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The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975)

by Gabriel García Márquez

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,413352,893 (3.74)137
One of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's most intricate and ambitious works, The Autumn of the Patriarch is a brilliant tale of a Caribbean tyrant and the corruption of power. Employing an innovative, dreamlike style, the novel is overflowing with symbolic descriptions as it vividly portrays the dying tyrant caught in the prison of his own dictatorship. From charity to deceit, benevolence to violence, fear of God to extreme cruelty, the dictator embodies at once the best and the worst of human nature.… (more)
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» See also 137 mentions

English (24)  Spanish (4)  Catalan (3)  Dutch (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Brillante genialidad. ( )
  victorvila | Oct 29, 2020 |
I picked this up thanks to William Gass's otherwise terrible essay on magical realism; the essay reminded me that I'd never read any, unless you count very early Borges, or believe that everything ever written in Spanish is magical realism (a position Gass seems to flirt with). The reasons I haven't read any are fairly simple:

a) I do not care about a book's having a 'sense of place.'
b) I loathe 'lush prose.'
c) It's just so popular.

There are good reasons for me to like stereotypical magical realism, too, i.e., such books are very often concerned with political/social matters rather than domestic or 'moral' ones; thanks to that lushness, they're at least immune to american-style minimasnorringilsm. I heard a rumor somewhere that GGM's sentences occasionally have subclauses!

So A of the P it was, because it's shortish, and has a reputation for difficulty, so I figured there'd be less of that glorious Hispano-hablantes accessibility that I associate with endless exclamation marks and soul-bearing.

The most impressive thing about the book is, quite easily, the technique: the narrative voice is narcissistic*. In some very important sense, the story is narrated by the people who have managed to survive the horrors of the Patriarch whose story is being told. GMM pulls this off remarkably well; it makes the 'we' narrators of, say, Eugenides or Ferris look almost amateur. There's a real relationship between this narrator and the patriarch himself: they rely on each other, they love and hate each other, they suffer together.

On the downside, there's little else to the book. There are some great anecdotes, but that's the sum of the book's arrangement: each chapter has an anecdote or two told, at great length, in unnecessarily long sentences. This adds nothing to the book, and often detracts from it (granted, it might work better in Spanish. In English, it's just like reading high school papers by students who don't have time to punctuate). Finally, I do not care for lists in my fiction, and most of this book is a list.

But, as if I haven't equivocated enough, I'm also fascinated by the number of people giving this book such rave reviews on Goodreads, in languages I, ignorant as I might be, associate with actually existing tyranny. I wonder if this is a text that will continue to speak to men and women living under such conditions more than it can to someone like me? And if the texts that speak to me (to pluck a random example, Gaddis's 'JR') will seem similarly overblown, unnecessarily technical and slightly disappointing to those readers who love this book? I suspect so.

If anyone reading this has magical realism recommendations for me, please, let me know.

***

* in the technical sense of 'doesn't distinguish between objects and subjects in the world and itself.' ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
This is the third book I've read by this author. The story was overshadowed by the structure of the writing.
Written as a stream of consciousness, the book is made up of run on sentences that were exhausting to me as a reader. When I finished the book I felt like I had finished a marathon! ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
Rating: 4.75* of five

A Goodreads friend recommended this book to me urgently and earnestly. I realize that, having finished a book a day on average for 50 years I'm never going to be able to write reviews of all of them, but this one needs to be refreshed in the public consciousness.

I can't full-five a book I read three decades ago in the midst of my Latin-American-delights phase. I can tell you that the translation is excellent, captures the spirit of the original Spanish if not the literal idioms. It's a brief book but not a light one, in any sense of the word. I suspect lots of readers look at its length and think, "oh goody good good, a shorty and I can say I've read a García Márquez!"

And were they ever sorry.

Fascism was fought back into hidey-holes during our lifetimes for a reason, y'all, and it's oozed back into the public discourse on the fears and hates of ignorant people yet again. The Left, bunch of elitist idiots that we are, has yet again failed to educate those most resistant to book-larnin' in basic decency. Once upon a time, that was the stated aim of religion, so aber natürlich the Fascists co-opted the religiosifiers to spread their hateful, vile, cruel propaganda for them. They did that last time, too, only then it was Catholicism (Father Coughlin in the US, Pius XII ignoring the Holocaust, the Cristeros in Mexico whose scorched-earth civil war led directly to the WWII influx of illegal migrants enduring slavery in US farm fields).

So long as the lowest, the least, and the last are allowed to wrest control of the microphone from their betters, this will continue to happen.

Elitism fully intentional. ( )
2 vote richardderus | Jun 4, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gabriel García Márquezprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cicogna, EnricoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
直, 鼓Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feinberg, SidneyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rabassa, GregoryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saaritsa, PenttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sabarte Belacortu, MarioleinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Segre, CesareForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toelke, CathleenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Over the weekend the vultures got into the presidential palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows and the flapping of their wings stirred up the stagnant time inside, and at dawn on Monday the city awoke out of its lethargy of centuries with the warm, soft breeze of a great man dead and rotting grandeur.
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One of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's most intricate and ambitious works, The Autumn of the Patriarch is a brilliant tale of a Caribbean tyrant and the corruption of power. Employing an innovative, dreamlike style, the novel is overflowing with symbolic descriptions as it vividly portrays the dying tyrant caught in the prison of his own dictatorship. From charity to deceit, benevolence to violence, fear of God to extreme cruelty, the dictator embodies at once the best and the worst of human nature.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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