“If you have to go crazy, go it alone,” he yelled. “But don’t try to instill your gypsy ideas in the children.” José Arcadio Buendía, impassive, was not intimidated by the despair of his wife, who in a fit of rage smashed the astrolabe against the ground. He built another, gathered the men of the town in the little room and showed them, with theories that were incomprehensible to all, the possibility of returning to the starting point, always sailing towards the East. The whole village was convinced that José Arcadio Buendía had lost his mind when Melquíades arrived to put things right. He publicly exalted the intelligence of that man who, by sheer astronomical speculation, had constructed a theory that had already been proven in practice, although hitherto unknown in Macondo, and as a proof of his admiration he gave him a gift that was to have a decisive influence on the world. future of the village: an alchemy laboratory.

By that time, Melquiades had aged with astonishing rapidity. In his first trips he seemed to be the same age as José Arcadio Buendía. But while he retained his enormous strength, which allowed him to knock down a horse by grabbing it by the ears, the gypsy seemed ravaged by a persistent ailment. It was, in fact, the result of multiple and rare diseases contracted in his countless trips around the world. As he himself told José Arcadio Buendía while he was helping him set up the laboratory, death followed him everywhere, sniffing his pants, but without deciding to give him the final blow. He was a fugitive from all the plagues and catastrophes that had plagued mankind. It survived pellagra in Persia, scurvy in the Malaysian archipelago, leprosy in Alexandria, beriberi in Japan, the bubonic plague in Madagascar, the earthquake in Sicily and a massive shipwreck in the Strait of Magellan. That prodigious being who claimed to possess the keys of Nostradamus, was a gloomy man, wrapped in a sad aura, with an Asian look that seemed to know the other side of things. He wore a large black hat, like the outstretched wings of a crow, and a velvet waistcoat patinated by the verdigris of centuries. But despite his immense wisdom and mysterious realm, he had a human weight, an earthly condition that kept him entangled in the miniscule problems of everyday life. He complained of ailments as an old man, suffered from the most insignificant financial mishaps, and had stopped laughing for a long time, because scurvy had knocked out his teeth.

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