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“Many years later…”

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. 
Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, p. 2

Where precisely is the magic in the opening sentences of One Hundred Years of Solitude? Is it the notion that one might live in a world where one must discover ice? Is there anything magical about a river of clear water with polished stones so white and enormous that they are like “prehistoric eggs”? Or does the magic appear only when we read that “the world was so recent many things lacked names” and “in order to indicate them it was necessary to point”? Perhaps, more than anything, the opening lines of One Hundred Years of Solitude prepare the reader for magic. They suggest that we are entering a world of myth, a world with a history that extends far back in time but also reaches forward to the moment in which a colonel stands before a firing squad and contemplates one single miraculous moment from his childhood. We might see this opening as one of the endless variations of Once upon a time…, which suggests to us that what follows will be a fairy tale, a time of magic that has gone by, a journey undertaken long ago.

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