Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions. First they brought the magnet. A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Melquiades, put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned alchemists of Macedonia. He went from house to house dragging two metal ingots and everybody was amazed to see pots, pans, tongs, and braziers tumble down from their places and beams creak from the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge, and even objects that had been lost for a long time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind Melquiades’ magical irons. “Things have a life of their own,” the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. “It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.”
How could you not want to read more? This has always been one of my favorite books of literature. It’s timeless, classic, with just the right amount of strangeness, called magic realism, which lends to its tone and rapturous nature. It’s loaded with beautiful Spanish names, which can be daunting to the faint reading heart, but there’s a nice chart in the beginning pages giving the family history of Aureliano Buendia with all the names in order of birth. It’s a profound story, leading up to the firing squad, and years after, I guess 100 in total, the rise and fall of a town called Macondo, somewhere in the world, somewhere in time, in some history that is the writer’s and readers imagination. Truly one of the best reads of all time.
Originally published in Argentina in 1967. First English copyright translation 1970.