Sunday, May 16, 2010

One Hundred Years of Solitude ~ Part Two: The Butterflies for Anonymous

In response to my review of One Hundred Years of Solitude on May 16, 2010 Anonymous said...
I could not disagree more.
Cien Años de Soledad is a beautiful, magical work, a mosaic of good and evil of humanity and life. In tropical rain season, yes there will be mud, but also beautiful plant life. Living in the tropics is a different life experience, and a different culture with its own beauties. Why not comment on the young man who is followed by a flock of butterflies wherever he goes?

I have not read Gabo's work in English translation, but I fear he has been much misunderstood here.
Dear Anonymous,
Thank you for responding with concern for a book, an author, and a sense of culture that is important to you.

You suggest that I write about the man who had butterflies follow him. That is actually a very good idea. He is very important to the story as a whole.  As that man, Mauricio Babilonia, is sneaking through the Buendia family garden where he has nightly been lifting up wall tiles to gain entrance into a scorpion-ridden bathroom where he trysts with a young girl of the family, he is shot.
"A bullet lodged in his spinal column reduced him to his bed for the rest of his life. He died of old age in solitude, without a moan, without a protest, without a single moment of betrayal, tormented by memories and by the yellow butterflies, who did not give him a moment's peace, and ostracized as a chicken thief. " p. 297

In fact, it was the butterflies that alerted Fernanda, Meme's mother, as to why her daughter was bathing every night.
"Fernanda went into her bedroom by chance and there were so many butterflies that she could scarcely breath."
So she takes action and gets a guard stationed in the garden and tells him to watch for a chicken thief...knowing that it is Meme’s lover who will be shot. In this context, butterflies are not a symbol of hope, of metamorphosis; of transformation...they are in fact described as suffocating.

I suppose the one character that I liked was Ursula. It was Ursula that drug me through the book...the mother who took her money from making candy and enlarged her house to be sure there was room for all the family. Sadly though, in those rooms, the sisters cursed each other, the father abandoned his faith and went crazy pondering pseudoscience and all manner of incest and torment ensued.

The butterflies do figure prominently to the very end...for it is the man who was born of the couple in the bathroom who is the last member of the family.

As he did not know who he was, who his parents were, he unknowingly beds his sister who then dies in childbirth. He is distraught and winds up in a prostitute's bed that night, leaving his baby unattended. When he returns he sees his child is
“a dry bloated bag of skin that all the ants in the world were dragging toward their holes along the stone path of the garden..."
The last page of the book is devoted to him learning about his family from the gypsy's parchments. He recognizes his own story
"…he found the instant of his own conception among the scorpions and the yellow butterflies in a sunset bathroom where a mechanic satisfied his lust on a woman who was giving herself out of rebellion.”
He starts skipping ahead in the parchemnts, looking for the predictions of his death.
“Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room…”
Then but for a few more sentences, that’s the end of the book, end of the family, end of the village…. and hence my response to this tale…four hundred pages to argue life is meaningless.

It is with that that I disagree.

1 comment:

Sarah Beth said...

I haven't read it so I can't intelligently comment. But I think that sometimes we can see the beauty of life more deeply through all the nasty things which put the good things in perspective.

Speaking of butterfiles,
I think I should re-read the short book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" That always puts things in perspective...

Love you Mom!