Don Apolinar Moscote ventured to remind him that an unburied drowned man was a danger to public health. "None of that, because he's alive," was the answer of Jose Arcadio Buendia, who finished the seventy-two hours with the mercurial incense as the body was already beginning to burst with a livid fluorescence, the soft whistles of which impregnated the house with a pestilential vapor. Only then did he permit them to bury him, not in any ordinary way, but with the honors reserved for Macondo’s greatest benefactor.
(One Hundred Years of Solitude, tr. by Gregory Rabassa)

I guess that without of the highlighted part looks all right. Why is of used?

2 Answers 2


Of is used to tell you what was the source of soft whistles, which in this case is the fluorescence which was being emitted from a dead man's body.

If of is omitted, the last sentence starting from "the soft whistles" will look incomplete and look more like a prelude for a coming-up sentence.


if you take it out of the current context and just treat it as an isolated phrase,

this part of the sentence: livid fluorescence, the soft whistles of which impregnated

could be reworded as: the soft whistles of the livid fluorescence impregnated...

.. So the "soft whistles" belong to the fluorescence (or maybe the burst), but since things have been moved around you have to stick in the "which" so you know there's something previous being referenced. The "of" was in the original sentence before rearranging, so it stays.

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