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 OKelley
*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 SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved