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Post: The infinite possibilities of a loss of memory

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The infinite possibilities of a loss of memory

“ This is the cow. ” – Gabriel García Márquez, “One Hundred Years of Solitude”

When a plague of insomnia sweeps the fictional town of Macondo in “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” its residents find themselves tossing and turning together.

The Buendía family spend their days and nights dreaming in solidarity—“in that state of hallucinated lucidity … some saw the images dreamed by others.” Communal as the plague is, patriarch José Arcadio Buendía begins to worry about its impacts on the town. He fears that the sleeplessness might begin to eat away at its victims’ memories. Could the collective forgetting produced by insomnia demolish the history of the town—or curb its productivity? Buendía begins to label everything in an effort to combat this semantic dementia: “ table, chair, clock … goat, pig, hen. ”

He hangs a label on the neck of the cow—“ this is the cow ”— and reminds the residents that 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. ” If all is forgotten in the haze produced by accumulated fatigue, the residents of Macondo must still be able to drink their coffee.

Gabriel García Márquez has reflected on plagues both real and fictional. Aracataca, the town in which he was born in 1927 and on which Macondo is often said to be based, was ridden in the nineteenth century with plagues of locusts, cholera, malaria […]

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