One Hundred Years of Solitude            Cien Anos de Soledad

 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in Columbia in 1928 and the above entitled book was originally published in Argentina in 1967.  The following quotations are from the Harper & Row, N.Y.,  1998 edition.  The book tells the long and complex history of the Buendia family.  The founding member of the family is Jose Arcadio Buendia who married Ursula Iguaran.  As he grows older he eventually grows crazy, probably Alzheimer’s, and spends the final years of his life tied to a tree in the courtyard of the family home.  His wife is the strength of the family, building a business, rescuing members of the family, and living to around 115 or 122 years of age.

 

This is a family history that provides few if any laudable role models.  Jose and Ursula have three children.   Colonel Aureliano Buendia becomes a famous revolutionary leader.  Because women like to have their daughters have children by someone with strong genes, he becomes the father of at least 17 male children by 17 women.  Because he is feared, all 17 are assassinated and he dies after a long life during which he survives after many attempts on his life and even after he shoots himself in the “heart”---the doctor who told his where the heart was located so that he would succeed in his attempt to kill himself deliberately misled him.  Jose and Ursula’s second son runs off with gypsies and after many years returns home, marries his “sister” and is mysteriously shot while in his own home.  However, before this happens, he has a son Arcadio by Pilar Ternera.  Ursula’s third child, Amaranta, dies an elderly virgin after tormenting some suitors, one of whom despairs to the point of committing suicide.

 

In addition to the 17 assassinated bastards by his wife, who never bears him a child as she dies young, the Colonel also has a son, Aureliano Jose by a local prostitute, Pilar Ternera, yes, the same woman that had a child by the other brother noted above.  This son is raised by his Aunt Amaranta with whom he has an incestuous relationship before he is shot down in the streets by the military while doing nothing wrong.  Aureliano Jose has no children.

 

Arcadio marries Santa Sofia de la Piedad and has three children before he is killed by a firing squad: Remedios the Beauty, who is so pure and unconcerned about the petty things of life that one day she simply levitates into heaven; and Aureliano Segundo and Jose Arcandio Segundo who are twins.  The twins are so identical as children they sometimes switch identities.  But as they grow older they are very different and then later in life they become the same again.

 

Aureliano Segundo marries Fernanda del Carpio, but he spends most of his time with his mistress. 

 

Fernanda gives birth to three children:

  1. Renata Remdios (Meme), who becomes a mute nun after she gives birth to an out-of-wedlock child Aureliano by Mauricio Babilonia her one great love.  Maurico is sneaking into Renata’s bedroom to make love with her one night when he is shot for being a thief and lives out the rest of his life as a paraplegic.
  2. Jose Arcadio, who she raises to be a priest and goes off to Rome and lies to his mother that he is a priest when the truth is far from that.  When Fernanda dies he returns for the inheritance only to find that the family estate is worthless as it has deteriorated over time.  However, he finds a hidden fortune so that he is rich until the group of young boys that he is playing around with kill him for the money.

 

  1. Amaranta Ursula, the last child born to Fernanda, marries Gaston and has a child Aureliano who is fathered not by her husband but by her nephew, Aureliano the bastard child of the Renata the mute nun.

 

By the way, remember the twins noted above?  Aureliano Segundo, Fernanda’s mostly absent husband living with the mistress, is very very lucky in raising animals because his mistress has somewhat magical powers and he lives a wild profligate life.  His twin Jose Segundo goes from being a foreman for the local banana company to leading a strike against them.  The twins die at about the same time.

 

As is fairly evident from the above, this sounds like a cheap soap opera script.  So why would anyone want to read it and why did it help Marquez win the world’s # 1 prize for literature, the Nobel Prize?  Glad you asked.  It is because this crazy mixed up family comes leaping off the pages, because the story is told wonderfully, because it is filled with important lessons about life that are worth remembering.

 

Although the novel can be seen to have many meanings, some of the more important ones are:

  1. War is shit.  “He could not understand how people arrived at the extreme of waging war over things that could not be touched with the hand” (p. 104).  People fight for “pride” (p. 148) or they fight “for something that doesn’t have any meaning for anyone” (p. 149).  “all we’re fighting for is power” (p. 182).
  2. That people become what they hate and fight against.  “What worries me is that out of so much hatred for the military, out of fighting them so much and thinking about them so much, you’ve ended up as bad as they are.  And no ideal in life is worth that much baseness” (p. 174).
  3. That simplicity brings joy, not war, not power, not greed.  “His only happy moments…had taken place in his silver workshop where he passed the time putting little gold fishes together.  He had had to start thirty-two wars and had had to violate all of his pacts with death and wallow like a hog in the dung heap of glory in order to discover the privileges of simplicity almost forty years late” (p. 184).
  4. Religion can be dangerous.  “The parish priest began to show the signs of senility that would lead him to say years later that the devil had probably won his rebellion against God, and that he was the one who sat on the heavenly throne, without revealing his true identity in order to trap the unwary” (p. 202).  Hey!  Slow down and think about that one for awhile…………….
  5. Solitude can be one of the most valuable things in life.  “The secret of a good old age is simply an honorable pact with solitude” (p. 216).
  6. It is fear that drives most of our stupid behavior.  When Ursula in her old age, blind but still able to “see” more than others, reviews the lives of her children, she says of the Colonel: “She sensed that he had fought so many wars not out of idealism…he had won and lost for the same reason, pure and sinful pride.  She reached the conclusion that the son for whom she would have given her life was simply a man incapable of love…..Amaranta…whose hardness of heart frightened her…became clear to her in the final analysis as the most tender woman who had ever existed…(she) had been (in) a mortal struggle between a measureless love and an invincible cowardice…fear… had triumphed in the end” (pp. 267-8).
  7. It is courage that counts.  Ursula again: “Rebeca…who did not carry the blood of her veins in hers…Rebeca, was the only one who had the unbridled courage that Ursula had wanted for her line” (p. 268).

 

“Blending the everyday and the miraculous, the historical and the fabulous, psychological realism and surreal flights of fancy, One Hundred Years of Solitude has influenced nearly every important novelist around the word” (p. 458).

 

The only way you can appreciate the power and beauty of the book is to slowly and thoughtfully read it for yourself.

 

So what does this all have to do with interviewing skills?  In order to be a skilled and effective interviewer, you have to deeply understand human nature.  That is why you take courses like HBSE I & II.  But those courses are only a small part of the foundation of knowledge---you have to build upon that foundation.  Great literature, like One Hundred Years of Solitude, helps you in this building effort.