Book Review”Living to Tell the Tale” Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez would have to be one of the most recognized authors in Latin America. His writings have reached people on a world level and up to this day, many people all around the world are reading his books and are being inspired by his work. Gabriel José García Márquez was born on March 6, 1928 in Aracataca, a town in Northern Colombia. Márquez is a novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist. Marquez is considered one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. In 1982, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and is the earliest winner of this prize to still be alive.

Márquez started as a journalist, and has written many non-fiction books and short stories, but is best known for his novels. Márquez style of writing has been labeled as magical realism, which uses magical elements and events in otherwise ordinary and realistic situations.

Márquez was raised by his maternal grandparents, Dona Tranquilina Iguaran  and Colonel Nicolas Marquez Mejia. His grandfather whom he called “Papalelo” was a Liberal veteran of the Thousand Days War. The person that Márquez became was shaped by the influence of his grandfather. Most of his childhood was with his grandfather so he respected him greatly. Márquez lived with his grandparents up to when he was nine years old when his grandfather died. García Márquez political and ideological views were shaped by his grandfathers stories. In an interview, García Márquez told his friend Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, “my grandfather the colonel was a Liberal. My political ideas probably came from him to begin with because, instead of telling me fairy tales when I was young, he would regale me with horrifying accounts of the last civil war that free-thinkers and anti-clerics waged against the Conservative government.”

Back when Márquez was a young man, politics were very important. His father was as we know a Conservative. The clash of ideologies within the families existed because Márquez grandfather was a Liberal which thought completely different. In this memoir “Living to Tell the Tale”, Márquez gives an account of when his parents first met. His grandfather did not approve of his daughter marriage with this man because his soon to be son-in-law was a Conservative and believed that he was a womanizer. Politics were very important then,which Márquez helps us see as an important element to him growing up.

In “Living to Tell the Tale”, Gabriel García Márquez expresses a lot of detail about his life. He shares stories and memorable moments of him growing up and the people that surrounded him. One of the people that he talks the most about is of course his grandfather. He talks about him teaching him simple tasks like learning how to read words. After his grandfather died, Márquez moved to his parents’ home in Sucre where his father owned a pharmacy. Through this account, it is clear that Marquez wanted to be a writer. He loved it. In the beginning of the book, Márquez talks about his account with his mother as they were going to go sell their home when he was around twenty years old. His mother asks him why he had dropped out of school. Márquez response was that he wasn’t dropping out of school, he just wanted to become a writer instead. His parents had supported him to go to school to study law where he was studying at the University of Cartagena but he was writing on the side. While he was in school in 1948 and 1949 he wrote for El Universal in Cartagena. Later, from 1950 until 1952, he wrote a “whimsical” column under the name of “Septimus” for the local paper El Heraldo in Barranquilla.

The environment in Barranquilla gave Márquez a world-class literary education and provided him with a unique perspective on Caribbean culture. Since Márquez was about eighteen, he wanted to write a noble based on his grandparents’ house where he grew up. He had never found the right theme until one day it hit him on a family vacation as they were driving down to Acapulco in Mexico. Márquez turned around and drove back home to write the novel. When they got back, he sold the car so his family would have money to live. The novel took longer than what he expected and he wrote everyday for eighteen months. His wife had to ask for food on credit from the butcher and baker as well as nine months of rent on credit from their landlord. When the book was published in 1967, it became Márquez most commercially successful novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien Años de Soledad). The novel was widely popular and led to Márquez’s  Nobel Prize as well as the Rómulo Gallegos Prize in 1972. William Kennedy has called it “the piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race,” and hundreds of articles and books of literary critique have been published in response to it.

Gabriel García Márquez became a well-known author around the world but many people if not the majority of the people in the United States did not know Gabriel García Márquez up to the early nineties. It was very difficult for anyone from Latin America to get visas to come to The United States and so that was also the case for Márquez. After Bill Clinton was elected U.S. president in 1992, he finally lifted the travel ban and claimed that García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude was his favorite novel.

In 1999, García Márquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. He went through Chemotherapy which helped his illness go into remission. This led García Márquez to begin writing his memoirs. In 2002, three years later, he published this memoir Living to Tell the Tale which was the first one out of three that he was going to write. In 2004 he published his second memoir Memories of My Melancholy Whore. In May 2008 it was announced that García Márquez was working on another novel that was to be published by the end of the year. In April 2009 his agent, Carmen Balcells, told the Chilean newspaper La Tercera that García Márquez was unlikely to write again.

Carlos Fuentes recognizes García Márquez as “the most popular and perhaps the best writer in Spanish since Cervantes”. García Márquez was the first Colombian and fourth Latin American to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. Márquez will always be remembered as the author who brought us a unique style of writing in his work. In Living to Tell the Tale, Márquez gives us a picture of his life that brings us to relate to him. I believe that Gabriel García Márquez’s writings will continue to inspire other young writers as well as his readers because what Gabriel García Márquez offers in his work can only come from him and his unique life experience.

—A post written by: Oscar S. Bustillos

This entry was posted in History of Colombia, Memoirs and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book Review”Living to Tell the Tale” Gabriel García Márquez

  1. afel930 says:

    I found it very neat to see an author write in a unique style that isn’t seen often. It’s refreshing to see writers be creative and bring something new to the table just as Marquez. The process it took to write the book (selling the car, finding ways to purchase food and pay the rent). It makes me proud seeing a Latino made it far in this business and his books continue to capture many readers attention. I hope that young writers see his story and follow their dreams just Marquez did to inspire more people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s