Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The eternal present

Observation #2 on time: when it starts moving in CADS, it moves fast. We've shifted from an eternal world in the first 50 pages, where no one dies and all history exists at once (as Tim observed), to the third generation gaining influence and beginning to die. It was striking to me, after reading again and again about the circumstances under which Colonel Aureliano Buendía faced the firing squad, to see him survive and his corrupt nephew Arcadio executed (in a figurative, narrative sense) in his place.

It's interesting to me as well the way that the transition between the mythic, deathless world, and the world of history is so seamless. It is never commented upon in itself, but is demonstrated only by the way that it affects the lives of the characters. It's not really fair, for example, to trace the beginning of history to the arrival of Don Apolinar Moscote, or the priest, Father Niancor. Even if the conservatives are read as the instigators of history, the exit from a mythic time, it is made clear that neither Mosciote nor Niancor are up to the task themselves, and when the revolution comes (my term, not García Marquez's), it passes Mosciote and Niancor by. The army takes authority, not Mosciote, and Niancor has his head "split open," becoming, paradoxically, something of a cause for the anti-religious liberals.

In fact, potency and inadequacy seem to be constantly at play on both sides of the conflict. Colonel Aureliano Buendía is something of a mythic figure himself (the son of a Titan, if you will), who cannot be killed by poison or bullet, and who fathers 18 children (17 Aurelianos and Aureliano José) by 18 different women, but he is also a figure of failure. He "organized thirty-two armed uprisings and lost them all." If Mosciote and Niancor are incapable of instigating history, Buendía is incapable of stopping it.

So we've talked about magical realism, and time, but what do we think García Marquez is trying to do or trying to say through the way that he makes time operate? Post-colonial conclusions seem apparent—that the local, marginalized village operates outside of what is considered time and history in a way that allows for the possibility of giants, and it is the outsider, the colonizer, the post-European, if you will, although perhaps Sir Walter Raleigh himself, who institutes time and history for his own gain—but somehow, I want García Marquez to be doing more than that, and I think he is. But what?

Also, what's up with all the incest? :-)

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