Library@Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom

Where Minds meet and Ideas pop up !


By Gabriel García Márquez 

Translated by Edith Grossman. 484 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $26.95. 

(Available in our Library)


Critics have frequently observed that magical realism in Latin America, Eastern Europe and the developing world has been a product of those regions’ tumultuous histories, a mirror of their surreal politics and the disorienting fallout that politics has had on people’s daily lives. But as Gabriel García Márquez’s new magical memoir makes clear, the sources of his phantasmagorical work lie as much in his family’s anomalous past and his own experiences as they do in the convoluted politics and historical woes of his native Colombia.

”Living to Tell the Tale” — a title that conjures memories of ”Moby- Dick,” as well as this Nobel laureate’s own nonfiction book ”The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor” — is the first volume of a planned autobiographical trilogy. But its most powerful sections read like one of his mesmerizing novels, transporting the reader to a Latin America haunted by the ghosts of history and shaped by the exigencies of its daunting geography, by its heat and jungles and febrile light. The book provides as memorable a portrait of a young writer’s apprenticeship as the one William Styron gave us in ”Sophie’s Choice,” even as it illuminates the alchemy Mr. García Márquez acquired from masters like Faulkner and Joyce and Borges and later used to transform family stories and firsthand experiences into fecund myths of his own.

As in so many of his novels Mr. García Márquez uses an elliptical narrative in these pages, cutting back and forth in time to show how memory colors experience, how time moves on a Proustian loop between the present and the past. While recounting a trip he took as a young man with his mother to his childhood home in the remote town of Aracataca, he lays out the story of his family, a story that would indelibly inform his later fiction, from the remarkable ”One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1970) through the equally potent ”Love in the Time of Cholera” (1988).

His family, we learn, saw the move to this Wild West-like town as ”a journey into forgetting”; they had left their earlier home after a duel in which the author’s grandfather killed another man. Aracataca was a place, Mr. García Márquez writes, that ”entered history on its left foot as a remote district without God or law,” a place where ”the banana fever” — galvanized by the arrival of the United Fruit Company, its promise of sudden riches and the company’s abrupt departure — brought ”extreme social disorder,” a place subject to dry hurricanes, killing droughts, sudden floods, plagues of locusts, and ”a leaf storm of adventurers from all over the world who took control of the streets by force of arms.”

Mr. García Márquez’s mother — a model for the many strong, resilient women in his fiction — established, he recalls, ”a matriarchal power whose domain extended to the most distant relatives in the most unexpected places, like a planetary system that she controlled from her kitchen with a subdued voice and almost without blinking, while the pot of beans was simmering.” Her courtship by and eventual marriage to a young telegraph operator — Mr. García Márquez’s father, who became a model for the many impulsive dreamers in his stories — would provide the inspiration for the epic love affair celebrated in ”Love in the Time of Cholera.”

In that novel the fictional couple meet in the 19th century; their courtship, forbidden by the girl’s father, lasts more than 50 years. The real-life romance between Mr. García Márquez’s mother and her ardent suitor was also denounced by her family, who sent her on a long, arduous journey ”as a brutal cure for her lovesickness.” But in the end her parents reluctantly agreed to a wedding after a priest wrote them a letter expressing ”his heartfelt certainty that there was no human power capable of overcoming this obdurate love.”

The portraits that Mr. García Márquez draws of other family members are equally resonant, and reminiscent of the characters who populate his fiction.

There’s his Aunt Francisca, who ”sewed her own made-to-measure shroud with such fine workmanship that death waited for more than two weeks until she had finished it,” his beloved grandfather who painted the walls of his workshop white so that the young Gabriel had an inviting surface on which to paint; and his grandmother, ”the most credulous and impressionable woman I have ever known,” a fantasist or visionary who saw ”that the rocking chairs rocked alone, that the phantom of puerperal fever was lurking in the bedrooms of women in labor, that the scent of jasmines from the garden was like an invisible ghost.”

Although the sections of this book chronicling his adventures at school and his early forays into journalism lack the fierce, tactile magic of the portions dealing with his family, Mr. García Márquez delivers a wonderfully vital portrait of himself as a young, aspiring writer. He captures the avidity with which he used to devour books — too poor to buy his own, he would often stay up all night, finishing novels he had borrowed from friends — and the zeal with which he deconstructed them, scouring them for clues to technique, to language, to structure, to anything that might help him learn how to write.

He conjures up, in vivid bloody detail, the explosive historical backdrop against which he came of age (during the late 1940’s and 50’s, a period often called ”La Violencia,” when more than 200,000 people died). And he studiously delineates the penurious existence he lived as a young man: sleeping in the office where he worked, cadging meals here and there, worried that he did not even have the few coins needed to buy a copy of the paper containing his first published story.

At the beginning of this volume the author is still a shy young man trying to find a way to tell his parents that he does not want to become a doctor or lawyer, as they had hoped, but intends to become a writer. By its end he is a journalist and published short-story writer, and well on the road toward becoming the literary magus we know today, a master magician who would be as influential for successive generations of writers as Faulkner and Joyce and Borges had been, in those early remembered years, for him. 


Filed under: Book Reviews, ,

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

कृपया हिंदी में पढ़ें

Live updates

Library@KV Pattom


Welcome to the official Library blog of Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, launched in September 2007.

6 Million Hits and counting..

Thank you all for making this blog a great success.

You are the visitor, No

  • 6,315,999 hits

Upcoming Events

No upcoming events

Visit your Library

Browse Books and Periodicals. Read Newspapers. Pick a New Book from the ‘New Arrivals’ rack. Search the Internet and the OPAC. Refer for assignments and projects. Suggest a book. Ask a question.Write your comments. And more…Visit the Library Today itself. You are most welcome.

KVS Innovation and Experimentation Award 2011 & 2016

"Library Junction" and "Face a Book Challenge" have won the KVS Innovation and Experimentation Award in 2011 and 2016 respectively.

All India Competition on Innovative Practices and Experiments in Education for Schools and Teacher Education Institutions 2010-’11

'Library Junction' won the "All India Competition on Innovative Practices and Experiments in Education for Schools and Teacher Education Institutions 2010-'11" conducted by NCERT.

Website of the Week

Telephone Reference

+91 9447699724 (Librarian)

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,818 other followers

Ask your Librarian

Subscribe SMS updates

Send: ON Library_KVPattom to 9870807070


RSS This day in History

  • Pompey defeated by Julius Caesar at the Battle of Pharsalus: 9 August 48 - This Day in History
    During the Roman Civil War of 49–45 , Julius Caesar's troops on this day in 48 decisively defeated the army of Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus, causing Pompey to flee to Egypt, where he was subsequently murdered.More Events on this day:1945: The second atomic bomb dropped on Japan by the United States in World War II struck the city of Nagasaki.1 […]
  • Amedeo Avogadro: Biography of the Day
    Amedeo AvogadroBorn this day in 1776, Amedeo Avogadro of Italy showed that, under controlled conditions of temperature and pressure, equal volumes of gases contain an equal number of molecules—what became known as Avogadro's law.
  • Concise Encyclopedia Book and CD-ROM: Special Price from The Britannica Store
    For RSS subscribers The Britannica Store presents a special 20% discount on the Concise Encyclopedia and free CD-ROM. This thoroughly revised and expanded edition of Britannica's most popular publication worldwide is a one-volume encyclopedia containing 28,000 articles accompanied by colorful photographs, diagrams, maps, and flags. The Britannica Concis […]

Library Bookmark


<!– Global site tag (gtag.js) – Google Analytics –>

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-110661763-1’);

<!– Global site tag (gtag.js) – Google Analytics –>

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-11842201-1’);

Real time News on Kendriya Vidyalayas on the web

Little Open Library (LOLib)

Tools for Every Teacher (TET)

FaB Best Performers 2017-’18

Meera Nair & Kalyani Santhosh

Face a Book Challenge

e-reading hub @ Your Library

Follow Us on Twitter

Learn anything freely with Khan Academy Library of Content

A free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.

Interactive challenges, assessments, and videos, on any topic of your interest.

Child Line (1098)

CHILDLINE 1098 service is a 24 hour free emergency phone outreach service for children in need of care and protection.

CBSE Toll Free Tele/Online Helpline

Students can call 1800 11 8004 from any part of the country. The operators will answer general queries and also connect them to the counselors for psychological counseling. The helpline will be operational from 08 a.m to 10 p.m. On-line counseling on:

Population Stabilization in India Toll Free Helpline

Dial 1800-11-6555 for expert advice on reproductive, maternal and child health; adolescent and sexual health; and family planning.

InfoLit India: Information Literacy Project for Young Learners

Kendriya Vidyalaya (Shift-I)
Thiruvananthapuram-695 004
Kerala India

Mail: librarykvpattom at

%d bloggers like this: