By Gene H. Bell-Villada
"The sign Aureliano hung on the neck of the cow was an exemplary proof of the way in which the inhabitants of Macondo were prepared to fight against loss of memory: This is a cow. She must be milked every morning so that she will produce, milk, and the milk must be boiled in order to be mixed with coffee to make coffee and milk." (from page 52 of One Hundred Years of Solitude)
There is one aspect of this novel that should definitely not go unnoticed: it is one of the funniest books ever written. More than once the author himself has said that One Hundred Years of Solitude is a work "completely lacking in serious" and when asked what the novel is "about" he sometimes likes to reply that it is a story of a family that doesn't want their kids being born with pig's tails. Behind these flippant remarks stands the Colombian's desire to take Macondo away from the academic theorists, to remove all presumptuous obstacles between the book's basic funniness and common readers. Chuckles and guffaws may well be more legitimate responses to García Márquez's great novel than the best and brightest of critical analyses.
The varieties of humor in the book are simply astonishing. There is the comic incongruity of José Arcadio Buendía's researches, the sadly spurned truth of his declaration that "...the earth is round like an orange," and the sheer madness of his desire to daguerreotype God. There is some jesting with names, there is comic-strip farce in the seismic return of José Arcadio, his one-word greeting, his enormous and thoroughly tattooed physique, and the women who pay him for bodily pleasure.
There is also a marvelous political satire of Yankee technology and its more grotesque gigantisms in the elaborate hardware applied by Mr. Herbert to a harmless banana. There is the occasional spoof of florid Spanish rhetoric in the letter from Rebeca's first parents and in Fernanda's four-page harangue. The loftiness of the pretensions of Fernanda del Carpio's ancient family—with their golden emblazoned chamberpots—becomes that much funnier when it encounters Amaranta's sharp tongue and pig-Latin reminders of real dung in a post-medieval world.
In the end, much as the novel is very perceptive about human nature, it doesn't shy away from the comedy of the people of Macondo and their lives. To read it entirely seriously is to miss out on a great deal of the pleasure to be had. So by all means, let yourself laugh along!
Read up on the other major themes of One Hundred Years of Solitude:
Time | Fate | Magic
Excerpted from Gene Bell-Villada's examination of the author's life and novels Garcia Marquez: The Man and His Work.