Pilar Ternera dies in her rocking chair, buried in the same position in a hole dug into the center of the dance floor. The Catalonian auctions off his bookshop and returns to his home on the Mediterranean. Many letters and pictures arrive from him, showing a growing nostalgia for life in Macondo, while he had previously been nostalgic for his old home in Barcelona. He writes telling them to forget everything he taught them and to leave Macondo. All of the young men, with the exception of Aureliano, follow his advice. The last to remain is Gabriel, who enters a contest to go to Paris and wins.
Macondo slowly empties of its last residents. Even the Catalonian leaves, though the nostalgia he once felt for Barcelona, he now feels for Macondo, suggesting that people always long for what they can’t have. Aureliano is left in complete isolation, but rather than following the instructions of the Catalonian, he remains so that he might keep the company of Amaranta Úrsula and continue learning Sanskrit so he can translate Melquíades prophecy.
In the town, now so sparsely populated, overrun with noisy red aunts and suffocated by dust and heat, only Aureliano and Amaranta Úrsula are happy, but they are so happy they are believed to be the happiest people on earth. Gaston goes to Brussels to bring back the plane. Aureliano and Amaranta Úrsula grow delirious with their passion for one another, walking around naked and destroying the house with their lovemaking. Aureliano abandons the manuscripts. They enjoy their periods of rest, worshipping each other’s bodies, almost more than the moments of having sex. They cover each other in jam, licking it off one another on the floor of the porch and wake to the bites of the carnivorous red ants.
Aureliano and Amaranta believe they need only their love for one another to be happy. The house is destroyed once again by their revelry and passion, as it has been many times before. Aureliano no longer takes interest in his studies when he has the companionship of the woman he loves, suggesting that scholarship is a practice of the lonely. The way they worship each other’s bodies recalls Remedios the Beauty’s bathing rituals, and their killing the ants echoes her killing of the scorpions.
Both of the remaining Buendías cannot imagine the return of either Gaston or Gabriel Márquez and lose themselves in a universe empty of anything but love. Suddenly a letter arrives with the news of Gaston’s imminent return. Amaranta Úrsula writes Gaston a letter saying she loves him very much, but that she cannot live without Aureliano. Gaston sends them a calm letter back warning them about the dangers of passion, but wishing them the very best. Six months later another letter arrives from Gaston saying he has found his plane and asking them to ship him his bicycle.
Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano are now experiencing a solitude of love. While they are together, love is alone, absent of any other emotions or people or dynamics. Gaston’s response to Amaranta Úrsula breaking up with him is reasonable. His world was not consumed with her passion and so he can imagine building his life around his other interests, perhaps with another person, whereas the passion between the two Buendías is so strong that there is no alternative to being together.
Aureliano and Amaranta Úrsula discover they are expecting a child. Amaranta Úrsula tries to make a business selling her fish vertebra necklaces, but there is only one buyer interested. Aureliano realizes he has no skills that can earn them money. They sit with the uncertainty of how they will live and think back to their blissful childhood together. They reexamine the stories of their youth and question the truth of Aureliano’s having arrived in a basket, but they have no way of knowing his actual origins. Aureliano worries that he is Amaranta Úrsula’s brother, but he can find no record to indicate this. The priest tells him he is likely named after a street in town. When Aureliano confronts the priest about his skepticism regarding the origin of his name, the priest responds that he cannot be certain because it is enough for him to be sure that the two of them exist in that moment.
No business can succeed in Macondo because no one lives there. Aureliano comes to the realization that many academics do: he has no useful survival skills, only knowledge of the history of Macondo. Despite their not knowing Aureliano’s true parentage, they suspect that they could be related, though they have no way of knowing for sure. The Buendía family names are known only because of the geography of the town, pointing to how fully the Buendía family has been forgotten. The certainty of any knowledge is called into question by the priest who possesses so much doubt he cannot even be certain they both exist, an echo of the amnesia that spread long ago in Macondo.
A letter arrives from Barcelona in a hand other than the Catalonian’s and Aureliano refuses to open it, not wanting to know the news it contains. No additional letters arrive from Barcelona, proving Aureliano’s assumption right.
Aureliano, who often possesses knowledge that he has no way of having learned, can intuit the meaning of something as simple as a letter in a hand he does not recognize, no magic needed.
At night, the couple holds each other, listening to the ants and moths and weeds growing and the ghosts traversing the house. One Sunday, Amaranta Úrsula goes into labor. When their son is born, Amaranta Úrsula wants to name him Rodrigo, but Aureliano says they will name him Aureliano. When the midwife cleans off the newborn, they find the tail of a pig. Aureliano and Amaranta Úrsula are unaware of the precedent in the family though, and they didn’t remember Úrsula’s fears. The midwife assures them it is no big deal, and they don’t have time to worry about it because Amaranta Úrsula cannot stop bleeding. She assures Aureliano that “people like her were not meant to die against their will,” but the light in her slowly fades. She dies the next day.
The couple’s sense of hearing is heightened by this point, allowing them to note even the quietest sounds in their solitary nights. Amaranta Úrsula’s attempt to give the child a name that doesn’t come from the family follows the pattern of women trying to break away from fate. When they see that the child has been born with the long-feared tail of a pig, though, enough time has passed that they are unaware of the warnings that have been passed down for generations and they don’t realize it to be an indication of the child being a product of incest.
Aureliano covers her face, puts the child in a basket and wanders town, looking for a path back to the past. He consoles himself by talking to a bartender in the last open salon of the red-light district. Nigromanta finds him and takes him in so he can sleep off his drunkenness. When he wakes, soon after, he remembers the child, but he cannot find the basket. He wonders if, perhaps, Amaranta Úrsula might not be dead, and might have found the child to care for it, but he finds he body, heavy as stones. He finds the child in the garden, being eaten by the aunts. In his mind, he remembers the epigraph from Melquíades’ parchments: “The first of the line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by the ants.”
Aureliano, in the haze of his grief over Amaranta Úrsula’s death, an unanticipated result of the birth of a child born with the tail of a pig, abandons the child, something a Buendía has yet to do. His finding comfort in Nigromanta is an echo of Pilar Ternera and Petra Cotes before him. The child being a victim of the ants is a way for the landscape of Macondo to reclaim the last heir of the family that developed the it, beginning the final process of returning it to its original state and fulfilling the prophecy of Melquíades, which Aureliano had only started to translate.
He goes to the manuscript and can read it clearly; it is the history of Buendía family written 100 years in advance. Melquíades had written it all as though it had happened in a single instant instead of in the order of conventional time. Aureliano skips ahead, impatient to learn his own destiny. The winds pick up. Aureliano is so absorbed in the story that he doesn’t notice the doors and windows are being blown off their hinges. He discovers that Amaranta Úrsula is his aunt and the roof flies off. He sees the parchment’s delivery of the present moment like a mirror. He understands that the city of mirrors is being wiped out by the wind and will never be remembered. All that has happened is unrepeatable because a race “condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.”
The secret manuscript, unreadable for all these years, is finally revealed to be precisely the book we are reading, accounting for the history of the Buendía family in all the years it lived isolated in Macondo, each character experiencing their solitude in their own way. When Aureliano finally realizes that Amaranta Úrsula is his aunt and that the true incest predicted generations before has finally been committed, the house is destroyed and he sees that the mirrors that were predicted by his great-great-great-grandfather were actually metaphorical, indicating the ways the generations of individuals kept repeating each other’s lives.