Have You Read? Márquez memoir is compelling tale of writer’s journey
“Living to Tell the Tale” by Gabriel García Márquez
After years of somewhat pressing suggestions from family and friends to get acquainted with, and love, Gabriel García Márquez’s many works, I finally took “A Hundred Years of Solitude” from the shelf (not without eyeing it suspiciously while doing so, I confess), and sat down to read it. In the end it was duty alone that forced me: pleas, entreaties and ultimately threats could not succeed where the red date of a final, oral examination glaring at me from my planner did.
So, early one morning I dragged an assortment of summer items out to the garden and committed myself to finding out what all the fuss over García Márquez was about. I was easily converted; I admit with no remorse and a considerable amount of delight, in fact I was awed, stunned and grateful. But, after I put down this flawless masterpiece of a novel (allow me to praise it freely after having so prolonged a reluctance), its mythical proportions, its elliptical chronology and its joyful, pulsating life made me shut the book and wonder aloud in the empty garden, how did he do it? I pondered how and what nurtured García Márquez’s creative genius and allowed him (and all authors, for that matter) to write such a story and in such a way.
Years later, I came across “Living to Tell the Tale” and received new surprises and a few answers. García Márquez kept a 10-year-long editorial silence, which he broke to publish this first volume of his memoirs in 2002. As in many of his previous works, time does not move in a linear fashion but twirls around in circles, beginning with a 20-something blocked writer trying to write a novel and make a living in Barranquilla, Colombia. The book’s opening line is the author’s mother’s request that he go with her to sell the house.
“Neither my mother nor I,” says García Márquez, “could even have imagined that this simple two-day trip would be so decisive that the longest and most diligent of lives would not be enough for me to finish recounting it.” Thus begins the story of the Nobel Prize winner’s journey as a writer, and we readers are fortunate enough to board the “dilapidated motor launch” with Gabito and Luisa Santiaga, a trip that will unfold in Bogotá, Cartagena de Indias and the fantastic Aracataca, the town invented by reality to imitate Macondo.
Idle though it may be, readers might find it irresistible to speculate that if Shakespeare were alive today and had a weakness for memoirs, he might have presented us with a book along the lines of “Living to Tell the Tale.”
– Cynthia Smart is a sales associate at Neighbors Bookstore in the Village Center.
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