Celebrating Gabriel García Márquez And Ice

García Márquez, 85 years old.

Gabriel García Márquez was born on this day (March 6) in 1927 in Aracataca, Colombia; he is 85 years old. In Spanish, only Cervantes is more widely read than García Márquez.

García Márquez is a storyteller and one of his most famous stories is about the Buendía family who lived in the fictional town of Macondo, which is in the Colombian jungle near Aracataca.

One day in March, José Arcadio Buendía and his wife Úrsula Buendía saw that gypsies had set up a camp near town.

“At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions. First they brought the magnet…”
One Hundred Years of Solitude, tr. Gregory Rabassa.

One March the gypsies brought with them a novelty from the “sages of Memphis”, a treasure belonging to King Solomon himself. José Arcadio took his son Aureliano to see the wonder. They entered the tent,

“where there was a giant with a hairy torso and a shaved head, with a copper ring in his nose and a heavy iron chain on his ankle, watching over a pirate chest. When it was opened by the giant, the chest gave off a glacial exhalation. Inside there was only an enormous, transparent block with infinite internal needles in which the light of the sunset was broken up into colored stars.”

José Arcadio could only murmur:

“It’s the largest diamond in the world.”
“No,” the gypsy countered. “It’s ice.”

“[José Arcadio] paid another five reales and with his hand on the cake, as if giving testimony on the Holy Scripture, he exclaimed: ‘This is the great invention of our time.”

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
One Hundred Years of Solitude, tr. Gregory Rabassa.

Ice XV a newly discovered crystallization.

Long before the success of Cien años de soledad, García Márquez was living in Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. He was a struggling writer, who spent his free hours in the bookstores and cafes of the town. One day, as he was reading in a bookstore:

“She arrived at twelve sharp. With her light step she made her way among the tables of books on display, stopped in front of me, looking into my eyes with the mischievous smile of her better days, and before I could react she said:

“I’m your mother.”

“Something in her had changed and this kept me from recognizing her at first glance. She was forty-five. Adding up her eleven births, she had spent almost ten years pregnant and at least another ten nursing her children. She had gone gray before her time”.
–Living To Tell The Tale, p. 3, García Márquez’ autobiography, tr. by Edith Grossman.

His mother came to ask him to go with her to sell the house in the distant village of Aracataca. They left by train the next day. It was on that trip that the 24-year-old Garcia Marquez re-discovered Macondo.

“The only way to get to Aracataca from Barranquilla was by dilapidated motor launch through a narrow channel excavated by slave labor during colonial times, and then across the ciénaga, a vast swamp of muddy, desolate water, to the mysterious town that was also called Ciénaga. There you took the daily train …

“The train stopped at a station that had no town, and a short while later it passed the only banana plantation along the route that had its name written over the gate: Macondo. This word had attracted my attention ever since the first trips I had made with my grandfather, but I discovered only as an adult that I liked its poetic resonance.
–Living To Tell The Tale, p. 21.

Feliz Cumpleaños, Gabo!

The photo of super-dense frozen water is from Wired Science. Scientists have created the final predicted form of stable ice, called ice XV, in the lab. According to the Wired summary:

“Types of ice are classified by how close the water molecules pack together and the structure the molecules arrange themselves in. With the new discovery, researchers have identified 16 forms of ice (including two types of ice I) named in order of discovery. Most of the ice on Earth is type Ih (h for hexagonal, hence the six-sided symmetry of all snowflakes). Researchers had long predicted the existence of ice XV, but had never seen it before.”
–Wired Science

But, of course, Gabo didn’t know about Ice XV when he wrote 100 years of Solitude.

Week 9-2012: Cien años de soledad (100 Years of Solitude, tr. Gregory Rabassa), Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
Note: New for 2012, an eBook of Cien años de soledad is available for purchase at Amazon.es and Leer-e.es (unfortunately, you may have trouble with the purchase if you live in USA).


About carto

Retired software engineer who grew up in Montana, went to Montana State College in Bozeman, and moved to California to work at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Carto's Logbook is about photography, travel and adventure; Mt. Maurice Times is tall tales mostly biographical; Carto's Library is about books I've read and liked.
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1 Response to Celebrating Gabriel García Márquez And Ice

  1. Pingback: Colombian Storyteller, García Márquez, is dead at 87 | Carto's Library Blog

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