Review: The General in His Labyrinth, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Rating: 5 out of 5

Mr Garcia Marquez’s take on the last days in the life of General Bolivar y Palacios should be a book that could make anyone think. The famous novelist’s take on Senor Bolivar reveals the generals most important thoughts, his worries and his hopes.

It is rare that a writer of fiction can really understand the minutiae of the workings of a real person. At least, that is how I feel about it. The difficult is fitting the normally fictional world around real events, real instances. However, it is also clear the author put in a lot of effort to get it right. One shouldn’t look for historical inaccuracies, though, because some will always exist. Instead, the joy of Mr Garcia Marquez’s novel is in the detail that he managed to include: the General’s doings, the General’s thoughts, and the General’s compatriots during the last few months of his life.

It is possible that General Bolivar y Palacios was one of the most successful and contradictory men in the last few centuries. This author brings him to life better than any comparative pair of adjectives I could use, but in all of this the true complexity of the General’s last days—seeing both his life’s work unwind as well as featuring some minuscule hopes that if only the next thing went okay, everything could be recovered—is difficult to really grasp.

The author describes the events in a lot of detail, jumping both back into the General’s own childhood when necessary but also forward to the end of the century, when the friends and enemies that the General had were dying. These touches, that take us away from the few weeks that the book really focusses on feel a bit out-of-place in the book, but, yet, they also have a sense of the ephemeral about them, especially when looking back to ponder the story.

The General was merely a human, with his mistakes and successes. Yet, he was also a spectacular man ready to grasp a concept that never became true. Mr Garcia Marquez manages to describe this conflicting position superbly. By the end of the book, the only thing one can really say is ‘Viva el Libertador’.

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