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An Intriguing Look at the Final Days of a Legend
on August 3, 2011
I recently read the author's acclaimed work "Love in the Time of Cholera" and enjoyed it very much. It spurred me to seek out more work by Marquez, hence this and several others that I recently purchased. My second foray into Marquez was "One Hundred Years of Solitude". I was very disappointed in that novel and concerned that I'd perhaps already seen the best he had to offer. Luckily, I followed up with "Love and Other Demons", finding it to be well worthwhile the effort. While not up to the standards of that novel, I nevertheless enjoyed this work.
Marquez's writing is certainly unique in its earthiness. He deals with such subjects as sex, bodily functions and graphic illness as if they are parts of everyday life ... because they are. It is refreshing.
Marquez is also known as one of the leading practitioners of the literary device of "magical realism" in which events are introduced into the story which are quite fantastic (for example, a character being swept away into the sky as though taken to heaven, a rain event that lasts over four years followed by an absolute drought of ten years). This was a major device used in One Hundred Years of Solitude and perhaps contributed to my dissatisfaction with that work.
This work, on the other hand, is virtually a non-fiction work, having as its subject the final days of Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of the Americas. The General, at a very unhealthy 46 years of age has withdrawn from political life and announced his pending exile to Europe as he begins his journey in Bogota, floats down the Magdalena River, spends some time in Cartagena fomenting intrigue before his journey (and life) ends in Soledad.
Throughout the odyssey, we witness the deteriorating physical condition (apparently tuberculosis) of the General as we are treated to numerous flashbacks of his fascinating life and adventures. The General is depressed and emotionally volatile as he witnesses the collapse of his lifetime dream and goal, the independence and unification of northern South America into a global super power. Even as the General wastes away, he observes the almost pre-ordained collapse of the fragile union of states and the pending insurrections and civil wars breaking out within them. It is a mess and he is powerless to prevent the carnage, though his very nature leads him to make the attempt.
The author's writing is indisputably beautiful and at times mesmerizing. Much like LitToC, this is a haunting and compelling story, filled with sadness and regret. It is an intriguing look into the mind of one of the most compelling and important figures in world history.