Magical Realism : A Comparison of Gabriel Garcia Marquez + Carmen Naranjo

An impossible experience is had by all of the women in a village, they are certain to be pregnant at the exact same time.  Unbelievably, even Old Lady Refugio, grandmother to seventy-five grandchildren and young women, “some of them almost children” join them in this astonishing reality (Narnajo 96). Ordinary village life is transformed with the arrival of a teacher and a farm worker in Carmen Naranjo’s short story “When New Flowers Bloom”.  Written over thirty years after One Hundred Years of Solitude, this work of fiction has strong similarities to the writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and winks at a segment of the famous novel’s chapter three. In this chapter, following the arrival of a mysterious child, another unexplained medical condition plagues the population of Macondo, insomnia. In both narrations, societal change and the introduction of a new character(s) disrupts the lives of traditional, isolated towns and magical outcomes are felt by all.

The small town of Macondo, submitted to us by Marquez is still in its infancy but shows signs of modernization. Town founder and patriarch, José Buendía, has installed mechanized clocks, the town has zinc roofs and wife, Ursúla, has adopted the artisan craft of candy making for profit. The primitive agricultural town that Naranjo writes about has also seen their share of changes. Young people have emigrated in search of work and mostly elders remain, “Some had stayed: the old ones, old grandparents and great-grandparents a couple of great-great-grandmothers totally committed to God, and the parents who were aged prematurely and disconnectedly by the accelerated changes of the telegraph, the telephone, radio, and television” (Naranjo 92-93). Both towns weighed down with tradition and routine welcome new members to their societies who unknowingly thrust them out of their comfort zones. 

The tone and language used by the writers to describe the newcomers hints at the effects they will have on the villages.Rebecca’s arrival is predicted by Buendía son, Aureliano.  Her introduction to Macondo is mysterious – the child of an unknown, distant relative, she is surrendered to the care of the Buendía family.  She has “greenish skin”, eats dirt, doesn’t sleep and is accompanied by a bag of bones belonging to her deceased parents. Her strangeness borders dark magic or a bad omen, hauling bones around a town that has not yet experienced death (Marquez 45). Rebecca’s entrance is confusing, clouded by death and unusual habits.

  In Naranjo’s story, young teacher, Eugenia Maria and José Luis’s arrival is prophesied by the mountain: “And in the summer two very young and ingenuous people will come; however, you’ll never have such an incredible opportunity to rely on such excellent teachers, who will teach you what had been forgotten a long time ago and its necessary to remember so that new flowers can bloom” (Naranjo 92).  The lovers installation into Naranjo’s town is presented as an opportunity quite literally perfumed by flowers.

The entire town and the nature that surrounds them becomes influenced by the youthful and passionate love that this new couple shares. “For them the birds were singing, the flowers open, the eucalyptus perfumed, and the day and night began, the clouds filmed a chalky white, the twilights lengthened” (Naranjo 94). The people become obsessed with the displays of love they witness and strange things begin to occur, “The potatoes tasted like yams, the yams like papaya, the papaya like turnips and the turnips like tomatoes, the coffee bean while it was still green smelled of orange blossoms, daisies bloomed from the rosebushes, gladiolus from tulips and bougainvilleas from the Lillies” (Naranjo 95). Disoriented by bizarre flavors and intoxicating flowers the town blossoms “with true passion after years and years of dormancy” (Naranjo 94).

The mountain’s prophecy of new blooms is fulfilled with the arrival of new flowers and a town full of baffling pregnancies.

Rebecca, now adopted by the Buendía family is diagnosed with the Insomnia Plague, “…the Indian woman explained that the most fearsome part of the sickness of insomnia was not the impossibility of sleeping, for the body did no feel any fatigue at all, but it’s inexorable evolution toward a more critical manifestation; a loss of memory” (Marquez 48). Three days later, the entire family contracts the illness. They begin to “dream on their feet” and hallucinate images of deceased visitors. Macondo, becomes infected by candy made in the Buendía home and embraces their new reality. “No one was alarmed at first. On the contrary, they were happy at not sleeping because there was so much to do in Macondo in those days that there was barely enough time. They worked so hard that soon they had nothing else to do…” (Marquez 50). Macondo uses these endless waking hours to improve the town and their relationships. 

Both towns under a magical influence are infected with new ideas about life and how they spend their time.  Accepting these new conditions without alarm, the societies experience an awakening and transformation. The future is inevitably affected and life cannot return to what it once was. The young Buendía family member and the unborn babies of the mountain town represent the arrival of a new generation for these villages. There is a veiled message about the responsibilities and anxieties that come with parenthood and fresh beginnings.

In Naranjo’s aging mountain town, the elderly realize that their time for romantic passion and carnal love has not expired. As a consequence of this renewed interest in lovemaking, the aging town now becomes too busy caring for babies to notice that the couple and the flowers have disappeared.  After being challenged to accept what would ordinarily be biologically impossible, this god-fearing town must impart understanding for the unwed mothers in this new chapter of town life. 

In Macondo, facing memory loss as a symptom of the insomnia plague, they must label absolutely everything in order to preserve their names/designations. At the founding of this town “The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point (Marquez 1)”. Macondo’s impending memory loss has made it feasible that they could again live in a world without names/labels for the things around them if they do not act fast with the classification of every item in town. 

Naranjo writes “She left as if shutting a door, he as if opening one” (Naranjo 96) The two lovers in the mountain town inspired change but also surrendered to it in their own relationship when their relationship had run its course. All of these outcomes remind me of the life cycle, the temporariness of seasons and our adaptive human spirit. Both towns collective consciousness is challenged and they can either embrace these modern realities or deteriorate into their original state. Change is inevitable and the towns will continually open and shut doors to new chapters allowing themselves to be injected with new life/new ideas that will alter the rituals and motivations in their lives, forever and ever. 

Work Cited 

García, Márquez G. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York : HarperCollins, 1998. 

Naranjo, Carmen. “When New Flowers Bloom”. Sudden Fiction Latino: Short Stories from the United States and Latin America. Edited by Robert Shapard, James Thomas & Ray Gonzalez. W.W.Norton & Co, 2010, pp 91-97.

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