“Every page is rammed full of life beyond the capacity of any single reader to absorb,” literary critic Harold Bloom wrote of Gabriel García Márquez’s masterpiece. “There are no wasted sentences, no mere transitions, in this novel, and you must notice everything at the moment you read it.”
Below is a small selection of the magical prose found in One Hundred Years of Solitude, featuring the voices of a few familiar College alumni! We’ve also included favorites from several Columbia faculty members who teach this work. Grab your headphones and enjoy!
"She finally mixed up the past with the present in such a way that in the two or three waves of lucidity that she had before she died, no one knew for certain whether she was speaking about what she felt or what she remembered."
Listen to Mila Atmos CC'96 read the full passage!
Read the full excerpt.
She finally mixed up the past with the present in such a way that in the two or three waves of lucidity that she had before she died, no one knew for certain whether she was speaking about what she felt or what she remembered. Little by little she was shrinking, turning into a fetus, becoming mummified in life to the point that in her last months she was a cherry raisin lost inside of her nightgown, and the arm that she always kept raised looked like the paw of a marimonda monkey. She was motionless for several days, and Santa Sofía de la Piedad had to shake her to convince herself that she was alive and sat her on her lap to feed her a few spoonfuls of sugar water. She looked like a newborn old woman. Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano would take her in and out of the bedroom, they would lay her on the altar to see if she was any larger than the Christ child, and one afternoon they hid her in a closet in the Pantry where the rats could have eaten her. One Palm Sunday they went into the bedroom while Fernanda was in church and carried Úrsula out by the neck and ankles.
"Poor great-great grandmother," Amaranta Úrsula said. "She died of old age."
Úrsula was startled. "I'm alive!" she said.
“On rainy afternoons, embroidering with a group of friends on the begonia porch, she would lose the thread of the conversation and a tear of nostalgia would salt her palate when she saw the strips of damp earth and the piles of mud that the earthworms had pushed up in the garden. Those secret tastes, defeated in the past by oranges and rhubarb, broke out into an irrepressible urge when she began to weep."
Listen to Tom Meyers CC'97 read the full passage!
Read the full excerpt.
On rainy afternoons, embroidering with a group of friends on the begonia porch, she would lose the thread of the conversation and a tear of nostalgia would salt her palate when she saw the strips of damp earth and the piles of mud that the earthworms had pushed up in the garden. Those secret tastes, defeated in the past by oranges and rhubarb, broke out into an irrepressible urge when she began to weep. She went back to eating earth. The first time she did it almost out of curiosity, sure that the bad taste would be the best cure for the temptation. And, in fact, she could not bear the earth in her mouth. But she persevered, overcome by the growing anxiety, and little by little she was getting back her ancestral appetite, the taste of primary minerals, the unbridled satisfaction of what was the original food. She would put handfuls of earth in her pockets, and ate them in small bits without being seen, with a confused feeling of pleasure and rage, as she instructed her girl friends in the most difficult needlepoint and spoke about other men, who did not deserve the sacrifice of having one eat the whitewash on the walls because of them. The handfuls of earth made the only man who deserved that show of degradation less remote and more certain, as if the ground that he walked on with his fine patent leather boots in another part of the world were transmitting to her the weight and the temperature of his blood in a mineral savor that left a harsh aftertaste in her mouth and a sediment of peace in her heart.
"...Arcadio found the formality of death ridiculous. Death really did not matter to him but life did, and therefore the sensation he felt when they gave their decision was not a feeling of fear but of nostalgia."
Listen to Adina Rose Levin CC'11 read the full passage!
Read the full excerpt.
At dawn, after a summary court martial, Arcadio was shot against the wall of the cemetery. In the last two hours of his life he did not manage to understand why the fear that had tormented him since childhood had disappeared. Impassive, without even worrying about making a show of his recent bravery, he listened to the interminable charges of the accusation.
He thought about Úrsula, who at that hour must have been under the chestnut tree having coffee with José Arcadio Buendía. He thought about his eight-month-old daughter, who still had no name, and about the child who was going to be born in August. He thought about Santa Sofía de la Piedad, whom he had left the night before salting down a deer for next day's lunch, and he missed her hair pouring over her shoulders and her eyelashes, which looked as if they were artificial. He thought about his people without sentimentality, with a strict dosing of his accounts with life, beginning to understand how much he really loved the people he hated most.
The president of the court-martial began his final speech when Arcadio realized that two hours had passed. "Even if the proven charges did not have merit enough," the president was saying, "the irresponsible and criminal boldness with which the accused drove his subordinates on to a useless death would be enough to deserve capital punishment."
In the shattered schoolhouse where for the first time he had felt the security of power, a few feet from the room where he had come to know the uncertainty of love, Arcadio found the formality of death ridiculous. Death really did not matter to him but life did, and therefore the sensation he felt when they gave their decision was not a feeling of fear but of nostalgia. He did not speak until they asked him for his last request.
"José Arcadio Buendía dreamed that night that right there a noisy city with houses having mirror walls rose up. He asked what city was and they answered him with a name that he had never heard, that had no meaning at all, but that had a supernatural echo in his dream: Macondo."
-Favorite quote of Alfred Mac Adam
Professor of Spanish teaching One Hundred Years of Solitude in "Latin American Literature"
Mac Adam: "This passage marks the founding of Macondo based on a dream.
The 'city of mirrors' is actually the novel itself: 2 groups of 10 (unnumbered) chapters faced off against each other.
What is done in 1-10 is undone in 11-20."
Read the full exceprt.
That was how they undertook the crossing of the mountains. Several friends of José Arcadio Buendía, young men like him, excited by the adventure, dismantled their houses and packed up, along with their wives and children, to head toward the land that no one had promised them. Before he left, José Arciadio Buendía buried the spear in the courtyard and, one after the other, he cut the throats of his magnificent fighting cocks, trusting in that way he could give some measure of peace to Prudencio Aguilar. All that Úrsula took along were a trunk with her bridal clothes, a few household utensils, and the small chest with the gold pieces that she had inherited from her father.
They did not layout any definite itinerary. They simply tried to go in a direction opposite to the road to Riohacha so they they would not leave any trace or meet any people they knew. It was an absurd journey. After fourteen months, her stomach corrupted by monkey meat and snake stew, Úrsula gave birth to a son who had all of his features human. She had traveled half of the trip in a hammock that two men carried on their shoulders, because swelling had disfigured her legs and her varicose veins had puffed up like bubbles. Although it was pitiful to see them with their sunken stomachs and languid eyes, the children survived the journey better than their parents, and most of the time it was fun for them. One morning, after almost two years of crossing, they became the first mortals to see the western slopes of the mountain range. From the cloudy summit they saw the immense aquatic expanse of the great swamp as it spread out toward the other side of the world. But they never found the sea. One night, after several months of lost wandering through the swamps, far away now from the last Indians they had met on their way, they camped on the banks of a stony river whose waters were like a torrent of frozen glass. Years later, during the second civil war, Colonel Aureliano Buendía tried to follow that same route in order to take Riohacha by surprise and after six days of traveling he understood that it was madness. Nevertheless, the night which they camped beside the river, his father’s host had the look of shipwrecked people with no escape, but their number had grown during the crossing and they were all prepared (and they succeeded) to die of old age. José Arcadio Buendía dreamed that night that right there a noisy city with houses having mirror walls rose up.
He asked what city was and they answered him with a name that he had never heard, that had no meaning at all, but that had a supernatural echo in his dream: Macondo.
"Against the light from the window, sitting with his hands on his knees, was Melquíades….Aureliano Segundo recognized him at once, because that hereditary memory had been transmitted from generation to generation and had come to him through the memory of his grandfather."
-Favorite quote of Jen Rosenthal, BC ‘93
Adjunct Professor teaching One Hundred Years of Solitude in “Global Tales of Magic and Wonder”
Colonel Aureliano Buendía smiled at her the same way as when he had first seen her with the bandage on that remote morning when he had come back to Macondo condemned to death.How awful, he said, the way time passes!
-Favorite quote of You Sung Sang CC 1986
"The years nowadays don't pass the way the old ones used to," she would say.