Magazine 2012
Gabriel Garcia Marquezb s One Hundred  
Years of Solitude: A Postcolonial Perspective  
Ms. Priya Joseph  
Mithibai College of Arts, Chauhan Institute of Science & Amrutben Jivanlal  
College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai.  
Gabriel Garcia Marquezb s One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the founding, the life and the decline  
of Macondo, the city of mirrors. The story of Macondo is also the story of the Buendia family. The novel traces  
the lives of six generations of Buendias, in the telling of a story of epic proportions. It is impossible to escape  
the historical parallels with neocolonial Columbian history. It reflects not only postcolonial Columbian reality  
but also a pan South American one. The novel was published in 1967 and was a critical and commercial  
The paper attempts to study One Hundred years of Solitude as a postcolonial novel. The preoccupation of the  
postcolonial with dredging genuine histories, the orality of narrative and the postcolonial impossibility of sticking  
to the Euro-American format of the novel are studied.  
Marquez is the most renowned wielder of the tool of magical realism as a narrative mode that has its genesis in  
Latin American literature. He has used the mode in manners and ways to etch out a reality, uniquely formed and  
which could verily have been swept aside in the cacophony of louder realities that crowd our consciousness.  
Marquez has used magical realism for telling the history of neocolonial Columbia informed by and built upon a  
history of 500 years of colonialism and the unaccounted for era which existed prior to the arrival of the Europeans.  
Postcolonial literature spans the literatures from a large geographical area of the world. Latin American  
postcoloniality is unique in the largeness of the extent of transculturation that has taken place in the continent.  
This has been effected by syncretism, miscegenation and play off among cultures as alien as Native American,  
European, African and Arab. This manipulation and twisting of fates and histories took place in order to quell  
the imperialist urge of the European nations in the centuries ranging from the 15 to the 19th. Hence the  
conquest was not only cultural, but also political, economic and epistemological.  
Gabriel Garcia Marquezb s One Hundred Years of Solitude is a seminal work in the postcolonial literary ranks as  
well as in the era of the Latin American Boom. It announced the arrival of the Latin American novel on the world  
scene and magic realism as a form that couches the resistance of the recently free. Leela Gandhi interprets  
postcolonial writing as b a theoretical resistance to the mythifying amnesia of the colonial aftermath. It is a  
disciplinary project devoted to the academic task of revisiting, remembering and crucially interrogating the  
colonial past.b ( 2008 [1998], p.4). The purpose can be recognized as one of Marquezb s agendas for the writing  
of the novel too. This paper attempts to study the novel as a postcolonial work concerned with national and in  
effect personal histories, the inescapable orality of narrative of a hybrid reality. The paper also explores magical  
realism as a mode of telling, suited for the task and deriving strength and vitality from a unique history to be  
One of post colonialismb s major concerns in the search for historiography is with the building of nations.  
Nations and their histories need to be built in order to fill in the vacant spaces created in the nationb s consciousness  
by external interferences. One Hundred Years of Solitude is set in Macondo, a banana plantation in Marquezb s  
hometown, Aracataca. The memory, or the search for it is spatialized in Macondo and racialised by the characters  
who people the town. The city of mirrors, envisioned by the founding father Jose Arcadio Buendia, an Edenesque  
neo-nation, where things were yet to be named, is swept away by a gale along with the last Buendia, and the  
city of mirrors crumbles into a city of mirages. The impossibility of building a nation from ruins of centuries of  
superimposition by cultures, alien and predatory, is lived out in the building of the history of Macondo and in  
its subsequent annihilation. In Living to Tell the Tale, the first volume of Marquezb s autobiography, we recognize  
the real life models to the prominent inhabitants of Macondo. The novel can be read as a historical document  
in its recreation of the Thousand Days War (1899-1902), which wracked Columbia. Colonel Aureliano Buendia  
is modeled on General Uribe Uribe, a luminary of the war. Marquezb s grandfather had served under the General.  
Marquez reenacts the infamous Banana Strike Massacre of 1928 instituted by The United Fruit Company and  
executed by the Columbian Army. The events give truth to the fact that a nationb s history is intimately intertwined  
with individual, familial and communal histories.  
The arrival of the banana company to the town, carving out for themselves a separate space, fencing out the  
people of Macondo, holds meaning to postcolonial nations where the colonial supremacy has been substituted  
with a neocolonial one, with disaster implicit in its construct. The passage wherein Mr. Herbert measures the  
breadth of a banana with a gunsmithb s calipers and then the temperature, humidity and intensity of light of  
Macondo witnessed by hospitable, unsuspecting Buendias thrills with colonial relevance.  
The notion of modern science ushering in prosperity is pitted against a fruitless, indigenous alternative science  
introduced into Macondo by Melquiades, the gypsy. The attempts at the use of daguerreotype to photograph  
god or the conversion into gold of base metals are thwarted attempts at a search for a reality irretrievably lost.  
The collective amnesia that the town suffers from, from which Melquiades saves the town by administering a  
concoction, and the collective lacunae in memory, of the banana massacre by the whole town except for Jose  
Arcadio, for which there is no cure either for Jose Arcadio or the rest of the town, are signposts to possibilities  
erased from history by interventions which were cultural and mercenary and human(e) and cannibalistic  
simultaneously. The doomed ambitions of the Buendian men to transform base metals into gold or to  
revolutionize the ideology of a society are as directionless as the maps and routes and the parched sea which  
do not offer an escape from the inevitable ruin that awaits the Buendias and by extension, Macondo.  
One Hundred Years of Solitude qualifies as resistance writing also in the manner in which the author has done  
away with the all-pervasive narrator of the story. The all-seeing author of purely European lineage has been  
found wanting and the text seems to have an autonomy of its own, of the Bhakthinian polyphony of many  
voices. The novel, while retaining a third person narrative style, takes on the voice of the overwhelming character  
of the generation or the time. Time is linear in large strokes and hence European in heritage, but in the  
recounting of details, moves in circles, in the repetition of names across generations, and of events across  
ages. The centripetal movement of time works brilliantly to showcase the lure of incest the members of the  
family are subject to.  
The novel occupies a liminal space and exemplifies the power of a narrative, both brilliant and new, the  
occupation of the threshold space accords it. In his book The Location of Culture, Bhabha upholds hybridity,  
liminality, and the interrogatory in- between spaces against the linear narrative of a people. The novel while  
digging deep into itself, in search of an indigenous historiography does not degenerate into a shrill promotion  
of the b Otherb . Hence Francisco the Man who carries news from town to town, encapsulated in folk songs  
renders them with interpolations, in accompaniment to the accordion granted him by Sir Walter Raleigh in the  
Guianas, for the cost of two cents is found on examination to be hybrid and not pure. The interpolation of the  
folk and the mythical into the weave of the story speaks of the tremendous impact orality has on postcolonial  
narrative. The oral discourse by its dependence on the aural aspect is repetitive and is incorporated with a  
definite political agenda of retrieval of personal histories.  
Death is treated in the novel in antithetical manners. Jose Arcadio Buendia who awaits death beneath the  
chestnut tree and after his death comes back to haunt the regions with the ghost of his rival Aguilar, Melquiades  
with his many deaths, the raising of Remedios the Beauty into heaven, Amaranta who gets ready for death in  
the weaving of her shroud and carries messages to the dead from the living, Ursula who is reduced to a pea  
sized inanity before gradually giving up on life could be read as the expressions of death as complement to  
life, in another time. The banana massacre in which 3500 people were killed happens in a surrealistic flash of  
time, for the reader, refusing to live on in the collective memory of the people of Macondo.  
The literal treatment accorded to metaphor, when Amaranta Ursula leads her husband on a silk ribbon tied  
around his neck, the downpour which lasts years, the human beings who live hundreds of years, the crazy  
fecundity of the animals and birds induced by the love of Aureliano Segundo and Petra Cotes, serve to push  
reality to the edges, forcing the reader to participate in a new reality.  
Postcolonial writers have used experimental forms of narrative like magical realism in order to retrieve a non-  
European form of narrative, to tell a different truth, by breaking into familiar contours of reality and drawing  
them anew. Magical realism received international repute and identity with the novel. The supernatural and the  
mythical seem to mix effortlessly with the real and the concrete, in the images of the yellow butterflies that  
swarm Mauricio Bailonia, the naked innocence of Remedios the Beauty who is elevated bodily to the heavens  
swathed in bed sheets and crockery which seem to respond to the gaze of Colonel Buendia exemplify the  
more evident instances.  
The term magic realism was originally applied to the visual medium, in Germany, by Franz Roh in 1925 to offer  
a magical gaze opening onto a piece of mildly transfigured reality.b  (Roh 1995[1925]: p20; cited in Katy  
Wimhurst, b Magic(al) Realismb ) The historical reality violated everyday reality in Germany just as in the many  
Latin American countries, where magic realism later took root as a literary mode of storytelling. Alejo Carpentier  
Cuba) coined the term b lo real maravillosob  (marvellous realism) claiming that the marvelous was no literary  
ruse, but an inevitable tool to express the impingement of the marvelous on the reality, of a uniquely formulated  
peoples. Marvellous realism is intrinsic to the continentb s turbulent history,b b which involved the play off and  
admixture of varied culturesb Native American, African, European and Arab ,as a result of colonization, the  
fantastic geography of the continent, the imbalances and inequalities rendered by neocolonialism, the mixture  
of the mythic and the pragmatic in day to day living. Salman Rushdie who has used the mode successfully in  
his novels, cleverly referred to the style indirectly as b the commingling of the improbable and the  
mundaneb .(1995,p.1) It is but relevant to note here that other practitioners of magical realism like Salman  
Rushdie and Ben Okri are embroiled in their respective histories.  
In resisting to toe the European and/or American line of storytelling, Marquez by no means is championing the  
Otherb  as a substitute to take the high chair, but is offering us more than glimpses into roads not taken, into  
absent realities which are fecund by their very absence . It is remarkable that in the telling of the tale, which in  
its skeletal frame is unredemptive tragedy, Marquez elevates the story with his sharp humour, never once falling  
into the snares of dejection or the lures of spirituality.  
Gandhi, Leela.  
Postcolonial Theory A Critical Introduction. New Delhi: Oxford University  
Press 2008[1998]  
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia.  
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia.  
One Hundred Years of Solitude. New Delhi:Penguin Books.1996[1972]  
Living to Tell the Tale. London: Penguin Books.2008[2004]  
Midnightb s Children. Noida:Random House.1995  
Sangari, Kumkum.  
Politics of the Possible: Essays on Gender, History, Narrative,  
Colonial English. New Delhi: Tulika.1999  
Wimhurst, Katy  
b Magic(al) Realismb .