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Julian Meynell's Books

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Review

The General in His Labyrinth - Edith Grossman, Gabriel García Márquez

This is a fictional account of the last few days of Simon Bolivar's life.  It reads very much as a work by Garcia Marquez and has his typical concerns and stylistic conventions.  Bolivar is seen as a metaphor for Latin American history.  His life began in glory, but ended in failure and his life reflects the self-destructive and capricious urges of Latin-American politics.  Having said that his idealism also represents the solution to the problem of those politics - e.g. an idealistic pan-nationalism, but this is seen as an idea that has grown tired and old while it was still young.

 

As well as paralleling Latin-American history, the story is also about a man in his late forties who has grown old before his time.  He has lived long enough to see his hopes manifested and then dashed, and to move from the centre of the universe to the outside and finally to become an almost mythical figure before his death.  He is very much alone and eccentric, but ultimately sad.

 

From what I have said, the book is in many ways a companion piece to A Hundred Years of Solitude.  In that book a single town paralleled Latin-America and the book explored themes of solitude, lost promise and of course having sex with whores.  Being based on a real person, magical realism is not here, but it has a magical realist attitude.  It's not as good as 100 Years of Solitude, but I found it to be better than A Death Foretold. 

 

Garcia Marquez being Garcia Marquez.  Not the place to start reading him, but if you like his other books you will certainly like this one.