100 Years of Solitude Part 1: Crash Course Literature 306

Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course Literature, and you and I are about to experience One Hundred Years of Solitude. Together, I guess.
Which isn’t really Solitude. Mr. Green, Mr. Green…I don’t get it. You know, there’s so many things that happen
in that book that, like, can’t happen. Indeed, Me From The Past, that’s the kind of searing revelation I’ve come to expect from you. But there’s a reason William Kennedy, in The New York Times Book Review, called One Hundred Years of Solitude, “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race” Which, I have to say, is a bit hyperbolic, both toward One Hundred Years of Solitude, and toward the Book of Genesis. and then there’s the Chilean poet and Nobel
laureate Pablo Neruda, who called it, “the greatest revelation in the Spanish language
since Don Quixote of Cervantes.” This novel is a work of magic. And not just because there’s lots of magic
in it. [Theme Music] So, Gabriel García Márquez sets his novel
in the fictional Colombian town of Macondo, founded by the illustrious and inbred Buendía
family. From its inception, Macondo is cut off from
the external world. Gypsies passing through introduce fabulous ‘inventions’ from the outside — including telescopes, false teeth, flying carpets and ice. And the novel relates the history of town’s
incestuous founders, José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula Iguarán,
and six generations of their descendents. It chronicles the lives and loves of these Buendías as they endure civic uprisings and civil wars; invasions from ants and North Americans; strikes,
massacres, and plagues; and — perhaps most devastatingly — their
own tragic nostalgia. And this is also one of those families who uses the same names over and over, which can be a little confusing for readers, and it doesn’t help clear things up that
the characters also share personality traits. The Aurelianos tend to be “withdrawn, but
with lucid minds” while the José Arcadios tend to be “impulsive
and enterprising.” This repetition of names and traits gets at
an important idea in the book, which is that the boundaries of individual
identity can be unclear. Like, these characters’ are repeating their
ancestor’s mistakes over and over, which suggests that human nature may not change
much over time. One Hundred Years of Solitude is also a masterpiece
of experimental fiction, because it blends the imaginary and the magical to present perspectives that are often missing from written history. Gabriel Garcia Marquez took voices and storytelling traditions that, traditionally, hadn’t been associated with great art, and showed that they could be awfully great. But speaking of magic and time, Garcia Marquez
jumps around in time a lot in the book, starting with the very first sentence: “Many years later, as he faced the firing
squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice” So there are a lot of different times in that
sentence, right? I mean, Garcia Marquez is describing the Colonel’s future act of remembering as having already taken place. And just like a map-maker represents disparate
spaces as seen from a single vantage point, Gabriel García Márquez is showing the reader
the past, present, and the future simultaneously. Later, this will happen again and again in
the novel. In fact, if you want to keep score, the phrase, “Many years later” appears 9 times in the English translation. Its truncated version, “years later,”
appears 11 times. “Months later” 14 times; “weeks later,” 5;
“days later,” 13; “hours later,” 2; “minutes later,” 1;
and “later” (on its own), 83 times. And García Márquez follows each of these “laters” with a scene that his narrator recounts while using the past tense. And this doesn’t just emphasize the connection
between past, present, and future: it undermines the ideas that linear narratives
are the only narratives that make sense. In that opening line, it’d be logical to assume that the colonel remembered discovering ice right before he was shot and killed. But, spoiler alert: that doesn’t happen.
So, so much for foreshadowing. I realize that so far we’ve only discussed
the first sentence of the book, but if I could just pause on it for one more moment, it also reveals another big theme of the novel: how individual perspectives influence the
idea of history. Let me just read it one more time, you know,
because Thought Café made that nice graphic, and also it just has a nice sound to it. “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” Discover is a funny word there, I mean, I
guess discover can mean “Become aware of.” But we often use it to mean, you know,
“Be the first to find or observe.” The colonel no more “discovered” ice than
Columbus “discovered” America. History is constructed by those who have the
privilege of naming. And in a later passage, Gabriel García Márquez makes it clear that these “namers” can be wrong. Although the colonel’s father pronounces
ice to be “the great invention of our time,” we, of course, know that ice is neither a product of human invention nor confined to the temporal existence of humanity. I mean, ice predated humans by like, literally
most time. But since the past is colored by the memories of those who record it, it can often be laced with fantasy. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez mixes mundane descriptions of real-world people, and places, and events with fantastical tales
of supernatural beings, and places, and actions. In the Lit Crit game, we call this “magical
realism.” So back In 1949, the Cuban novelist, Alejo Carpentier, began to experiment with what he called, lo real maravilloso.
Marvelous realism in English. And literary critics have argued that integrating the “logic” of the visible world with magical elements provides a way for writers from colonized parts of the world to make sense of multiple realities: It allows writers to tell stories from the perspectives of both the colonizers and those of the colonized. And Latin America has produced a lot of magical
realist writers, including: Isabel Allende (from Chile), Jorge Amado (from Brazil), Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales (from Guatamala), Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar
(from Argentina), and Arturo Uslar-Pietri (from Venezuela),
among many others. Works of magical realism do away with a lot
of the stuff readers expect from novels. All that stodgy stuff like exposition, and
linear time structure, and certainty. They’re all out the window. And their narrators often describe fantastical
elements in a matter-of-fact tone. And by situating these fantastical elements in a real-world setting, they kind of subvert existing power structures, and also remind us, as readers, that we have
a role in creating meaning. Right? A novel that you read exists primarily,
for you at least, in your mind. And right in the first line, García Márquez
undermines the notion of linear time, and also certain conventions of exposition. And as for the rest of all that stuff, his narrator describes fantastical events, personality traits, and paranormal/mythological beings as if they’re
normal throughout the novel. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. For instance, there’s a plague of insomnia,
whose most terrifying symptom is, “…not the impossibility of sleeping, for
the body did not feel any fatigue at all, but its inexorable evolution toward a more
critical manifestation: a loss of memory” there’s the “light rain of tiny yellow flowers”
that falls after José Arcadio Buendía dies, and which “covered the roofs and blocked the doors and smothered the animals who slept outdoors.” The deluge, which begins after a massacre and lasts for nearly 5 years, uproots banana groves and leaves the town “in ruins.” And Fantastical characters inhabit Macondo
including: Melquíades, the “taciturn Armenian” gypsy, who haunts the Buendía family “because he could not bear the solitude of death” and Rebecca, who “liked to eat the damp
earth of the courtyard and the cake of whitewash that she picked
off the walls with her nails” Father Nicanor, offers “undeniable proof
of the infinite power of God” by repeating demonstrations of “levitation
by means of chocolate” And then there’s José Arcadio Buendía who, “during his prolonged stay under the chestnut tree…developed the faculty of being able to increase his weight at will” Ursula, upon losing her eyesight, cultivates
such clairvoyance that, “for the first time she saw clearly the truths that her busy life in former times had prevented her from seeing.” The narrator describes fantastical events
and characters in a matter-of-fact tone. I mean, consider the “thread of blood,”
which defies convention, logic, and gravity. After leaving the gunshot wound in José Arcadio’s
head, this thread of blood runs through the map
of Macondo and through the Buendía house. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So this straightforward tone the narrator uses to talk about violence continues throughout the novel. There’s the “electrified chicken yard”
that surrounds the banana company’s compound, the “hired assassins” that guard its gates, the silence that occurs before soldiers open fire on 3000 men, women, and children. This method of normalizing violence is in
many ways a powerful critique of colonial (and post-colonial) power structures, which
we’ll talk about next week. But for now, I just wanna go back to how Garcia Marquez reminds the reader of their role in creating meaning. So, García Márquez includes in the novel
a piece of “enigmatic literature” — the predictions that Melquíades, the dead gypsy, has written in Sanskrit on crumbling parchments. Melquíades couldn’t bear the solitude of death and so returned to the Buendía’s house. Here he wrote prophecies which, “when read
aloud were like encyclicals being chanted.” But he refused to translate the meaning of
these prophecies. And he explained to one of the Aurelianos, “No one must know [the parchments’] meaning until he has reached one hundred years of age.” We later learn that this “one hundred years” doesn’t refer to the lifespan of individuals, though. Instead, it refers to the parchments themselves. Melquíades explains that it is only when the “parchments become one hundred years old” that they can “be deciphered” But Aurieliano still wants to read them. So, desperate to decipher the text, he learns
to translate from Sanskrit into Spanish. And when he discovers that the parchments
contain “predictions in coded lines of poetry” he comes up with a complicated system to decode
them. And this decoding is further complicated by the fact that Melquíades has not arranged the story, “in the order of man’s conventional time, but had concentrated a century of daily episodes
in such a way that they coexisted in one instant.” Which is precisely, of course, the book that
we are reading! We, too, are reading a translated book that’s
filled with poetry — one that describes fantastical events and
defies conventional notions of time. But there‘s a significant difference between
Aurieliano’s reading process and ours. As Aurieliano nears the end of the parchments, the wind outside turns into a “biblical hurricane” that will wipe out Macondo, its inhabitants,
and their memories. There is no hope of Aurieliano ever acting
on what he learns. This information “…was unrepeatable since
time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.” But of course, my copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude did not self-destruct when I reached the last line. There was no hurricane. And unlike Aurieliano,
I survived reading. And this surviving, while definitely advisable,
presents some ethical questions: I mean, if history is as provisional as Gabriel Garcia Marquez argues, how should we respond to history in general? Is it even possible to fight the collective amnesia and narrow storytelling that allows human beings to make the same mistakes, generation after generation? Is it possible for human beings to resist the trap of nostalgia that so often keeps us from moving forward? Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, another thing about 100 Years of Solitude that makes it different and special is that it’s not, at least in a traditional sense, hopeful. Instead, it endeavors to tell the kinds of
truths that so-called realism can’t touch. Thanks for watching.
I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is filmed in the Chad and Stacy
Emigholz Studio here in Indanapolis, and it’s made by all of these lovely people, and it’s possible because of your support on Patreon, a voluntary subscription service that allows us to keep Crash Course free for everyone, forever. So thanks to everybody at the Patreon who
makes this possible. Please check out the page at patreon.com/crashcourse
There’s lots of great perks. Thank you again for watching. And as we say in my hometown, “Don’t forget to be awesome.”

100 Replies to “100 Years of Solitude Part 1: Crash Course Literature 306

  1. Julio Cortazár and Borges didn´t do "Realismo Magico" the "Realismo Magico" concept was born with the first novel of Miguel Asturias.

  2. As a Spanish native speaker, since I read this book I've been terrified. All I can think of is that this book would just not be so disturbingly beautiful if translated to any other language. And I'm afraid that applies to a lot of the great books of different languages.

  3. What i dont like about reading is the overthinking that comes after every imagination and the conflict it brings to the multiple beings living inside my head.

  4. 100 Years of Solitude is without a doubt the best book I've ever read. It is in fact, a privilege to be able to read it n its original language. A few times along the book, it wows you so much, that you realize over and over why it was worth a Nobel prize. Such a beautiful book, the English language does not make it justice

  5. Yeah, but in spanish the ice sentence is "Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo…". The verb in this case is "conocer" that can be translated to "know" or "to meet" instead of "discover".

  6. I hate magical realism and every time I hear someone laud it I feel like I'm missing something, because to me it just feels like pretentious and lazy writing.

  7. This is one of my favourite books. It's a masterpiece. I think It isn't right to quote the last sentence. That sentence is pure magic. That ending and 1984's one are the best ends that I've ever read.

  8. Yeah, I tend to see books like this as the literary version of most modern art; that is to say, it's mostly nonsensical garbage made up by a hack who, at some point, started to believe his own B.S. and then convinced other morons that it was "genius", instead of the useless tripe it actually is.

  9. If you need a reason to learn Spanish, reading García Márquez's work (not only 100 Años de Soledad, but also the short stories, Love in Times of Cholera, About Love and other Demons) and Alejo Carpentier and Julio Cortázar is absolutely worth it. I could be wrong but I don't think works of literature quite like these have ever been written in other languages.

  10. This book was garbage for me. I dont really enjoy surrealism of this order. Id rather read something with a firmer plot

  11. Lastname "Buendia" could be translated as "Goodday". I live in Riohacha, city named several times in the book.

  12. At the end of the book "estirpes" is more like "lineages" than "races". […] lineages condemned to one hundred years of solitude […]. But whatever.

  13. This is very interesting and all, a lot of musing to be done around around this fairly unusual book, but let's come to terms with a simple truth: One Hundred Years of Solitude is a columbian book about Columbia. A collection of idiomatic parables masterfully crafted (I suppose) yet obscure to those that have not lived the local history. I'm surprised it enjoys such universal acclaim, as I think it was originally directed at columbian readers, the only ones who can recognize those peculiar references to history (like the banana corporation shooting). An exquisite reading though, if you're not to keen on finding some precise meaning. A fairly musical work of literature.

  14. I just started reading 100 years of Solitude, and I am so thankful that I came across this video. It has really helped me gain me a better appreciation of the book.

  15. This may be kind of dumb, but the woman in the photo is not the same Isabel Allende (the writer), but a chilean politician of the same name.

  16. you forgot to mention that they were cursed, because the whole family was born from incest (the 1st generation Ursula and Aureliano were cousins) and it ended up the same way with incest and the worst nightmare that Ursula ever had, a baby with a pig tail whom at the end was eaten by ants. ps: if you want to really enjoy and understand this book read it in spanish

  17. I just gave a presentation on Marquez. While I enjoyed the book as I enjoy all of his works, I don't understand why this won the Pulitzer and became so beloved. For those worried about the translation, he did say that he thought the English translation was better than how he originally wrote it. He even waited for years for a specific translator to become available (I forget his name).

  18. That first sentence of the book in English sounds so… ugly to me. It doesn't have that special ring to it that immediately transports me to the world between the pages.
    Also, can you believe just recently it was discovered Macondo is actually a real place? That's how cut off from the world it is.

  19. Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo is another amazing magical realism history. Maybe better than Cien años de soledad

  20. I've just finished reading this book today in Spanish. Gotta say this isn't like anything i've ever read so far. even though there is some magic in it, this is the most accurate portrait of the reality we live in. I felt so connected with each character. Each one has their own inner devil to fight off because of the trauma each had to go through.

  21. I'm reading it now and was having a "half hard time of getting through it" bcs i both loved and felt weird reading it. And this make me want to read it faster!!

  22. I really liked this analysis! I also enjoyed The Alchemist so much and I think it’s worth a deeper look- in possible future lit crash courses, would y’all consider making a video on it?

  23. This is by far my favourite book, I remember how in highschool we where asigned to read it and for one month not a word could be heard in the school yard that wasn't about the Buendía family.

    I have to admit that it feels so weird to listen to a non spanish speaker, or even more, a non latin american, talk about it. From the small translation differences (for example in spanish it says "conocer el hielo", which it closer to " get to know the ice" which changes the interpretation you had of the first phrase) to the cultural relatonship you have to the magical events.

    In my childhood when the only knowledge I had came from my family we used to live in this same magical world, where peeing in a sun-heated brick would cure a child's bedwetting and where children being born with gills or pig tails where somewhat expectable ocurances.

  24. I don't know about required reading for the human race, but it was assigned to us in a high school Spanish class.

  25. This is my favorite book ever. Its makes me cry, laugh, to feel that I understand eternity while been amazed by life it self. And perhaps its because I am Colombian, and a scientist, a biologist…But most likely is because this is a real master piece.

  26. Amazing video. I will share it on my Facebook wall to be sure my fellows watch it. I am from Spain and already read the book twice. It is time to read it again.

  27. I am from the region were Garcia marquez was born. and something people don't realize is that the so called "magical realism" is actually the way people see the world over there. I remember older people telling us stories like those. of a man who would throw coins in the air and they never fell back to earth because he was paying the spirits who helped him. or the time a guy told me how his grand father had 3 spirits trapped inside a chest. once he showed him the spirits and they where small and hairy like squirrels with wings. my grand mother told me about the time she and her brothers started mounting a donkey and as each one climbed on top the donkey would get longer and longer to acomodate more kids. until her mother came out of the house screaming because that donkey was the devil and had all the siblings mounted the donkey he would have taken them away. but these are not stories they tell you to scare you. they tell them as if they actually happened. it's their reality.

  28. I just finished the book. And I also feel as barren as after the biblical hurricanes took away Macondo and its inhabitants.

  29. I have now finally read this novel, unfortunately in English, although it is still beautiful prose. I love magical realism, and as a history undergrad this was fantastic as an epic view of creating and interpreting history, very sociologically, very philosophically at the same time too–but my overwhelming impression was the theme. The novel is having us explore the dangers of our interpretations, and what havoc they can wreak, but the more I look the more I think it is the texts interpretation of women that brings about their woes and defines them, prescribed and prescripted through the actions of male characters who control teh narrative of women's lives around them while also claiming these women somehow have mystical powers they themselves generally do not recognize. Can you interpret the text as being aware of that, as that being a goal? I think it is difficult. Also, this book is profoundly heterosexual, I am still chewing on how sexual activity, such a focus of the novel, and sexual desire, particularly that which is forbidden, and all kinds of sexual activity, really all kinds, are explored to the very very specific exclusion of non heterosexual activity. I can only really find 5 brief moments where one person insinuates another person is "gay" out of teh blue etc and the narrative immediately moves on and never addresses it again, as each 5 are distinct people. This to me is very deliberate on the text's part and I am still searching for interpretations….. I hope some subtleties weren't lost in translation as far as this goes.

  30. the interpretation of 'discover' in the first sentence is interesting, but unfortunately based purely on the translator's choice. The original is not the spanish 'descubrir' (which carries all the connotations of 'discover' that John points out) but 'conocer'. In the context, 'conocer hielo' just means 'get to know ice' or 'become acquainted with ice', so the connotation John points out doesn't really map onto that sentence in the original

  31. You should have mentioned Juan Rulfo. Gabriel mentions that Rulfo´s work, El llano en llamas, also called The Burning Plane in English, is one of his inspiration.

  32. In the original version of the book it doesn't say that Colonel Aureliano "discovered" ice, it says that his father took him to "meet" ice. It was never implied that they were the first ones to know about ice, but "Meeting" ice makes no sense in English. Guess it got lost in translation.

  33. Well, in my portuguese version, the first sentence doesn't say "discover" but "to know" ice. Also, from my perspective, the ice mentioned isn't the one that fall from the sky, but the ice procuced by humans beings, like ice cubes.

  34. just read netflix took the rights, i don´t mind about that, those productions get people to the books so hope don´t make any abberation in order to catch modern audience. Sorry mi ingles de caca.

  35. Well sure, but here in the tropics it's easy to see why a simple-minded person could see ice as one of the greatest inventions of modernity

  36. Wow. thanks for the summary. Encapsulated what I felt but did not know there were words for it, e.g. "magical realism.' And I do appreciate the sentence structures (translated into the English language). I will add these other authors to my list.

  37. Great video but something about the narrator is really off putting. Maybe it’s the way he never looks away from the camera, or maybe it’s the way his facial expressions don’t quite match his tone of voice, but it’s disturbing.

  38. "My copy of the book didn't self-destruct as soon as I finished reading." Yeah, well, neither did mine, but as odd as it may sound, reading the end to that book somehow feels like it does. Something inside you definitely does self-destruct…

  39. Sincerely, as a Colombian myself, i feel that book is somehow being overrated, even when compared of the works of Mr.Marquez himself.
    cue to an angry mob in hot pursuit of me… hahahahahaha bad joke, i apologize. i am indeed aware that this is merely my opinion, i just might point the obvious by telling old news, somehow.
    sincerely, while i find the magic realism wondrous and the cyclic time "theme" quite fit to it, that reminds me how (we) Colombians are (in "real life") trapped in a endless cycle of "recycled characters" and plots due to our "lack collective memory" issues, i can not help but find some other works a bit more enticing and "deserving of love" despite the immensity of the fame and recognition of 100 years of solitude. i dare to mention a few, that i believe most people in here are "familiar with":
    -La increible y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y su abuela desalmada-Gabriel García Marquez
    La otra raya del tigre Pedro Gómez Valderrama
    -Satanás-Mario Mendoza
    -La vorágine-José E. Rivera
    -La virgen de los sicarios – Fernando Vallejo
    -Batallas en el campo de venus-Oscar Collazos
    -El olvido que seremos-Héctor Abad Faciolince
    -Rosas negras (poemas)-Porfirio Barba-Jacob
    -La Rebelión de las Ratas-Fernando Soto Aparicio
    And that is just a part of Colombian literature, surely. at any rate, thanks for the upload!

  40. I don't like this book. But I guess it's my teacher's fault for making us read a "summarised" version of the book.

  41. I didn’t get past chapter 5 of this book cause it was too confusing and I have the first day of school tomorrow where ima have a test already on this book…I’m just gonna use this as my study guide 💀

  42. The first book I completely and throughly enjoyed reading as a school assignment. Sad that this didn't happen until college, but better late than never.

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