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The General in His Labyrinth Paperback – September 1, 1991

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (September 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140148590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140148596
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,469,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Written in cogent, measured prose, moving to a somber internal rhythm, this short, historically based novel depicts the last days of Simon Bolivar, aka the Liberator of South America. Aged 46 in 1830, prematurely aged, weary and moribund, the General (as he is referred to throughout), once the hero and president of the republic of nations he freed from Spanish domination, is now past his glory. He is wandering destitute, having renounced the presidency and announced his imminent exile--an act he keeps postponing in the hopes that he will be returned to power. Widely reviled, the object of assassination attempts, suffering from chronic insomnia and daily fevers, the General is cynical, bitter and mercurial, frustrated by his failing powers but unable to face his impending death ("How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!" he cries). In flashbacks that integrate capsule portraits of other historical figures important in Bolivar's life, Garcia Marquez invests the narrative with substance and veracity, but finds little opportunity to unleash his remarkable imagination; thus the novel lacks the incandescent quality of One Hundred Years of Solitude and other of his works of magical realism. The author himself regrets the lack of humor in what he refers to as "the horror of this book." Readers will be impressed, but not beguiled. 150,000 first printing; first serial to the New Yorker; BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"A fascinating tour de force and a moving tribute to an extraordinary man." -Margaret Atwood, "New York Times Book Review" "A distinguished book...Garcia Marquez splendidly presents his image of Latin America and of a great man redux." -"Los Angeles Times Book Review""A stunning portrait, convincing and poignant." -"San Francisco Chronicle""Passage after passage shines with the brilliance of Garcia Marquez...He has invented some of the magic characters of our age. His General, however, is not only magic, but real." -"The Wall Street Journal" "As usual, Garcia Marquez's craftsmanship is nothing less than superb. His General's story is tragic; his telling of it is luminous." -"Dallas Morning News" Translated and with a new Introduction by Edith Grossman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I cannot wait to read this book and I especially love this cover!
That is the value of good historical novels: to imagine within the bounds of the possible, illuminating for us the most intimate, less-recorded, aspects of history.
Guillermo Maynez
Although I've written a good deal of negative criticism up to this point, this isn't a terrible book.
arye orona

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
One of my good friends is the person whose opinion I trust most when it comes to books and literature. And, I'm happy to say, we usually agree on what's good and what's not so good. Although my friend loves Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "The General in His Labyrinth," however, is one book my friend didn't like and I did.
"The General in His Labyrinth" tells the story of the melancholy and sad final journey of General Simon Bolivar, fondly known as "The Liberator" in many South American countries. Bolivar is the man who drove the Spanish from the northern part of South America during 1811-1824, even though the local aristocracy chose to fight against him. In the end, he became a sad and defeated man, old before his time and burdened with the knowledge that his dream of a unified South America would not be realized during his lifetime.
Although Bolivar is revered in much of South America (and the world in general), his final days were quite unhappy. In this book, Garcia Marquez takes us along with Bolivar on his final cruise along the Magdalena River from Colombia to the sea. Bolivar was sad, disillusioned, in shock from the after effects of an assassination attempt and suffering from an unspecified illness; in short, this mythic man had become old at the very young age of forty-six.
After Bolivar had been denied the presidency of Colombia he decided to spend his final days in Europe, far away from political strife of any kind. But Bolivar wouldn't have been Bolivar had he not given his life to the people. His dreams of living in peace in Europe were dashed when the government that replaced him failed.
It didn't take years of history to make Bolivar larger than life.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 4, 1997
Format: Paperback
Having read The General in his Labyrinth for the

fourth time, I am still amazed by the story, and

way it is told.

This is the story of the last days of Simon Bolivar

the liberator of South America.He is dying of consumption,

old before his time. He leads a sad and noble group of loyal soldiers

and retainers through the wilds of Nueva Granada. There is no

hope - the General is not wanted any more, having watched the

liberated continent fall in upon itself and fragment. Having

taught the people separatism, the tired General is powerless

to stop the inevitable.

And so the journey proceeds, punctuated by heat, torrential rain,

fever, delirium, memories of great loves, and despair. The General's

state of mind is conveyed to the reader in the minutest detail. We are

shown the destruction and self-destruction of a once powerful

man,and the effect is one of witnessing death itself, with

its mystifying loss of personality.

Bolivar rants in fevers, paces the floor unable to sleep, and talks

of the agony of assassination attempts, treacherous infighting, a fickle

public, and memories of strong women.He goes from town to town

with his entourage,in turn feted or reviled according to local


He has the protective love of his closest generals, and the dignified

devotion of his servant Jose Palacios to comfort him on his seemingly

ignoble flight.But this journey is the only possible end for a man of

such brilliant but caustic powers.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on November 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
"The General in His Labyrinth" is a fictionalized account of the last seven months of the life of Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), the liberator of Gran Colombia (Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador) from Spanish rule. Bolivar's goal was to unite South America into a single great country, but there was constant conflict with separatists and political and military rivals, and in the last year of his life he was expelled from the presidency. He left Bogota with an entourage of close friends, relatives, and servants, and his final months were spent in a journey down the River Magdalena, ostensibly to leave the country. A terminal illness (consumption? tuberculosis? his bedsheets are burned and eating utensils are buried after he uses them for fear of contagion) causes him fits of feverish delirium, in which he recalls glorious episodes in his life.
I once read one of Garcia Marquez's earlier short stories, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," and that story and this novel seem to share a theme. They are both about an important or extraordinary figure (in the story, the title character; in this novel, Bolivar) who falls from a state of grace, comes into contact with common people, and must suffer their treatment, be it awe or indifference. I knew almost nothing about Bolivar and the history of South America, but the fact that this fascinating novel made me want to learn more about the subject is a testament to Garcia Marquez's great skill as a writer.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Hovious on May 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is based on the factual story of Simón Bolívar's own journey out of the heart of present-day Colombia towards the Atlantic coast. It is a tapestry of metaphors which underscore the degree to which Bolívar still represents the continent. No man has ever epitomized his homeland in the way that Simón Bolivar embodies the possibility and the tragedy of South America. Even today, every so often, at predictable intervals, Simón Bolívar's tired ghost is pulled out and paraded through the altars of South American politics with the reverence and expectation shown icons of the faith; yet every time, the faithful's hopes of improvement are dashed, as Bolivar's were time and time again in his own life. Hugo Chávez' current attempt to recast Bolívar's native land as the "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela", governed by his own "Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement", is but a single example of the way Bolívar is kept restless even two hundred years after his death.
Ill, impoverished, his strength sapped by persistent insomnia, 46-year-old Simón Bolívar and a ragtag group of his last faithful servants and aides start up the Magdalena River on a journey whose goal is as shifting and amorphous as "New Granada", the restless nation of which Bolívar is now the ex-president. His term was marked by upheaval and violence, political backstabbing around him, but little accomplishment. Even the trip's destination is out of his hands, as the congress refuses to grant the tired general permission to leave the country he founded. His political rivals are in power, his loyal comrade General Sucre will soon be assassinated. Worst of all, perhaps, for a man of war, there are no battles left to be won.
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