One Hundred Years of Solitude

Just finished reading the much talked about novel “One hundred Years of Solitude” by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. Must admit that I could not make much head and tail! Could be because of the fact that there is a lot of supernatural in the form of ghosts and dead moving in the present which I could not relate to! May be a second reading will help.

This is a 1967 novel by Gabriel García Márquez that tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family, whose patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, founds the town of Macondo, the metaphoric Colombia.

The book is widely acclaimed and considered by many to be the author’s masterpiece. It was first published in Spanish in 1967, and subsequently has been translated into thirty-seven languages and has sold more than 30 million copies. The magical realist style and thematic substance of One Hundred Years of Solitude established it as an important, representative novel of the literary Latin American Boom of the 1960s and 1970s.

The novel describes the story of seven generations of the Buendía Family in the town of Macondo (a fictional town). The founding patriarch of Macondo, José Arcadio Buendía, and Úrsula Iguarán, his wife (and first cousin), leave Riohacha, Colombia, to find a better life and a new home. One night of their emigration journey, while camping on a riverbank, José Arcadio Buendía dreams of “Macondo”, a city of mirrors (also dubbed as city of mirages) that reflected the world in and about it. Upon awakening, he decides to found Macondo at the river side; after days of wandering the jungle, José Arcadio Buendía’s founding of Macondo is utopic.

Founding patriarch José Arcadio Buendía believes Macondo to be surrounded by water, and from that island, he invents the world according to his perceptions. Soon after its foundation, Macondo becomes a town frequented by unusual and extraordinary events that involve the generations of the Buendía family, who are unable or unwilling to escape their periodic (mostly self-inflicted) misfortunes. Ultimately, a hurricane destroys Macondo, the city of mirrors; just the cyclical turmoil inherent to Macondo. At the end of the story, a Buendía man deciphers an encryption that generations of Buendía family men had failed to decode. The secret message informed the recipient of every fortune and misfortune lived by the Buendía Family generations.

There is lot of sex which is made to look irresistible not only by the men but also by women. Even relations are forgotten behind the lust but mostly the experience not only enlivens the ‘lovers’ it seems to make them wiser! Sex can be had anywhere, in the house living room, bedroom, bathroom and brothels! Between people of different ages! All sex in this book has been presented not only as violent and passionate but also a great learning experience. It goes on to prove that Sex, after all, may be the only human desire that keeps the mankind going!

Most characters in the novel come out as honest in their dealings except the founders of one Banana Company who destroy the city in their greed, kill over three thousand workers and then conspire to obliterate the truth of massacre by dubious means including official conspiracy. It can also be understood as the struggle for survival by the simple God fearing people (like our Adivasis today), who are the natives against the greedy immigrant exploiters! The natives are bound to lose the war to the all powerful capitalists!

The number of characters is very large and is often confusing due to the similarity of names. This makes the story tedious to understand. Despite the fct mentioned in the beginning there have been some real gems which I could understand! One I share:
He ended up recommending … that past was lie, that memory has no return, that every spring gone by can never be recovered,and that the wildest and most tenacious love was ephemeral truth in the end. (page 408).

 

THE PRESIDENT AND THE TRUTH!

 

A few decades back, one quality that was highly appreciated and sought after was the ability to “call a spade a spade”.

A few decades back, one quality that was highly appreciated and sought after was the ability to “call a spade a spade”. Anyone who possessed that quality was looked at with high respect, and people in responsible positions were required to possess that “quality”. But that no more seems to be true. After the advent of much touted liberalization and free market, the portals of free thought seem to be shrinking fast. This much sought after quality is now looked down upon as an infectious disease which needs be vaccinated against! So much so that even the people who have attained everything possible in life and have actually nothing to lose by speaking the truth also make earnest efforts to be “politically correct” lest they earn the wrath of concerned people! Every day we see so many people making patently false statements and showering accolades on the people who should actually be castigated for their anti-social/self serving actions. One recent such incident that stumped me was the observations made by the First Citizen of the nation at the “National Seminar for the Welfare of Lawyers” organized by the Delhi Bar Council. Funny nation, in the first place, where the most lucrative professionals also need their “welfare” being discussed like this!

 

The President of the country made a statement that “the nation needs to reset its moral compass”, an interesting but highly diluted statement at that.  The question that actually needs to be asked of the collective national conscience is whether, even after seventy years independence, the country does have any moral compass?  If at all there is one, it needs not be reset, but totally overhauled. It seemed that the First Citizen is entirely out of touch with the ground reality about the legal profession and those practicing it. How could he, otherwise make a sweeping judgmental statement that “lawyers had played major role in ensuring the basic rights and furthering the cause of democracy.” Alas, It were true! Any citizen who has had the occasion to deal with this enlightened class of society, has an entirely a different story to share. It is the lawyers (barring a minuscule and honorable minority) who have been instrumental in basic rights being denied to majority of the people – especially the have-nots, down-trodden and marginalized sections of the society. It is not without a reason that they are one of the professions from whom a common man wants to be saved/protected! The truth is exactly the reverse of what the President wants us to believe.

 

Another statement he made, forced laughter! He said that he had “no hesitation in stating that the Indian legal system as a whole had lived up to the faith and confidence of the people”. Has it, really? Thirty year on and not even a single conviction of the perpetrators of the worst post-partition holocaust in the national capital – under the very nose of the national government! None of the powerful judicial wings had the guts to even question the most obnoxious statement made by the Prime Minister of the nation that added fuel to the fire and legitimized the massacre of  innocent people. The entire judicial system in fact took a cue and ensured that no justice was done! No, Mr. President you are too shortsighted and suffer from selective amnesia, a national disease in such cases, if you still decide to eulogize the legal system that failed to deliver justice to the lakhs of hapless people. Not only this, this efficient system has persistently failed to protect the basic human rights of the people who are forced to fight to protect their hearths and livelihood.  Barring a few bright instances, this system  has actually damaged the cause of democracy to a point of almost no return by mostly keeping mum on violations of the law and the constitution by the mighty and powerful! As an example one can see the news (on the same day)  of Supreme Court clearing the vitriolic young Varun Gandhi of the charges of delivering hate speeches for want of (what else) evidence.

 

And finally the President made another statement: “Bar deserved unequivocal recognition for stellar achievements” Yes- it does….for its achievement in the form of millions of pending case; for delay of decades in deciding petty theft case and ensuring that innocent people languish in jails for periods much larger than the maximum punishment for those crimes and for protecting the mighty and powerful from the long arm of the law! It is keeping these BRIGHT SPOTS of the legal/judicial system that forced Surjit Patar, the Gyanpeeth and Sahit Academy award winner to lament and write:

                                Waiting for justice,

People have transformed into trees;

                                Ask them to go home

                                Till when they will keep standing here?

Fortunately, the President could not hide the pathetic situation in the corridors of law for too long and also shared that the women lawyers have moved a petition in the Supreme Court to enforce its own verdict for providing congenial work atmosphere in the law/court rooms. A classic example of “nearer to church and farther from God”! All is not well Mr. President but it needs guts to call a spade a spade- particularly when the spades happen to be so powerful. I wish you showed those guts Mr. President!

 

Can we do something to reverse the trend?

“ਕਾਲੇ ਧਨ ਅਤੇ ਕਿਰਤ ਵਿਚਕਾਰ ਹੋਈ ਜੱਦੋ ਜਹਿਦ ਵਿਚ ਕਿਰਤ ਹਾਰ ਗਈ ਹੈ” ( ਪੰਨਾ 30 “ਜੀਵੇ ਜਵਾਨੀ ” :ਲੇਖਕ :ਗੁਰਪ੍ਰੀਤ ਸਿੰਘ ਤੂਰ).

And that has been the real tragedy for Punjab. The defeat of hard work at the hands of corruption and black money is the basic reason for drug addiction in Punjab. An important contributing factor has been political sort-sightedness , total lack of vision and abdication of responsibility at all levels of government machinery. Add to this the “what to me?” attitude of the general public and slumbering intellectuals ….The picture of Punjab’s misfortune is complete!It will take Herculean efforts the reverse the clock! Any body listening!