Invitation to World Literature
One Hundred Years of Solitude One Hundred Years of Solitude – Expert’s View
Experts' View: Remedios the Beauty
An excerpt from One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez
The men observe Remedios the Beauty
“The rotten tiles broke with a noise of disaster and the man barely had time to let out a cry of terror as he cracked his skull and was killed outright on the cement floor.
The foreigners, who heard the noise in the dining room and hastened over to remove the body, noticed the suffocating odor of Remedios the Beauty on his skin. It was so deep in his body that the cracks in his skull did not give off blood but an amber-colored oil that was impregnated with that secret perfume. And then they understood that the smell of Remedios the Beauty kept on torturing men beyond death right down to the dust of their bones.
Remedios the Beauty was clutching a sheet; ‘Quite the opposite,’ she said; ‘I never felt better.’ She just finished saying it when Fernanda felt a delicate wind of light pull the sheets out of her hands, and open them up wide. Amaranta felt a mysterious trembling in the lace of her petticoats and she tried to grasp the sheet, so she wouldn’t fall down, at the instant in which Remedios the Beauty began to rise.
[Fernanda] left the sheets to the mercy of the light, as she watched Remedios the Beauty waving goodbye in the midst of flapping sheets that rose up with her… and they were lost forever with her in the upper atmosphere where not even the highest flying birds of memory could reach her.”
“Each generation of the Buendias brings us vivid new characters, such as Remedios the Beauty, in the fourth generation of the family.”
Erna von der Walde
“She’s just amazingly attractive. Remedios la Bella is the only woman in the Buendia who has this sexual power.”
“There’s a scene when Remedios the Beauty is bathing and the men of the town so want to see her that they gather around finding their lookout places, standing on the roofs, seeing if they can peer over the walls to see her in her…in her nakedness… ‘The rotten tiles broke with a noise of disaster and the man barely had time to let out a cry of terror as he cracked his skull and was killed outright on the cement floor.'”
Erna von der Walde
“It’s not only that men fall for her, to the point of killing themselves just to be able to be close to her. In a way, the reader is always seduced by Remedios as well.”
“I’ve always been a particular fan of the passage when Remedios ascends into Heaven.”
David Damrosch Sums It Up
Writing ironically from within a patriarchal culture, García Márquez both accepts and satirizes the machismo of his male characters. Remedios’s very name is ironic, as “remedio” means “remedy” or “cure,” but she inspires hopeless, incurable love—really lust—in almost all the men who see her. The novel’s gender politics have something of the quality of the “magical realism” so prominent in Remedios’s ascent into heaven: the men’s lust for the “eternal feminine” is both matter-of-fact and absurd, a kind of bringing down to earth of high-flown ideas of religious transcendence. Whereas the biblical King David secretly spies on Bathsheba as she bathes, here a whole crowd of sexually aroused men seek to spy on the bathing Remedios. The very innocence that leads her to walk around her house naked perversely inspires their fatal lust.
Remedios’s ascent into heaven, folding sheets as she goes, parodies Baroque Latin American paintings showing the ascent of the Virgin Mary to heaven with her blue and white robes billowing around her; ironically, the highly religious Fernanda, who should be most attuned to this symbolism, misses the point completely, and just wants her sheets back.
Unit 1 The Epic of Gilgamesh
The first known human story is that of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Images of artifacts from ancient Iraq mix with beautiful illustrations, dance, and costume to tell of the relations between gods and mortals, the search for friendship, love, and immortality. Featured cast members include Assyriologist Ben Foster, comic book illustrator Jim Starlin, and poet and playwright Yusef Komunyakaa.
Unit 2 My Name Is Red
Both an historical novel and a graphic murder mystery set among the miniaturists of the Ottoman court. With its focus on Istambul, a major crossroads of the world, it tells of the artistic/cultural contest between Europe and the East. Cast members include the book's Nobel-prize winning author, Orhan Pamuk, and its English translator, Erdağ Göknar.
Unit 3 The Odyssey
Odysseus must travel the known and unknown world before he can return home to his beloved island kingdom of Ithaca. What does this ancient story say to readers today? In this program, Odysseus's story is given ancient and modern historical and philosophical context, and illustrated with centuries of art. Featured are theater director Mary Zimmerman, actor-director Tim Blake-Nelson, and psychologist/author Jonathan Shay.
Unit 4 The Bacchae
The city of Thebes is torn apart by the conflicting demands of reason and religion, as the disguised god Dionysus returns to his home town demanding to be worshipped. Opposing him is the young king Pentheus, who is doomed to suffer the ultimate punishment for his disbelief. Featured speakers include world-renowned playwright/author Wole Soyinka, actor Alan Cumming, and Daniel Mendelsohn of Bard College.
Unit 5 The Bhagavad Gita
This epic tale of the warrior-prince Arjuna confronting a life-or-death dilemma during civil war presents a unique and powerful philosophy of duty, discipline, and serving a higher purpose. Beautiful illustrations connect the story with its rich history and culture. Featured speakers include Sheldon Pollock, Professor of Sanskrit Studies and acclaimed composer Philip Glass.
Unit 6 The Tale of Genji
This portrait of court life in medieval Japan follows the life and exploits of the great Genji. Written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady of the Japanese court, it provides an insider's view of Japanese court life, the official and behind the screen. Art, clothing, music from the time of the novel illustrate the obserations of authors Jane Smiley and Chiori Miyagawa, among others.
Unit 7 Journey to the West
The powerful and mischievous Stone Monkey King brings chaos to heaven and earth. Freed from a mountain prison in order to guard a Chinese monk on his journey to retrieve the Buddhist scriptures from India, Monkey seeks his own spiritual transformation. Modern performance, contemporary art, and Buddhist philosophers provide a rich context to the ancient tale. Featured cast members include playwright David Henry Huang, storyteller Diane Wolkstein, and translator Professor Anthony Yu.
Unit 8 Popol Vuh
The Mayan book of creation, the dawn of life, and the glories of gods and kings. This magnificent epic was saved from destruction at the hands of the Spanish by Quiché chroniclers. Once repressed, the story is now interwoven with the history of today's Mayan people. Featured speakers include archaeologist Richard Hanson, humorist Mo Rocca, and Guatemalan artist Shuni Giron.
Unit 9 Candide
A satirical novel following the travails of Candide, a hopeless optimist whose faith in his tutor's mantra that his is "the best of all possible worlds" is tested beyond all limits. Voltaire's challenge to the aristocracy of his day proves refreshingly amusing and biting today. Original illustrations, songs, and comic book figures plumb the depths of this satire. Featured speakers include director Harold Ramis, actress Kristin Chenoweth, and cartoonist Chris Ware.
Unit 10 Things Fall Apart
In this foundational modern African novel, Chinua Achebe's story follows the lives of people trying to understand which belief systems deserve their loyalty. The protagonist, Okonkwo is a tribal leader who battles neighboring villages, the English, and his own demons in early colonial Nigeria. The perspectives of readers from around the world reveal the novel's universal themes. Cast members include playwright and professor Tess Onwueme and theater director Chuck Mike.
Unit 11 One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez's multigenerational saga of the Buendía family in the isolated town of Macondo inaugurated the boom in Latin American literature in the 1970s and marked the beginning of magical realism. Writer Sandra Cisneros and scholar of Latin American literature, Ilan Stavans lend their thoughts and voices to the discussion of this epic novel.
Unit 12 The God of Small Things
Fraternal twins Rahel and Estha struggle to reclaim their lives after their childhood is destroyed by tragic circumstances. As past and present merge in this narrative of Indian society and politics, the many layers of the caste system are mirrored in the poetic and inventive language of the author. Featured speakers include Simon Gikandi of Princeton University, author Evelyn Ch'ien.
Unit 13 The Thousand and One Nights
Shahrazad must hold the interest of her despotic husband the sultan with nightly tales, lest she lose her life in the morning. This wellspring of storytelling, circulating from medieval Persia to Egypt to Iraq, like its wily raconteur lives on in many modern adaptations. Art, performance, and film images are employed to show the collection's broad span of influence. Featured speakers include Marin Alsop, musical director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Aly Jetha and Shabnam Rezai, co-producers of the 1001 Nights animated series.