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Living to Tell the Tale Paperback – October 12, 2004

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Editorial Reviews 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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In the opening scene in his captivating memoir, the first in a trilogy, Nobel laureate Garcia Marquez displays his rare gift for evoking the overlapping currents of time as he, now in his seventies, conjures himself at age 23 (long-haired and very poor) remembering himself as a boy during an arduous journey with his mother to his grandparents' house in northern Colombia. As this insatiable reader, erstwhile law student, and would-be writer, the oldest of 11 children, tries to convince his smart and resilient mother of the validity of his artistic quest, his future self works his signature magic, weaving together the story of his remarkable family with the story of Colombia's turbulent mid-twentieth-century politics, tragic violence, and ardent and courageous literary community. Garcia Marquez's memory is astonishing. The tenderness and wit with which he portrays his loving family and prescient mentors are poignant and entertaining. The piquant humor with which he charts his love affairs is delectable. And his frank account of his experiences as a determined (and frequently homeless) novice writer feverishly composing hundreds of newspaper editorials while teaching himself to write fiction and coping uneasily with instantaneous recognition of his immense talent is deeply moving. Clearly, Garcia Marquez was born to write, and what a volatile and compelling world he was given to write about. Invaluable in its personal and cultural history, and triumphant in its compassion and artistry, Garcia Marquez's portrait of himself as a young writer is as revelatory and powerful as his fiction. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 533 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140003454X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400034543
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gabriel García Márquez (1927 - 2014) was born in Colombia and was a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist. His many works include The Autumn of the Patriarch; No One Writes to the Colonel; Love in the Time of Cholera and Memories of My Melancholy Whores; and a memoir, Living to Tell the Tale. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

Customer Reviews

This book took me about 3 months to read.
H. Huggins
This wonderful memoir allows the reader to become immersed in the life and times and places of one of the world's greatest writers.
Katie Pickard Fawcett
This book is very slow paced and rambles on and on.
Robert Whitney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Living to Tell the Tale," ("Vivir Para Contarla"), is the first book in a planned trilogy that will make up the memoirs of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the renown Colombian writer who initially won public acclaim in the mid-1960s for his novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude." At that time, Garcia Marquez, a journalist and writer, had never sold more than 700 copies of a book. While driving his family through Mexico, he had a veritable brainstorm. He remembered his grandmother's storytelling technique - to recall fantastic, improbable events as if they had actually happened - literally. That was the key to recounting the life of the imaginary village of Macondo and her inhabitants. He turned the car around and drove back home to begin "One Hundred Years of Solitude" anew. To my mind it is one of the 20th century's best works of fiction, and was highlighted in the citation awarding Garcia Marquez the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature.

"Living to Tell The Tale" relates the early years of the author's life, although some of the book's most important incidents predate Garcia Marquez's birth. The impact of these experiences, the people and their stories, were to have a powerful effect on him, as a man and as a writer. This is the tale of his parents' courtship, marriage and the birth of their children, Garcia Marquez, (Gabito), the oldest, and his ten siblings. It tells of his early years which were spent in Aracataca, in the home of his maternal grandparents. His grandfather, Colonel Nicolás Ricardo Márquez Mejía, was a Liberal veteran of the War of a Thousand Days. He was supposedly a storyteller of great repute. The Colonel told his young grandson that there was no greater burden than to have killed a man.
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70 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Xiao He on November 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Oh~~the long expected English version finally came out. Reading such a book is definitely an extraordinary mental experience, especially for those who have read the fictional writings of Garcia Marquez. As you are reading through the book, you will find that it reminds you of what you read in his other books, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. You will awe him because of the fact that Garcia Marquez is capable of transforming the simplest trivialities in his life into the most delicate and imaginary stories that one could ever read. Hope everyone enjoy reading this book~~
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bert Ruiz on July 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This superbly written portrait of an artist unlocks many mysteries. First and foremost it explains the incredible genius of Gabriel Garcia Marquez the writer. Moreover, it also provides a probing insight to the bloody political violence inside the Republic of Colombia. "Living to Tell the Tale," is a great read for lovers of literature but also objectively gives students of Colombian political history an eye-witness account of a government that was savage with its people.

In the words of Gabito..."I was brought up in the lawless space of the Caribbean,"...the Nobel laureate explains with pride the difference between "Costenos" (Colombians raised on the coast) and "Cachacos" (Colombians raised in Bogota). In some is comparable to the difference between very laid-back, open minded Californians and super-serious, ambitious New Yorkers. However, the essential point the author makes is the cultural mind-set he was raised with. A mind-set filled with surreal coastal dreams and the reality of the 1928 banana workers massacre in Cienaga which his loving Mother explained to him, "that's where the world ended."

Gabito was born on March 6, 1927. He was heavily influenced by the sensitivities of his Mother and grandfather, Colonel Nicolas Ricardo Marques Mejia (called Papalelo by his grandchildren). The Colonel was a veteran of the Liberal/Conservative War of One Thousand Days (1899-1903). Consequently, the author learned from an early age that Colombia was a nation of many civil wars and that political differences inside the borders of his nation often ended in violence.

Papaledo taught his devoted grandson that General Simon Bolivar (the George Washington of South America) "was the greatest man born in the history of the world.
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52 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Alan Cambeira on November 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Thankfully, volumes of scholarly papers will continue to be written, seminars and graduate-level university courses will continue to be developed focusing upon this literary giant --and deservingly so. We are all the more priviledged as beneficiaries of this extraordinary talent. Garcia Marquez writes with the simplicity, serenity, ease and purity that are the mark of an absolute master. His ingenius combination of grace and vibrancy is astonishing. With this new offering, Living to Tell the Tale [Vivir Para Contarla], it all comes together in this long-anticipated personal account of one of the world's remaining literary treasures. The imagery of Garcia Marquez, my all-time favorite writer, is breathtakingly superb. Here we have an exquisite amalgam of Marquezian genius: all the fabulous characters, descriptions and locales we have come to know and cherish from the full range of his fiction. I couldn't agree more with those insightful reviewers who wishly urge for anyone new to Garcia Marquez a necessary reading of several of his important novels prior to indulging in this glorious triumph: "One Hundred Years of Solitude," "Love in the Times of Cholera," "No One Writes to the Colonel," and "The General in His Labyrinth." And for anyone able to read the original Spanish version is indeed for a sublime treat. Don Gabriel, mil gracias de nuevo; you are Humanity's Gift to the World!
Alan Cambeira
Author of AZUCAR! The Story of Sugar (a novel)
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