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The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll…
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The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll

by Alvaro Mutis

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Mutis displays prevalent talent in the unveiling of the adventures and misadventures of the mysterious Maqroll. There is a richness to Mutis' prose and a depth to his writing that evokes comparisons to Conrad, Neruda, and Whitman. I also felt a Dickensian tone to certain parts, primarily those that came straight from Maqroll.

On the basis of talent alone, it's an awesome book. Maqroll is the gin to Mutis' vermouth, a timeless combination - the perfect dry martini. Layered but smooth enough to carry the reader into the travels of Maqroll. To have those layers, to be able to bring so much into a novella, speaks volumes to Mutis' ability as a stylist.

I wouldn't go so far as to classify Maqroll as a 'hero' though the combined weight of his experiences could certainly outfit the classical epic easily enough. He's a man alone who stumbles into a bunch of things and does whatever comes to mind. It's an interesting read and, as mentioned above, the talent is there. But stretches did become a bit boring. I felt pretty removed from some of his actions which probably fleshes out the root of my remove from his character and from the stories in parts. So I'd say it was Mutis' talent that really kept me into the book at large.

( )
  lamotamant | Sep 22, 2016 |
I found myself reading more slowly as I neared the end of this magnificent book, a collection of seven novellas, because I was reluctant to leave the world of Maqroll the Gaviero (lookout) and his diverse and far-flung friends. In varying styles, including describing Maqroll as a friend who sends him dispatches from around the globe, Mutis presents the tale of an inveterate wanderer, usually by sea, who consistently gets involved in money-making schemes, often not exactly within the law, that come to naught, who is steadfastly loyal to his friends, and who is given to reading historical books and musing philosophically about the important issues of life.

As the novellas progress, the reader becomes more and more familiar with Maqroll and some of the key episodes of his life, although his origins are murky: he travels on a clearly forged Cyrpiot passport but it is unclear where he was born, and the text hints that he had an unhappy childhood and took to a life at sea (as the lookout who climbed the tallest mast) at an extremely early age. He is older when the novellas begin, and to some extent they jump back and forth in time, so the reader has to figure out which adventure or misadventure came first. And because he is older, there is an elegiac if not downright melancholy feel to his thoughts. This is a fascinating work partly because it combines the downright adventurous with an equal helping of philosophy.

So what of his adventures? They range from traveling up a South American river with somewhat sketchy guides to find some lumber mills, starting a brothel using women who pretend to be stewardesses, engaging in a scheme to substitute lower quality oriental rugs for valuable ancient ones, transporting some mysterious boxes for a highly suspicious person, gold mining, and more. One novella focuses on Maqroll's best friend, Abdul Bashur, another inveterate wanderer, who sprang from a Lebanese family of shipbuilders and ship owners, his family, and his search for the perfect ship, and others involve other unforgettable friends of Maqroll, including a variety of strong women who he has been deeply attached to.

Mutis vividly depicts the environment, whether it's the hot, humid, buggy tropics, the cold of Vancouver, or the activity of a Mediterranean port. Above all, the reader gets a feeling for the sea, for life on freighter and other ships, and for the vibrant seediness (and criminality) of port communities. Mutis was a poet (who apparently wrote about Maqroll in poems long before he got the idea of writing a novella about him), but he was also gainfully employed as a publicist for an oil company and then a US film company, so he presumably traveled to many of the places he "traveled" to as a character in some of these novellas.

Maqroll lived a very full life, full of trials, hardships, love, friendship, adventure, stagnancy, but it is his reflections on literature and life, usually dark, that are as compelling if not more so than his adventures. Does he find a little happiness at the end?
8 vote rebeccanyc | Dec 26, 2013 |
The Snow of the Admiral

The Snow of Admiral is the diary of Maqroll’s journey on Xurando` river towards a sawmill.
Everything is real but could be otherwise: as Don Quixote and the windmill, or the quest for Dulcinea.

Metaphysical question, and some answers:
‘The best thing is to let everything happen as it must. That’s right. It’s not a question of resignation. Far from it. It’s something else, something to do with the distance that separates us from everything and everybody. One day we’ll know.’ (page 45)

‘How many wrong turning in a labyrinth where we do everything we can to avoid the exit, how many surprises and then the tedium of learning they weren’t surprises at all, that everything that happens to us has the same face, exactly the same origin.’ (page 62)

‘A woman’s body under the rush of a mountain waterfall, her brief cries of surprise and joy, the movement of her limbs in the rapid foam that carries red coffee berries, sugarcane pulp, insects struggling to escape the current: this is the exemplary happiness, that surely never comes again.’ (page 17)

Eventually Maqroll comes to the sawmill:
‘And again, in the fading afternoon light, the enormous metal structure was surrounded by a golden halo that made it look unreal.’ (page 70)

**************************************************​

Ilona Comes with the Rain

Ilona comes with the rain, and goes with the fire.

‘Somewhere in his soul he bore the mark of the defeated that isolated them irremediably from other men.’ (page 105)

The adventures (and misadventures) of Maqroll this time are set in Panama City.
As always in Maqroll’s life, when the bottom is very close, he meets an old friend, Ilona: so Maqroll’s adventures start again.

Maqroll and Ilona start a business of ‘stewardesses’. After a while, of course, they become bored of this way of life and also another woman, Larissa appears to remind them about finitude of life.

Maqroll’s adventures are always mixed with the idea of humankind without borders, distances, as a world waiting for this character to start running its soul.

**************************************************​

UN BEL MORIR
(or A Beautiful Death)

‘I imagine a Country, a blurred, fogbound Country, an enchanted magical Country where I could live.
What Country, where? …
Not Mosul or Basra or Samarkand. Not Karlskrona or Abylund or Stockholm or Copenhagen. Not Kazan or Kanpur or Aleppo. Not in lacustrian Venice or chimerical Istanbul, not on the Ile-de-France or in Tours or Stratford-on Avon or Weimar or Yasnaia Poliana or in the baths of Algiers.’ (page 286)

The Gaviero takes lodging in La Plata and finds a room in the house of a blind woman. Under his room, the river: ‘The room resembled a cage suspended over the gently murmuring, tobacco-colored water …’ (page 193)
Quiet living is not for the Gaviero, so he is hired to transport supposed railway materials upriver. The job turns out to be very dangerous, and ‘His wide-open eyes were fixed on that nothingness, immediate and anonymous, …’ (page 294)

The Gaviero’s question, where ‘I could live?’, has only one answer: everywhere, and always with water (a river or the ocean) which faces and leads to another place.

**************************************************​

THE TRAMP STEAMER’S LAST PORT OF CALL

Alvaro Mutis tells about his ‘meetings’ with a dying tramp steamer, the Halcyon, all around the world.
‘The tramp steamer entered my field of vision as slowly as a wounded saurian. I could not believe my eyes. With the wondrous splendor of Saint Petersburg in the back ground, the poor ship intruded on the scene.’ (page 301)

The tramp steamer as a talking soul suggests to Alvaro Mutis about ‘the world of dreams and fantasy’.
But ‘Life often renders its accounts, and it is advisable not to ignore them. They are a kind of bill presented to us so that we will not become lost deep in the world of dreams and fantasy, unable to find our way back to the warm, ordinary sequence of time where our destiny truly occurs.’ (page 302)

The bill is presented to Alvaro Mutis in form of the Halcyon’s captain; who recounts his love affair with Warda, and the Halcyon.

Warda is the sister of Abdul Bashur, close friend of the Gaviero.
Abdul Bashur warns the Halcyon’s captain: ‘What you two (Warda and the captain) have will last as long as the Halcyon.‘ (page 349)

Alvaro Mutis needed to know Halcyon or the idyllic time of the past.

**************************************************​
1 vote GrazianoRonca | Feb 5, 2011 |
You've found one of the best books written - now read it ! ( )
3 vote Ianaf | Dec 6, 2010 |
This is probably my favorite book of all time. Mutis' writing is glorious. His creation, Maqroll the Gaviero, is a tormented character, a hopeless romantic and perennial wanderer. There are books I love, and then there's Maqroll. If you've ever been subject to wanderlust, Maqroll will speak to you. ( )
5 vote whitrichardson | Nov 24, 2009 |
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Alvaro Mutisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Grossman, EdithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I thought that the writings, letters, documents, tales, and memoirs of Maqroll the Gaviero (the Lookout) had all passed through my hands, and that those who knew of my interest in the events of his life had exhausted their search for written traces of his unfortunate wanderings, but fate held in store a curious surprise just when it was least expected.
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7 novellas: "La Nieve del Almirante"; "Ilona llega con la lluvia"; "Un bel morir"; "La última escala del Tramp Steamer"; "Amirbar"; "Abdul Bashur, soñador de navíos"; "Tríptico de mar y tierra"
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0940322919, Paperback)

Maqroll the Gaviero (the Lookout) is one of the most alluring and memorable characters in the fiction of the last twenty-five years. His extravagant and hopeless undertakings, his brushes with the law and scrapes with death, and his enduring friendships and unlooked-for love affairs make him a Don Quixote for our day, driven from one place to another by a restless and irregular quest for the absolute. Álvaro Mutis's seven dazzling chronicles of the adventures and misadventures of Maqroll have won him numerous honors and a passionately devoted readership throughout the world. Here for the first time in English all these wonderful stories appear in a single volume in Edith Grossman's prize-winning translation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:42 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Maqroll the Gaviero (the Lookout) is one of the most alluring and memorable characters in the fiction of the last twenty-five years. His extravagant and hopeless undertakings, his brushes with the law and scrapes with death, and his enduring friendships and unlooked-for love affairs make him a Don Quixote for our day, driven from one place to another by a restless and irregular quest for the absolute." "Alvaro Mutis's seven chronicles of the adventures and misadventures of Maqroll have won him numerous honors and a passionately devoted readership throughout the world. Here for the first time in English all these stories appear in a single volume in Edith Grossman's prize-winning translation."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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