Saturday, March 6, 2010

Holy Comparisons, Batman!

I enjoy GGM (to use the efficient footnote abbreviation) not only for his evident clarity and cleverness while telling stories, but also for how he blends 2 different, yet fundamental, aspects of society together; namely, science and religion, and then tops them off with the cherry of magical realism. José Arcadia Buendía is constantly searching for the divine truth. Ironically, his search takes the course of using scientific method to explain the most unscientific feature of human life, even going as far as trying to photograph the existence of God. He eventually states, as he delves further into the mysteries of metallic properties, "Si no temes a Dios, témele a los metales" (p. 125). Úrsula continues to uphold the catholic Colombian culture in the household, often leading the children in prayer after an episode of rants by Melquaídes about the chemical properties of the devil. I believe that it is Melquíades himself who births the initial and overt interest in magical realism to the reader: "Las cosas tienen vida propia....todo es cuestión de despertarles el ánimo" (p. 84), and he then continues to ignite the flame of curiousity by incredible feats of survival and resurrection, and the inventions with which he comes and goes.

On a sidenote, this montage of societys basic foundations reminds me of the work of the artist Fernando Botero (coincidence that these two are both Colombian??) Botero often mixes simbolism of religion, societal class, military, and history into his paintings and sculptures. In fact, as many of you have probably noticed, the painting on the front of our version of Cien años de Soledad is by Botero. His works often fuse the humor of his characters exaggerated bodies with the solemn messages which accompany his perspective of Colombian society. This particular painting on the book cover shows a military official with a wand and sword (power and authority), but also a far-off gaze, which makes one ask if his path is the one which he wanted or if he is forced to do it by the circumstances of his life (as you can see, Ive associated this figure with Aureliano). As you can see it would be quite advantageous to study both the styles of GGM and Botero if one were to want to learn about Colombian culture and history.

Finally, a bizarre little comparison between José Arcadia Buendía and the protagonist, played by Harrison Ford, of a movie called The Mosquite Coast. The basic synopsis of the movie is of a man who moves his family to Central America in order to bring "civilization" to the native peoples in the form of his invention which makes ice from fire. Hmmmmm....could this be based upon the dream of José in Cien años de soledad: "...en el futuro fabricarse bloques de hielo en gran escala" (p. 112)? Interestingly enough, both characters believe that such an invention would immensely help the people of their communities; even though neither man sees that such an invention, or the salvation they believe will come from it, is needed in the towns. As The Mosquito Coast demonstrates the developed worlds obsession with blindly aiding the less fortunate, perhaps both characters authenticate a more human desire to advance civilization, whether it is needed or not.


  1. I love how you draw so many conclusions/comparisons, I had no idea about the painting on the cover of the book. (where did you find such knowledge?) In this book, I think that magic realism often fuses with religion, moreso than it does with science - at least, using modern day logic (which is much like what we've seen in the two previous books, where religion and magic realism often take the same form and are hard to distinguish). However, GGM seems to take it one step further and use one (science of that time) to prove the other (magic realismy religion).

  2. "magic realismy religion"....haha, love it! Such an apt phrase ;)

    Agreed, the other two books combined religion and magical realism to be almost the same two sides of the same coin.

    About the Fernando Botero painting on the cover, if you ever go to a Colombian museum and come away from it NOT knowing the style of Fernando Botero, then I'd be amazed. His characters in the paintings are very distinct (and HUGE!) and like I said in the blog, his themes are almost as huge as his subjects ;)

  3. Interesting comparison with Botero... who is indeed "the" Colombian painter. I think (not sure) that Botero and García Márquez are also friends.

    As for religion... we haven't really touched on it in class, and it's true that it's a constant presence in the book, but at the same time it's somehow strangely on the margins, don't you think?

    (This may change somewhat later with a character who goes off to become a priest; actually I can't quite remember his story just at the moment, but again as I recall he's strangely off-stage most of the time.)