You can, if you want to. Most editions have a family tree, or even all editions, maybe. But it doesn’t matter, or rather there’s no need to do that because the reader knows which Jose Arcadio or Aureliano is talking. Yes, this is the story of a family who founded the fictional town of Macondo and a family who doesn’t have the inclination to choose names aside from Jose Arcadio and Aureliano.
We read about generations and generations of this family, the Buendias. We read about their fortunes, misfortunes, adventures, and affairs. The unfocused reader would complain of confusion. The family tree is printed for them.
I think what this book sells is magical realism. If you talk about it, this novel always creeps into the conversation, which I find a bit annoying because I think otherwise.
A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta’s chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.
Funny, reading about blood traveling willfully and deliberately to inform a person of the bloodshed. And that’s funnier, me thinking that the book is funny, because it really is a funny novel, not because of magical realism, which I think is overrated, but because of the characters themselves.
Before we talk about the characters, let’s get rid of magical realism. Put loosely, this is the making of supernatural stuff seem like ordinary occurrences in daily life. If we put it in some perspective, it may as well be exaggerating. Or maybe there are a lot of hyperboles in this novel aside from the magical realism stuff.
A bookish friend theorizes that magical realism was first employed by Filipino writers. I don’t know why he claims this, and I don’t know what point I am making. Maybe this is just to say that magical realism is not exclusive to this novel.
Really, I do not know what to make out of this. I am even reluctant to write about this book. There are many things to write about it, but I want to focus on the title.
Why does it have that lonely word at the end? That word is what bothered me when I was laughing at some of the funny parts because I thought that this is supposed to be a sad book. A shallow claim, I know, because solitude does not always mean sadness, but I can’t help it. Anyway, solitude is a dominant trait among some of the characters in the book. There are those who would spend lots of time in a room filled with whatnot, a room I would like to call the patriarch’s lab. In this lab are stuff that can be used for alchemy or whatever, but those are not important, at least not as important as the parchments.
These parchments, present ever since the first generation of the Buendia family, are encrypted mysteriously that it took a number of generations for them to be understood. So what importance do these parchments have in connection with the plot? These contain the history of all the Buendias. They contain the errors of their ways, and if only these have been deciphered as soon as possible, the mistakes of the Buendias might have been corrected and even prevented.
But it took so long to have the parchments interpreted, so long that upon decoding them, the town of Macondo was destroyed by a whirlwind. What’s beautiful about this is that the parchments were only understood when one of the characters found true love.
Love, love, love. And they never learn, which is somehow why there are Jose Arcadios and Aurelianos per generation, just to illustrate that things will keep going through the same cycle if people do not make ways to enlighten themselves. And upon achieving this, destruction.
Going back to the parchments, they tell me that the Buendia family is doomed to follow a cycle. The parchments already had what’s in store for the family. This strikes me as something that adheres to fatalism, unless the words encrypted on the parchments are dynamic. That’s one possibility, what with all the magical realism going on. And how are we to know? It took a hundred years for the parchments to be decoded.
But if that’s the case, what sense is left in decrypting the parchments? It would change the novel’s foundation tremendously, and it could be a whole new novel as well. So let’s accept the inevitable things that are to be faced by the Buendias.
And since we have accepted that, does this mean that the characters, and largely we, cannot escape what is laid for us? Does our past dictate what we have in store for the future? We cannot control both, the past and the future, but there is something we can do about the present.
It would be helpful if you at least read the last few pages. Ah. I say that this novel has one of the most beautiful endings in all of literature. It’s worth memorizing the family tree after all.