Living To Tell The Tale

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9780141019420: Living To Tell The Tale

In this long-awaited first volume of a planned trilogy, the most acclaimed and revered living Nobel laureate begins to tell us the story of his life.

Like all his work, Living to Tell the Tale is a magnificent piece of writing. It spans Gabriel García Márquez’s life from his birth in 1927 through the start of his career as a writer to the moment in the 1950s when he proposed to the woman who would become his wife. It has the shape, the quality, and the vividness of a conversation with the reader—a tale of people, places, and events as they occur to him: the colorful stories of his eccentric family members; the great influence of his mother and maternal grandfather; his consuming career in journalism, and the friends and mentors who encouraged him; the myths and mysteries of his beloved Colombia; personal details, undisclosed until now, that would appear later, transmuted and transposed, in his fiction; and, above all, his fervent desire to become a writer. And, as in his fiction, the narrator here is an inspired observer of the physical world, able to make clear the emotions and passions that lie at the heart of a life—in this instance, his own.

Living to Tell the Tale is a radiant, powerful, and beguiling memoir that gives us the formation of Gabriel García Márquez as a writer and as a man.

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Review:

Living to Tell the Tale, the first of three projected volumes in the memoirs of Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Márquez, narrates what, on the surface appears to be the portrait of the young artist through the mid-1950s. But the masterful work, which draws on the craft of the author's best fiction, has a depth and richness that transcends straightforward autobiography.

Echoing Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited, Márquez uses his memoir as justification for telling an artful story that challenges notions of authoritative record or chronology. Time is porous in Márquez's Colombia, flowing back and forth among the mythic moments of his personal history to accommodate his fascination for place. While recalling a trip he took as an adult to his grandparents' house in Aracataca, he veers suddenly back to childhood and his earliest infant memories in that house. Nearly one hundred pages have passed before he returns effortlessly to the pivotal moment on the trip when he declares to himself and family: "I'm going to be a writer... Nothing but a writer.'

Similarly, Márquez toys with the boundaries of truth and fiction throughout his book. He acknowledges that his memory is often faulty, especially with regards to his crucial, formative years with his grandparents. And his explorations of key moments in his life show that, despite his vivid mental snapshots, the events were often temporally impossible. Further, he colors his tale with recollections of ghostly presences and occult events that pass without a wink into his narrative, alongside the documented accounts of his early successes as a poet and singer or details of his first published writings.

With its play on time and truth, memory and storytelling, Living to Tell the Tale's literary form acts as early evidence for Márquez's inevitable calling as a writer, and the language of Edith Grossman's translation, which frequently skirts the boundaries of poetry, mirrors Márquez's effort. While he meanders on his picaresque artistic journey--distracted by trysts with a married woman, the tumult of Colombian politics, and the raw energy of the journalist's life--he ends this first volume with the tantalizing promise of the literary career about to explode, and the impossible prospect of even greater riches for his readers. --Patrick O’Kelley

About the Author:

Gabriel García Márquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. He lives in Mexico City.

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez
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