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The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel…

The General in His Labyrinth (1989)

by Gabriel García Márquez

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (19)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Hmmm. I did find this a bit ponderous, and must confess that I didn't finish it (got about half way through). However, I thought the portrait of the general and his mental and physical deterioration was excellent (although weird at times). ( )
  kmstock | Apr 6, 2014 |
שנאתי את הספר ( )
  amoskovacs | Sep 14, 2013 |
The novel is about two journeys made by the Liberator Simón Bolívar. The first is the physical journey of Bolívar on the Magdalena River to Cartagena de Indias and the second is the way to his death.
  LASC | Oct 3, 2012 |
The General in His Labyrinth is a different offering than what I expect from Marquez, one of my favorite writers. Not so much in style as in content; whereas he generally pens straight fiction, this is a fictionalized account of Simon Bolivar's final days, and reads more like a biography with (great) liberties than a novel. Bolivar, the Liberator, is fleeing Santa Fe de Bogota, where the people revile him in the streets, burning effigies, scrawling obscene insults on walls, and papering the streets with inciting pamphlets. The General was the hero of the continent during the war for liberation, but now that Spanish rule has been thrown off, his dream of seeing one completely united country is crumbling, and his glory has been sucked away through the efforts and schemes of politics. Bolivar sails up the Magdalena River, intending to leave South America entirely, thoroughly disillusioned and disgusted. The book starts with the complicated task of his departure from Santa Fe de Bogota, follows his journey along the Magdalena, and doubles back with him as he decides to make one more attempt to unite the country, starting fresh, only to be stopped by death.

When I say that Marquez writes straight fiction, I might be misleading. He is a master of the magical realism style, where the supernatural and fantastic is mingled with the natural in such a fashion as to be accepted as a commonplace. This novel tones down that quality quite a bit, because Marquez is true to the factual information on which his story is based. Still, where he is able, small flourishes of that style emerge, such as his description of Manuela Saenz's entourage, or the rumors of men who walk on birds legs in a remote section along the Magdalena. In all other aspects, his charming writing style remains unchanged. He juxtaposes poignant with vulgar, a wondrous love story can enclose atrocities, and the sentences flow with a rhythm perfect for oral reading. As in other stories, Marquez plays with the flow of time. In this book, he has a convenient justification for the nonlinear chronology: the main part of the book occurs in Bolivar's mind as he reflects on his life, and our minds are notorious for skipping about from one thread of thought to another, irrespective of the time when something occurred. The story cuts about in Bolivar's history at will, spanning entirely different periods of time in a few pages, triggered by the memories passing through Bolivar's mind.

Clearly, much of this interior monologue is fictional, but Marquez took effort to present as realistic a fiction as possible. He used letters and journals, research articles and novels, to compile accurate information about the man Bolivar, a hero in South America. Not only did his background reading contribute to the details such as where he traveled and when, and what he did, but he also used it to guide the conversations and mental reflections in the book. He tried to make his characters speak the way the historical figures did in their own letters. Having read the note at the end of the book and the timeline, I feel that Marquez lived in the man's skin as much as he possibly could, to produce a highly personal story that, while fiction, represents a very real possibility of what might have been.

Like much of his work, this was a fast read for me. The dialogue is believable, and his descriptive passages are always so enjoyable. I do prefer when he writes his fiction rather than fictionalized history, because I love the magical realism touches, and this book was very understated in that department. Nevertheless, it was a good book, interesting and well written, and it taught me about a subject in which I have very little knowledge. I feel that I should do more research on Bolivar and the history of South America, because the topic seems fascinating from the taste this novel provides. I don't know how much is Marquez's characterization, and how much is historical fact, but Bolivar is a compelling person, full of contradictions - eloquent and crude, romantic and reserved, triumphant and despondent. Whether you are a fan of Marquez's skills, or are interested in this time period, consider this book as a good addition to your reading list. ( )
  nmhale | Sep 23, 2012 |
Marquez had a long standing ambition to write a historical novel about Simon Bolivar´s last days. But when he came to it, and when he was done with it, he talked about the ´horror of this book´. Why did he choose to write the story of a man´s life at that time when his political legacy is rotting just as fast as his body? And write about that rot with the same lyricism that he brings to his descriptions of the surrounding poverty and pestilential heat? Perhaps the subject was so irresistible to Marquez because it sometimes seems it is the perpetual story of Latin America. And so depressing - indeed horrible as Marquez describes it - because the reader already knows how the story ends.

But for all of that, I enjoyed the novelty of this history (coming at it with no real knowledge of Latin American history), and the lively description of characters and events. Up to a point, that is when the narrative brings Bolivar to the sea. I had a sense then that Marquez had grown tired of his subject. He starts to anticipate - in textual references - the timing of Bolivar´s death. One wonders whether he is telling the reader, and himself, ´look, not much longer to go now´. But the description of Bolivar´s death itself was worth the effort to plough through the last sixty pages or so which are otherwise devoted to a commentary on political manoeuvring set against a backdrop of, well..., political manoeuvring. Even Marquez can´t do much with this material, except get the reader through it at a breathless pace which sits oddly against the languid, ambivilent journeying that preceeds it.

It´s hard to know whether this book will please people who know Marquez already as a story-teller (I didn´t). But I enjoyed it as an introduction to both Marquez and Latin American history and will go on to read more of both, knowing that this work is perhaps not the best of either, but a pointer to richer things. ( )
  nandadevi | May 4, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Had Bolivar not existed, Mr. Garcia Marquez would have had to invent him. Seldom has there been a more fitting match between author and subject. Mr. Garcia Marquez wades into his flamboyant, often improbable and ultimately tragic material with enormous gusto, heaping detail upon sensuous detail, alternating grace with horror, perfume with the stench of corruption, the elegant language of public ceremony with the vulgarity of private moments, the rationalistic clarity of Bolivar's thought with the malarial intensity of his emotions, but tracing always the main compulsion that drives his protagonist: the longing for an independent and unified South America.

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
García Márquez, Gabrielprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brotherus, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grossman, EdithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Борисова, АллаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It seems that the devil controls the business of my life.
(Letter to Santander, August 4, 1823
For Alvaro Mutis, who gave me the idea for writing this book
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Jose Palacios, his oldest servant, found him floating naked with his eyes open in the purifying waters of his bath and thought he had drowned.
Lo que mi señor piensa, sólo mi señor lo sabe
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394582586, Hardcover)

General Simon Bolivar, “the Liberator” of five South American countries, takes a last melancholy journey down the Magdalena River, revisiting cities along its shores, and reliving the triumphs, passions, and betrayals of his life. Infinitely charming, prodigiously successful in love, war and politics, he still dances with such enthusiasm and skill that his witnesses cannot believe he is ill. Aflame with memories of the power that he commanded and the dream of continental unity that eluded him, he is a moving exemplar of how much can be won—and lost—in a life.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:00 -0400)

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Recounts the turbulent life of the great Simon Bolivar.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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