Second entry on Cien años de soledad

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            I realized that in my blog entries I often write about how works that we read in class remind me of other works in different ways.  At first, I was disappointed to realize this, because it seemed like laziness.  But I think that thinking about other books and writers in relation to what I’m reading can be a helpful way to think about the books, like a springboard to other critical, reflective thoughts about the reading.           

I’m taking a Romance Studies class right now (towards credit for a Spanish minor) and we were studying ancient Greek and Latin as well as Medieval European philosophy.  One concept we studied was the Macrocosm and Microcosm, “the belief that there exists between the universe and the individual human being an identity both anatomical and psychical.” (from The Dictionary of the History of Ideas : http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhiana.cgi?id=dv3-16)  Or, as Wikipedia succinctly puts it, “In short, it is the recognition that the same traits appear in entities of many different sizes, from one man to the entire human population.”           

I bring this up because reading and discussing and thinking about Cien años de soledad has made me think about the microcosm-macrocosm couple.  Looking at the development of the Buendía family over the first half of the book, they develop and grow along with the village of Macondo, so the family can be seen as an allegory for the village as a whole.  The village in turn, can be seen as representative of the development and history of the nation of Colombia.  Ian Johnston says that “Like many other epics, this novel has connections with a particular people’s historical reality, in this case the development of the Latin American country of Colombia,” and Gerald Martin goes further to claim that “the story of the Buendía family is obviously a metaphor for the history of the continent” (both quotations can be found at Johnston’s lecture on the novel: http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/introser/marquez.HTM).           

In Friday’s class there was mention of the book as being more than a national novel for Colombia, but a “post-national” novel for Latin America (as Martin suggests).  I suppose then, that the final conclusion along this line of thinking is that the book is ultimately a universal tale (which was also suggested in class), where the Buendías represent the larger village of Macondo, which represents in turn Colombia, which represents Latin America, which represents the world.  This is just one way of looking at the novel, that came about from my thoughts about the microcosm and macrocosm as I had studied it in my other class.  But it was very interesting for me imagining the Buendías as a microcosm for the human race, beginning with José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula Iguarán as a sort of Adam and Eve. 

Published in: on March 13, 2007 at 7:01 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s challenging for me to read this book a representation of ‘latin american’. Because the person who originally recomended Marquez to me called his work ‘the perfect representation of Carribean society’, I’ve always read Marquez’s work as being specifically carribean. Interesting how outside input can reflect on your own readings.
    Incidentally, I 100% agree with you about how thinking about other writers and books and criticisms and theories from other classes is incredibly useful when reading these books (or any books for that matter).

  2. Ah yes! That’s it! Thanks for putting that into words for me. I have been thinking a similar thing; however, have not heard this “macrocosm-microcosm couple” theory. Of course, now that you say it it makes perfect sense. Bravo. Very insightful of you.
    I had thought of it as a sociological view of a psychological narrative, if that makes sense. In other words, similar to what you have said, a larger view of a small environment.


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