macondo becomes a city of strange and almost mystical events that befall the next five generations of his children and grandchildren.
Jose Arcadio’s descendants fall on good times as well as misfortune and the town eventually become very successful and bustling only to lose all of it’s success to floods years later. At the end of the novel, the last descendant of the Buendia line is accidentally killed as a newborn, and the line dies as well as the town.
Colonel Aureliano Buendia begins the story with a flashback of the years just after Macondo village was founded. A group of gypsies would bring new technological inventions to the isolated town. The founder of the town, Jose Arcadio Buendia was obsessed with these inventions. He used some supplies given to him by the gypsies to begin his own scientific experiments which frustrated his level-headed wife, Ursula Iguaran. Jose began to explore alchemy (the science of turning other metals into gold) and his pursuit of knowledge eventually began to drive him into total isolation from the others in the village.
Jose’s desire shifted one day to a desire to establish contact with the world outside of the town. As there are only swamp lands and mountains to the south and east, Jose leads a party north which causes him to come to the conclusion that Macondo is surrounded only by water. Jose begins making plans to move Macondo somewhere else but his wife stops him from doing this, as she does not want to leave their home. The gypsies continue to bring new technologies into the town and Jose begins to focus more on his children Jose Arcadio and Aureliano (later known as Colonel Aureliano Buendia).
The narrative moves back to Jose and Ursula’s marriage. The two were cousins who were married because of the small size of their town not allowing them to meet any outsiders. After their marriage, Ursula was so afraid that her children would be born deformed because of their incestuous heritage that she refused to consummate her marriage until the people of the village began to mock Jose. One man, Prudencio, mocked Jose about being impotent and Jose killed him in retribution. This caused Jose to become plagued by guilt and he decided to leave his home. After wandering for many months he established the village of Macondo.
Back in present time, Jose continues to work on his scientific endeavors with the help of his son, Aureliano. His older son, Jose Arcadio, while still a teenager, is seduced by an older woman named Pilar and impregnates her. However, before the child is born, Jose Arcadio falls in love with another girl, a young gypsy girl and decides to join her when the gypsies leave town.
Ursula becomes so grief stricken by Jose Arcadio leaving that she tries to follow him, leaving behind her newborn daughter, Amaranta. She returns five months later, announcing that there is a quick, two day journey through the swamp that leads from Macondo to the outside world and civilization. This discovery leads to many different changes in the no longer isolated, village. Pilar soon gives birth to Jose Arcadio’s son naming him Arcadio. An orphan girl named Rebeca who arrives in town mysteriously one day also joins the family as they take her in. Rebeca has many odd, self-destructive habits like eating dirt. She is also plagued by terrible insomnia that causes her to have some memory loss.
The girl’s insomnia seems to spread and soon the entire town is afflicted with it. The town begins suffering the ill effects of the memory loss until one day, the head of the gypsies, Melquiades, who was previously thought to be dead, returns. He brings with him a new technology the like of which has never been seen before in Macondo, the daguerreotype. This invention mystifies Jose, who begins trying to create a daguerreotype of God to prove that he exists.
Aureliano has since become a silversmith and spends his days closed off in his laboratory with his pursuits. He stays mostly alone, apparently not interested in females. As the village expands, a town magistrate arrives as the representative of the central government. The magistrate, Don Apolinar Moscote, begins trying to control things and to tell people what colors they are allowed to paint their houses. Jose drives the man out of town but when Moscote returns he brings with him, several soldiers. Jose forces him to give up his authority over the village. However, despite the two men’s hatred for one another, Aureliano falls in love with the magistrate’s daughter, Remedios.
Pilar begins helping Aureliano win Remedios’ heart. While this is happening, the family’s two daughter—Amaranta and Rebeca– both fall in love as well with the same man. The man is named Pietro and he comes to the town to install a pianola in their house. Pietro eventually decides that he wants to marry Rebeca and this angers Amaranta, who vows to stop the marriage.
Aureliano begins to win Remedios’ heart and the two become engaged. Unfortunately, in the time he spent with Pilar the two had sex and she is now pregnant with his child as she was with his brother’s. Jose begins to slip into insanity as he grows older and begins tearing up the house in a rage. Twenty man suppress him and tie him to a tree in the backyard where he remains until the end of his life, some years later.
After Remedios reaches puberty she and Aureliano are married and they take in his bastard son (whom he had with Pilar) to raise. However, the marriage is short-lived as Remedios soon dies of an unexplained illness. Rebeca and Pietro’s wedding remains uncertain as many setbacks have made it impossible. One such setback is the need to build the first church in the village, which has only recently become religious. The priest who comes to build the church makes the startling discovery that Jose is not, in fact, babbling incoherent madness, but speaking in pure Latin.
Jose Arcadio returns to town and Rebeca falls instantly in love with him. They begin an affair that ends in marriage and are exiled from the house by Ursula. Aureliano, still recovering from the death of his wife, soon begins to grow worried about the impending war between the Conservative government and the insurgent Liberals. Aureliano allies with the Liberals and the town is soon occupied by the army on the opposite side, the Conservatives. Aureliano leaves town as the acting head of a small Liberal army and becomes a Colonel.
Colonel Aureliano joins the national civil war effort and travels all over the country, fathering children everywhere he goes. He leaves his nephew Arcadio – the son of Jose Arcadio and Pilar – in charge of the town when he leaves. Arcadio soon becomes a vicious leader, quick to cruelty and obsessed with order. He marries a young woman named Santa Sofia de la Piedad and fathers three children. Conservatives soon retake the town as the Liberals lose the war. Arcadio is then executed by a firing squad.
Pietro soon proposes to Amaranta who rejects him despite her love for him and he commits suicide. As a form of repentance, Amaranta burns her hand and covers it with a black bandage that she intends to wear for the rest of her life.
After the Liberals lose the war, Colonel Aureliano is sentenced to execution along with his friend Colonel Gerineldo Marquez. Colonel Aureliano asks that he be returned to Macondo to be executed and he is saved at the last minute by his brother Jose Arcadio. Colonel Aureliano launches another uprising immediately but is soon abandoned by the Liberal party. An assassination attempt soon causes him to take a long look at his life and realize that he is only fighting for his pride and not his ideology anymore. He begins writing poetry as he used to do when he was courting Remedios.
Sofia de la Piedad gives birth to twins from her dead husband Arcadio. Jose Arcadio dies unexpectedly and no one knows whether he has committed suicide or been murdered. Rebeca, his wife, is so grief stricken that she becomes a hermit and lives alone for the rest of her life. Colonel Marquez is left in control of the town and falls in love with Amaranta, who turns him down. The patriarch of the family, Jose Arcadio Buendia dies after years of living tied to a tree. Colonel Aureliano and Pilar’s son, Aureliano Jose, grows up and develops an incestuous lust for his aunt Amaranta. Amaranta comes very close to requiting his love as she is very lonely, herself. The two begin meeting to kiss and one day when they are almost seen Amaranta breaks off the relationship and Aureliano Jose joins the army.
The Conservatives and Liberals sign a peace treaty Colonel Aureliano takes offense at this, soon leaving the country with Aureliano Jose. In their absence, Macondo begins to see peaceful times with the mayor Jose Raquel Moncada, a Conservative. Aureliano Jose is soon killed, tragically. Colonel Aureliano’s sons from around the country are all baptized and named Aureliano, and all are brought to Macondo.
The Colonel returns to the town as the head of an army once again. A court martial orders that he put the new mayor to death and he does so despite his long friendship with the man. This causes the Colonel to once again lose faith in the causes of his fighting. He attempts suicide but manages to survive. After this Colonel Aureliano withdraws from society again as he did many years before and takes to his workshop.
Meanwhile, the twin sons of Sofia and Arcadio grow to adolescence and begin sleeping with the same woman, who does not realize that they are two different men. One of the boys, Aureliano Segundo eventually becomes a farmer and grows very wealthy. He throws parties in the town and manages to bring a huge carnival to Macondo. Unfortunately, during the party mysterious men being firing into the crowd and kill many of the party-goers.
Aureliano Segundo meets a beautiful woman named Fernanda del Carpio at the carnival and marries her soon after. However, they soon being to clash as their personalities are too different. Fernanda takes over the Buendia home and rules it with an iron fist, turning the house into a formal, religious palace. Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda have two children, Renata ( who is called Meme) and Jose Arcadio III. Ursula, now one hundred years old, says that she believes that Jose Arcadio III will become the pope.
Soon after Meme is born, the president of the Republic attempts to give Colonel Aureliano the Order of Merit but is rebuffed by the man. The Colonel’s illegitimate sons come back to Macondo for a celebration, and two decide to stay there to build an ice factory. One of them also builds a railway connection which links the town with the outside world.
The railroad brings in a lot of new business and technology to the town with amazes and troubles the citizens. Soon some foreign capitalists arrive and set up a banana plantation right next to Macondo. The rise of capitalism in the town irritates Colonel Aureliano and he wishes that he had not stopped fighting the war. The banana plantation owners hire their own police force who attack citizens with little provocation. The Colonel beings threatening to use his illegitimate sons as an army to start a war which leads to the government tracking down and killing all but one of the sons.
Ursula begins going blind and is driven by the need to make Jose Arcadio III the Pope although the boy is still young. But the boy and his sister, Meme soon go away to school, and the house becomes empty again. Fernanda tries to impose her iron will on the house again, and her husband responds by moving his concubine, Petra, into the house.
On a school break, Meme comes home and brings seventy-two of her classmates as guests, showing that she inherited her father’s reckless personality. The Colonel begins to withdraw even further into himself after the death of his sons and soon dies, himself. Fernanda gives birth to another child named Amaranta Ursula. The elder Amaranta, now the only living child of Jose Arcadio I and Ursula, has grown depressed and lives entirely in her own memories. She begins making a funeral shroud for herself in anticipation of her death. When she finishes she announces to the town that she will die at dusk and offers to take messages to the dead. That evening, she dies and Ursula is so overcome with grief at the loss of her children that she takes to her bed for years. She develops a close relationship with her youngest descendant, Amaranta Ursula, during this time.
Meme falls in love with a worker on the banana plantation named Mauricio and when Fernanda finds out she orders the boy to be shot in a blind rage. The boy is shot and paralyzed for the rest of his life which traumatizes Meme and makes her mute. Fernanda brings Meme to a convent where she spends the rest of her life mourning her love. Months later, a nun appears at the Buendia house with a child that Meme has birthed by Mauricio. Fernanda keeps the baby hidden in the Colonel’s old workshop and pretends that he is an orphan. She names him Aureliano II.
The banana plantation workers go on a strike organized by Jose Arcadio Segundo, the twin of Aureliano Segundo in protest of their working conditions. Macondo is placed under martial law and the government sends an army to kill the strikers. Jose Arcadio Segundo manages to survive and is horrified to find that no one in town remembers the massacre as they have been instructed by the government. Jose Arcadio Segundo moves into the Buendia house and slowly begins to go insane as he studies the leftover books of the ancient gypsy leader Melquiades.
A rain begins on the night of massacre and does not end for five years. As all of the town is kept inside the rain, Aureliano Segundo, the former rich farmer, begins caring for the children, Amaranta Ursula and Meme’s illegitimate son, Aureliano II. Ursula, still bedridden, becomes more incoherent and senile. The rain washes away Aureliano Segundo’s farm and his fortune suffers greatly. Fernanda is stricken with a disease of the uterus and spends her time tormenting her husband. Aureliano Segundo begins trying to find a fortune in gold coins that he is convinced Ursula has buried somewhere on the property.
Once the rain ends, it is obvious that Macondo is back to being an isolated, poor town as the banana plantation has washed away. However, at this time, Ursula finds the strength to get out of bed and tries to bring some life back into the Buendia house. The family struggles to make ends meet as Aureliano Segundo is now destitute. But the family is happy. At the age of 120, Ursula finally dies. Rebeca also dies at this time.
The town suffers a heat wave and a drove of animal deaths and strange occurrences which convince the citizens that it is cursed. An odd ghost town feel takes over everything.
Aureliano Segundo begins trying to raise money to send Amaranta Ursula to Europe for school but he is dying and most of his strength has left him. Jose Arcadio Segundo, his brother is also dying although he is making progress in deciphering Melquiades prophecies and bringing Aureliano II into the pursuit of the knowledge of the gypsy. The family finally drums up enough money to send Amaranta Ursula to school in Europe and both Aureliano Segundo and Jose Arcadio Segundo die at the same time. There is some confusion during their burial and the twin brothers are accidentally buried in each other’s graves.
Aureliano II continues working on the prophesies and eventually deciphers them. He learns that the prophecies are to be read when they are 100 years old. Sofia de la Piedad, who up until this point was mostly forgotten, finally gives up on tending to the family and leaves one day without telling anyone where she is going.
Shortly afterward, Fernanda dies alone. Jose Arcadio III, her son, returns to town a solitary, sad man. He had been counting on receiving a large inheritance from his mother and found out that this is not the case. However, after moving into the large, dilapidated house, he discovers the gold the Ursula had stashed under her bed and falls into a life of debauchery.
He and Aureliano II become friends and are visited by Colonel Aureliano’s last living son, who is shot down in front of the house like all of his brothers before him. The friendship between Aureliano II and Jose Arcadio III is soon cut off when Jose Arcadio III is killed in his home for his gold. Amaranta soon returns, married to man named Gaston. She decides that she wants to revitalize the house and the town. But the damage to the town is now irreversible and no one in town even remembers the Buendias who were once the most influential family.
Aureliano II takes up a life of debauchery himself and accidentally meets his long forgotten great-great-grandmother, Pilar in a whorehouse. She offers him wisdom. Aureliano II realizes that he is in love with Amaranta Ursula, and the two begin an incestuous affair. Gaston hears of the affair while traveling and does not return to his wife. The town becomes totally isolated again, but Aureliano II and Amaranta Ursula’s love affair continues happily.
The Buendia house falls into complete disrepair, and the family matriarch, Ursula’s worst fears come true when the incestuous child of Aureliano II and Amaranta is born with a tail that looks like a pig’s. The birth kills Amaranta and Aureliano becomes so overwhelmed with grief that he forgets about his newborn baby and leaves it to die. The line of Buendia comes to an end, and he boards himself up in the old house.
Taking to Melquiades prophecies, he discovers that they are, in fact, a description of the entire history of the Buendia clan from the founding of Macondo to his life, even describing the action of him reading the text. Around him, a huge wind begins to build that rips the town from it’s foundations and erases it from memory entirely.
Jose Arcadio Buendia – the patriarch of the Buendia family. Jose Arcadio discovers the town of Macondo after leaving his own hometown because of his guilt over killing a rival. Jose Arcadio is a man of great curiosity and inner strength. He often indulges in odd and mad pursuits of knowledge. He is particularly interested in the workings of technological marvels and is fascinated the first time ice is brought to his town by gypsies. It is this that causes him to want to create a town made of ice a dream which is later somewhat brought to life by his grandsons building an ice factory in town.
Unfortunately, the quest for this esoteric knowledge eventually drives Jose Arcadio insane, and he flies into a rage that can only be controlled in the isolated and old fashioned town by tying him to a tree. He spends the rest of his life tied to the tree while speaking Latin for unknown reasons.
Ursula Iguaran – the matriarch of the Buendia family. Ursula lives to be 120 years old, far outliving her husband and all of her children as well as some of her grandchildren. Ursula is tenacious but level-headed and filled with common sense. Initially, Ursula does not want to have children with Jose Arcadio, her husband because they are cousins and she believes that inbred children are too often born with deformities. This prophecy is brought to bear over a hundred years later when the last member of the Buendia family is born with a pig’s tail.
Colonel Aureliano Buendia – the second son of Jose Arcadio and Ursula. Aureliano grows up a solitary and quiet man who joins the army after the death of his young wife, Remedios. He is outraged by the Conservative government’s corrupt nature and joins the Liberal rebellion in the civil war. The Colonel fights the war for years, fathering children all over the country before he comes home and finds himself disillusioned by his reasons for fighting and decides to stop. He signs a peace treaty and retreats to his old workshop where he stays in solitude till he dies.
Aureliano Segundo – the son of Arcadio and Santa Sofia de la Piedad. Aureliano Segundo is the twin brother of Jose Arcadio Segundo. Despite being a quiet and reserved child, Aureliano Segundo begins a life of debauchery when he is a teenager. He is hedonistic, boisterous and loud. Aureliano becomes a rich farmer who opens up the town of Macondo to many new businesses. He also facilitates the building of a banana plantation and a railway in town which causes the most profitable period in the town’s history.
However, the strike at the plantation and the five years of rain that happen afterward plunge the town into insignificance again and Aureliano dies a poor man.
Jose Arcadio Segundo – the son of Arcadio and Santa Sofia de la Piedad. Jose Arcadio is the twin brother of Aureliano Segundo. Jose Arcadio leads the strikers at the banana plantation and is horrified and traumatized by the execution of the workers by the government. He takes to the gypsy Melquiades’ old study to pour over the man’s works after the incident, trying to find meaning in life and preserve the memory of the massacre.
Gabriel García Márquez Biography
Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez was a Colombian author, screenwriter, journalist and Latin American hero born in 1927 in Aracataca, Colombia. Marquez is widely considered one of the most significant Spanish-language authors of the 20th century. He received many awards in his lifetime, the highest among them being the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.
Marquez was the son of a pharmacist who was left to be raised by his grandparents from a young age and later went on to study law at the National University of Colombia where he took up journalism. During the late 1940’s, Marquez made his money as a journalist for the El Universal in Cartagena and then, in the early 1950’s for the El Heraldo in Barranquilla. It was during this time that Marquez, known for his liberalism, helped with the coup d’etat of the Venezuelan President Marcos Perez Jimenez. In 1958, Marquez married Mercedes Barcha and the two had two sons shortly after.
His first novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1967) was a huge success and one many award including the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature. The book continues to be considered one of the greatest classic novels of the 20th century.
After the book was published, Marquez lived in Spain for several years. During this time he acted as a facilitator in negotiations between Colombia’s government and the urban guerrillas in the country. Marquez’s fame also led to many friendships with famous world leaders such as Fidel Castro, the former Cuban president. Because of his widely known views on United States imperialism, Marquez was denied entry into the US for many years. Marquez went on to publish many more beloved books including, “The Autumn of the Patriarch” (1975), “Chronicle of Death Foretold” (1981) and “Love in the Time of Cholera” (1985).
Marquez also wrote many screenplays that were made into movies in Latin America. He continued to work as an author and serve as a beloved national figure until April 2014 when he died of pneumonia at the age of 87. Marquez was cremated, and a formal ceremony was held several days later as a memorial of his life. The presidents of both Colombia and Mexico City attended the ceremony. Residents of his home town of Aracataca also held a symbolic funeral in his honor.