Memory and the Quest for Family History in One Hundred Years of Solitude and Song of Solomon

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Memory and the Quest for Family History in One Hundred Years of Solitude and Song of Solomon

Pierre Nora proposes that "the quest for memory is the search for one's history" (289). In their attempt to reconstruct the communal histories of their people, Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez rely heavily on the use of memory as a means to rewrite the history of those oppressed because of race, class and/or gender in a world where historiography has been dominated by the white man. Memory is closely related to the reclamation of identity and history -- both personal and collective. Both memory and history dominate Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) from the very beginning, where the character Aureliano Buendía is introduced through his own recollections: "Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo" (9) / "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" (9). Like García Márquez, Toni Morrison claims memory -- as well as imagination -- as an essential part of the narrative act: "The act of imagination is bound up with memory. You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. 'Floods' is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that: Remembering where we were, what valley we ran through, what the banks were like, the light...

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