A brief but evocative passage from Gabriel García Márquez's Cien Años de Soledad is missing from Gregory Rabassa's US translation, One Hundred Years of Solitude. The affected passage, which can be found on p. 282 of the 2003 Contemporanea / De Bosillo edition of the original novel, and would have appeared on p. 240 of the Harper & Row hardcover had it been there, is set during the period when the first Yankee banana plantation has been established in the vicinity of Macondo, and concerns the unearthly young woman García Márquez calls Remedios the Beauty, whose extravagant charms — and disinclination to wear much in the way of clothing — are suspected by the inhabitants of Macondo of having potentially lethal effects on the men in the community. The original reads:
La ocasión de comprobarlo se presentó meses después una tarde en que Remedios, la bella, fue con un grupo de amigas a conocer las nuevas plantaciones. Para la gente de Macondo era una distracción reciente recorrer las húmedas e interminables avenidas bordeadas de bananos, donde el silencio parecía llevado de otra parte, todavía sin usar, y era por eso tan torpe para transmitir la voz. A veces no se entendía muy bien lo dicho a medio metro de distancia, y, sin embargo, resultaba perfectamente comprensible al otro extremo de la plantación. Para las muchachas de Macondo aquel juego novedoso era motivo de risas y sobresaltos, de sustos y burlas, y por las noches se hablaba del paseo como de una experiencia de sueño. Era tal el prestigio de aquel silencio, que Úrsula no tuvo corazón para privar de la diversión a Remedios, la bella, y le permitió ir una tarde, siempre que se pusiera un sombrero y un traje adecuado.The US text reads as follows:
The occasion for the proof of it came some months later on one afternoon when Remedios the Beauty went with a group of girl friends to look at the new plantings. For the girls of Macondo that novel game was reason for laughter and surprises, frights and jokes, and at night they would talk about their walk as if it had been an experience in a dream. Such was the prestige of that silence that Úrsula did not have the heart to take the fun away from Remedios the Beauty, and she let her go one afternoon, providing that she wore a hat and a decent dress.On a close reading, the translation does not quite make sense: what novel game? what silence? The problem is that the second and third sentences of the Spanish original have been skipped, an easy mistake to make because, as one reads along the page, the beginning of the fourth sentence is so similar to the beginning of the second. With those sentences restored, the English text would read (loosely) like this:
The occasion for the proof of it came some months later on one afternoon when Remedios the Beauty went with a group of girl friends to look at the new plantings. For the people of Macondo it was a recent amusement to wander the humid and interminable avenues lined with banana groves, where the silence seemed to have been carried from somewhere else, still unused, and was for that reason less reluctant to transmit the voice. At times you couldn't hear something that was said from half a meter away, which was, nevertheless, perfectly comprehensible on the far side of the plantation. For the girls of Macondo that novel game was reason for laughter and surprises, frights and jokes, and at night they would talk about their walk as if it had been an experience in a dream. Such was the prestige of that silence that Úrsula did not have the heart to take the fun away from Remedios the Beauty, and she let her go one afternoon, providing that she wore a hat and a decent dress.Since the passage does not fully make sense except in its complete form, the longer version is almost certainly not the result of authorial second thoughts after the book's original publication; since it contains nothing controversial or obscure, the omission in the translation must have been unintentional. The two sentences had to have been present in their entirety in the original manuscript or in a version prior to publication. I have not been able to examine an early edition of the original text to see if the error began there and was subsequently corrected in later Spanish-language editions such as the one I have at hand, or whether it was overlooked by the American translator or compositor. The omission was carried over into the Avon paperback edition (which is differently paginated) and is retained in what I believe is a QPB paperback edition, bearing the Harper & Row imprint and apparently directly reproduced from the original plates.