the house of fictile time - Gabriel García Márquez


April 2014


Sometimes, I wander through these houses, hide from heath between their thick walls, sit barefoot at their verandas and let time disappear. Generations of characters pass by; one comes to sit next to me and tells a life-story, another is only noticeable in the movements of banana leaves and a hint of melancholy. The houses in Gabriel García Márquez’s novels are architectural objects that seem to withstand common processes of aging and to escape time. Their courtyards and verandas not only store heath or moist, they witness not only the raging of apocalyptic storms; above all, they accumulate stories.

In the courtyard of the house of family Buendía in Macondo, tied to the chestnut tree and under a provisional roof of palm leaves, the ancestor José Arcadio Buendía spends his last years on a shimmering border between life and death, for some people not even visible anymore. He has been sitting there since the week in which for him, time stood still on an everlasting Monday. Here, in this house, children were born and parties were held, here was sadness and decay, letters were read and written, inventions were made, here people suffered, celebrated, lived and died. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the house is respectively (or simultaneously) newly built, inhabited by family members, bastards and visitors; it is a twilight place where phantoms rule, some living, some death since ages; it is the feverish place where desperate lovers long for ungraspable women; it is well maintained and in perfect shape with its white washed walls and swiped courtyard; and it is half gone and eaten by ants. The house of the Buendía family is a place where generations do not succeed one another but they intertwine in ever changing order, while characters merge. It is a space, which can hold time and reverse time, and where, when the stories break loose, time disappears.

Was Melquíades, the mysterious gypsy who time and again visited the house with his knowledge and inventions from other times and places, who inscribed on parchment the simultaneity of all characters and events in the house during a long century, who even after his death reappeared in the realm of the living in Macondo, an alter ego of the writer?  Nevertheless, time did get hold of the writer. At April 17, 2014 Gabriel García Márquez passed away, 87 years old.


Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, (London: Everyman’s Library, Cambell Publishers, 1995 [Cien años de soledad 1967]

KH, April 2014
This text will appear in Dutch in literary magazineDW B#5/2014