I've been reading One Hundred Years of Solitude lately, and it is off the chain. I just arrived at a section (there aren't really chapters, per se) that is in many ways on point to #sillyseason. Not in the direct events, but in the combination of cynicism, silliness, and self-destruction. I know I for one have wanted to just throw my hands up and go live on a mountaintop lately.
So first, a little background, followed by the story excerpt itself. This is a quick first draft of my own translation, so if anyone has it in English (or speaks better Spanish than me), please let me know if you see any significant issues. Style-wise, this is one of the few pieces of the book with such long sentences, as the prose for much of the book has a very different rhythm. This section represents the most consecutive events that Marquez has described so far (although I'm only about 120 pages in).
Don Apolinar Moscote. The only government functionary to exist in Macondo (the village where the story takes place) so far, and the father-in-law of Aureliano, the other named character in this excerpt. When he first moves to the village and tries to implement various rules (such as everyone painting their houses blue as a sign of national solidarity), the patriarch of the lead family basically tells him to go fuck himself. They end up coming to an accord, and the families become friends, with intermarriage of the kids.
Aureliano. Second child of the family that the book centers on. It's implied that he can see the future, as his predictions (always made in passing in the book) always come true. He also has an illegitimate son, and later married one of Moscote's daughters. The book opens with him recalling an event from his childhood while facing a firing squad.
Sometime shortly before the election, don Apolinar Moscote returned from one of his frequent trips concerned with the political situation in the country. The Liberals where determined to start a civil war. As Aureliano's ideas about the differences between Liberals and Conservatives were quite confused, his father-in-law gave him an introduction. The Liberals, he said, were freemasons; people of poor character, in favor of hanging clergy, implementing civil marriage and divorce, of recognizing equal rights for illgetimate and legitimate children, and of tearing the country apart with a federal system that would strip power from the supereme authority. The Conservatives, on the other hand, who had received power directly from God, advocated public order and stability and family values; they were defenders of the faith in Christ, in the principle of central authority, and they were not inclined to allow the country to be cut up into autonomous entities. For humanitarian reasons, Aureliano sympathized with the Liberal attitude on the rights of illegitimate children, but regardless he didn't understand how they got to such extremes as war for something that you couldn't touch with your hands. It seemed excessive that, in preparation for the election, his father-in-law had sent for six soldiers, armed with rifles, commanded by a sergeant, to come to a town without political passions. They not only came, but went from house to house confiscating hunting rifles, machetes, and even kitchen knives, prior to distributing to all the men age 21 and up the blue ballots with the names of the Conservative candidates and the red ballots with the names of the Liberal candidates. On the eve of the election, don Apolinar Mascote himself read a decree that prohibited, for 48 hours beginning at midnight Saturday, the sale of alcoholic beverages or the gathering of more than three people that were not from the same family.
The election went off without incident. At eight in the morning on Sunday, they set up the wooden ballot box in the plaza, guarded by the six soldiers. The people voted freely, as Aureliano himself could attest, as he spent the whole day with his father-in-law watching to make sure no one voted more than once. At four in the afternoon, a peal of drums announced the end of voting, and don Apolinar Mascote sealed the box with a tag bearing his signature. That night, while he played dominoes with Aureliano, he ordered the sergeant to break the seal to count the votes. There were almost as many red ballots as blue, but the sergeant only left ten red in the box and made up the difference with blue. Then they re-sealed the box with a new tag, and the next day the soldiers left at first light for the provincial capitol.
"The Liberals will go to war," said Aureliano.
Don Apolinar Mascote didn't look up from his dominoes. "If you're talking about the change in ballots, no they won't," he said. "They left some red ones so that no one complains."
Aureliano understood the disadvantage of opposition. "If I were a Liberal," he said, "I'd go to war over those ballots."
His father-in-law looked at him over the frames of his glasses.
"Aureliano," he said, "if you were a Liberal, you wouldn't have seen the change, even if you are my son-in-law."
The thing that actually caused outrage in the town wasn't the result of the election, but the fact that the soldiers hadn't returned anyone's weapons. A group of women spoke with Aureliano, asking him to get his father-in-law to return their kitchen knives. Don Apolinar Mascote explained, in confidence, that the soldiers had taken the confiscated weapons as proof that the Liberals were preparing for war. Aureliano was alarmed by the cynicism of this statement. He didn't say anything, but on a later night, when [two of his friends] were talking with him and other friends about the incident with the knives, they asked Aureliano if he was Liberal or Conservative. Aureliano didn't hesitate.
"If I have to be anything, I'd be Liberal," he said, "because the Conservatives are crooks."
The village where this all takes place, Macondo, is innocent in a lot of ways. They've never worried about politics, or really wanted anything to do with the outside world, especially early on. One of the interesting things going on in the book is how the town becomes less so the more contact it has with the outside.
You can see that innocence, or maybe better said, naiveté, in Aureliano's actions here. He doesn't really understand the major political goings on of his country, and doesn't care. He doesn't even really understand the idea of going to war over something intangible. His flat pronouncement at the end there is the icing on the cake. Reminds me of a discussion kleinbl00 and I were having last week about the "innocent" versus more cynical approach (I am much more in tune with the former).
It also shows how you can't unring a bell. Here is a town that would happily stay out of whatever national tumult there was, but the government's paranoia and attempt to prevent any unrest actually ends up creating the dissent they were trying to stop. But then the people don't really care, they're just annoyed at what affects them directly (i.e. their weapons not being returned).
But on top of all that, there's a veneer of silliness to the whole thing (such as confiscating kitchen knives). I think that's something we can all relate to all the more.