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The Adventures of Maqroll: Four Novellas

4.34  ·  Rating Details ·  945 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
Four novellas by Colombian writer Alvaro Mutis continue the saga of the mythic hero introduced in the author's previous book, Maqroll, praised as "fascinating and original' (New York Times), "exquisite" (Los Angeles Times), and "spellbinding" (Boston Glove).
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 28th 1996 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1993)
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I could say that I met Maqroll the 'Gaviero' on June 3rd, 2015, though our acquaintance in fact dates from much earlier. In December 2012, my good friend Benvolio di Adelaido introduced me to him, but not without a noticeable hesitation. And although the name Maqroll immediately caught my attention, evoking such disparate places as Scotland and the Middle East, I had so much confidence in Benvolio’s judgement that I did not try to pursue a friendship with Maqroll at that point, preferring to kee ...more
I recommend this to no one. No one.

Read your post-moderns and your initialed ones. Be cognoscenti.

Let this be my secret. My adultery.

I may have found the book to take on the getaway spaceship.

Jesus, sweet Jesus, this was good.

___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Maqroll, O Maqroll.

Who are you? What are you?

You are the Gaviero. The Lookout. But that was when you were a boy, at the top of the mast, searching the horizons. Since then you have been a wanderer.

No one knows where you were born. You speak many langua
Aug 05, 2015 ·Karen· rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ·Karen· by: Tony, Fionnuala
It is August, a warm sultry August. An implacable heat hangs like a pall over the town, sapping energy from the veins, filming the skin with moisture, leaching purpose and efficiency out of my days to leave them washed in a colourless languid laziness.
I read. And for eight days I am transported in a flat-keeled barge up the Xurandó in search of an elusive and treacherous lumber factory; in a freighter painted a furious yellow that is impounded by a bank consortium and leaves me stranded in Panam
Vit Babenco
Apr 20, 2017 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“This was fated to happen to me. To me and nobody else. Some things I’ll never learn. Their accumulated presence in one’s life amounts to what fools call destiny. Cold comfort.”
Wheels within wheels, stories within stories… The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll goes as a fabulous maelstrom of misfortune… Sinbad the Sailor of the Arabian Nights meets the Wandering Jew of the medieval folklore…
“Life attacks us like a blind beast. It swallows up time, the years of our life, it passes like a ty
Oct 07, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful and comic voyage of a book that at different times will evoke Heart of Darkness, Greek tragedy, Moby Dick, Sinbad’s voyages, King Solomon’s Mines, narratives of Proust and Nabokov, the rogue casts of Pynchon and Dickens, Don Quixote, Journey to the End of the Night, and Borges. These seven novellas form one novel are filled with stories that are comically absurd, fraught with menace or existential doom, and or both at the same time. The at times anachronistic feeling of the narrative ...more
Mar 15, 2011 David marked it as the-overhead-bin  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyrb
I didn't want to wait until I finished all seven hundred pages of this thing before I stuck my big toe into the waters of literary criticism. That's the ostensible reason that I'm beginning this review at the half-way mark. The real reason is that I can't be expected to remember my precious thoughts and feelings about the beginning of Maqroll three hundred fifty pages hence.

* * * * *

A wise old man (who shall not presently be named) once criticized The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll for
Ben Winch
Sep 13, 2011 Ben Winch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Half of this book strikes me as brilliant, half as a testament to wasted talent. The brilliant bits can mostly be found in the earlier collection Maqroll, which comprises the first three of the seven novellas collected here. The first of these, 'The Snow of the Admiral' is easily the most potent, existing on another plane from the others entirely, and for this piece alone I give the book four stars. A first-person depiction, via a series of journal-entries, of a sinister boat journey up a South ...more
Simon Robs
Nov 02, 2016 Simon Robs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"All is a tale told, if not by an idiot, at least by a dreamer; but it is far from signifying nothing" - so says G. Santayana about nature/everything .... And John Berger speaking w/S. Sontag, "A story is always a rescuing operation."

This A. Mutis' "Maqroll el Gaviero" is a dreamer and a doer of high sea adventure not an idiot savant on a sappy horse chasing windmills signifying nothing; and all seven of el Gaviero's tall tales rescue his ghost assail at his side just beyond oblivion, waiting p
This is one of those books that many GR friends love, but I couldn't connect to it. Each 'adventure' seemed just like the others. I finally quit after Amirbar, leaving the last two unread.

Part of the problem is jamming 7 novels into one volume. The print is tiny and the pages are very long and dense.

One thing I liked is the very brief comment on 'Maqrol's' favorite books that comes after Amirbar. One of his five best companion books is the memoirs of the Prince de Ligne, a Belgian diplomat of
Aug 18, 2009 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came into this book looking for the same peach-colored richness I secretly desire whenever I inadvisedly order a fruity mixed drink at a bar; as so often happens during said fruity-drink orderings, I got about halfway through and realized that I was neither drunk nor particularly satisfied by the bland mango-and-lemon-rind taste. Someone has been trying to sell me an atmosphere, but it's one that I enjoyed more in Conrad's Polish grog. Or Kipling's shirley temples.
Compared to
Disclaimer, I only got to page 400 and will read the other novellas at a later time. Preferably in deep winter, when I have more tolerance for long-winded descriptions of heat.

It's a man's book, IMHO. It is excellent writing if you can tolerate seven page descriptions of feral and carnal at a crack. The story telling is deep with contextual layers.

The first novella was the best so far. This is not a person I would enjoy as company or for companionship. My personal enjoyment in the reading dimin
Eddie Watkins
May 07, 2008 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book for the armchair traveller with a metaphysical bent. It's a collection of seven novellas detailing the adventures of one Maqroll, easy-going adventurer and hard luck guy, as he gets into one ill-fated enterprise after another. The stories roam all over the globe, and are adorned with a surplus of naturalistic detail, but the whole book is coated with a fantastical mist. It reminded me of R. L. Stevenson (for its proferred joys of pure and effortless storytelling) with a touch of Bor ...more
Jan 20, 2011 Graziano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer. Nietzsche

(Otherwise: Yes-Philosophy; otherwise, again, Amor Fati)

Nov 21, 2011 Steve rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite foreign language novels. Maqroll is an individual who occupies that grey area of life where one's occupation, one's friends and one's activities are suspect. In reading Alvaro Mutis' wonderful prose the reader gets a sense of a literary character who is more comfortable on the go than staying in one place. And yet Maqroll is a bibliophile who, regardless of where he is or what he is doing, is constantly reading and trying to understand the world. I cannot recommend the ...more
Jan 30, 2008 Rosana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read and reread this book many times. Mostly I now open it at random and let Alvaro Mutis’ prose carry me to magical places. But Mutis writing, as beautiful and effortless as it is, pales on the strength of the character he created. Maqroll is an anti-hero always in the margins of society, always traveling from port to port, meeting people in an underworld of brothels and bars. Maqroll’s quest is never defined, and never attainable. He is a voyager from another realm, someone lost in a dream. ...more
May 04, 2015 Franc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Franc by: Gardnerlandry
I read this book in mid-August on a marsh island on the Altamaha river delta in south Georgia, which is an appropriately tangled and malarial setting to read this feverish book.

Tasting notes:  hints of Conrad, subtle  Borgesian bouquet, noticeable Cormac tannins,  its long complex finish resonated most strongly of Werner Herzog’s diary of filming the incredible Fitzcaraldo.  (sample quotes from Herzog:

"The jungle is obscene. Everything about it is sinful, for which reason the sin does not stand
Terry Pearce
I find this book very difficult to review, or even possibly to fully understand, but the way in which I fail to understand it is the way in which I fail to understand life: its complexity, its inconclusiveness, its openness to interpretation, its endless self-reference and connection and blurring of chronology and order and narrative, its cast of colourful characters that come and go and return again until they don't, its habit of nesting stories within stories within stories, and above all, its ...more
Aug 27, 2007 Zach rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Throughout the seven novellas contained in this hefty tome, Mutis guides us through the trials and tribulations of Maqroll, one of the most enchanting and enigmatic literary characters I've ever encountered. An incorrigible vagabond, Maqroll thrives on tramp steamers cris-crossing the seven seas trafficking cargo of questionable legality, drifting up anonymous South American rivers in search of elusive riches, and operating brothels in port towns, among other things. Mutis endows Maqroll with wo ...more
May 03, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: The Biblioklept
To be shelved among 'Very Important Books That Changed My Life.' Not because I'm hopping on the next ship to Mallorca, but just for Maqroll the Gaviero and his misfortunes. I can't imagine ever forgetting Maqroll. I know why Mutis started referring to him as a real person. It makes sense now and it's starting to make me feel a little nutso.

Well, probably one of my favorite books to come out of Latin America.
to look into (Lookout?)/hunt down
May 18, 2017 Germancho rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tantas cosas. Mientras lo leía, pensaba que algunos de los libros de esta recopilación me habrían llegado al alma hace unos quince años. "Abdul Bashur" y "Tramp Steamer" en particular me hicieron recordar los tiempos en los que llegué a Europa por primera vez, por allá en el 2004. Sin embargo, no me sentí conectado de una manera más que nostálgica. Ahora fue el último, "Jamil", el que sentí muy cercano. Sólo en este último libro sentí a Maqroll como una persona real, y no sólo como un personaje ...more
Jan 29, 2017 Geoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful set of tales of modern day Don Quixotes. There is sense of Joseph Conrad's Nostromo echoing in it as well.
M. Milner
Maqroll travels with a shady Cypriot passport, takes odd jobs at sea and travels with almost nothing but the clothes on his back and a hardcover book or two. He’s known throughout the world, but his full name never gets mentioned. He’s just Maqroll or The Gaverio: the lookout.

Throughout this book he gets involved in arm smuggling, gold mines, a brothel and sawmills, often barely escaping with his life. Yet the stories are never as action-driven as you’d think: Maqroll drifts along, like a boat
Juan Hidalgo
Llegué a las "Empresas y tribulaciones de Maqroll el Gaviero" buscando libros sobre la mar y sobre marinos, aventuras en lugares remotos para viajar cómodamente desde la butaca. También la portada me ayudó a decidirme por esta obra: la imagen, a través del ojo de buey, de lo que en la historia se denomina "Tramp steamer", un viejo carguero, un buque en cuya denominación inglesa ya tenemos la palabra que quizá define principalmente al protagonista (tramp, vagabundo).

El Gaviero es, según Álvaro Mu
Sep 03, 2012 Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, sailing
My computer is broken and I was going to wait to write about Maqroll. Instead, because I loved this book i'll write on my iphone, a much more perilous undertaking. It is seven approximately 100 page novellas written over twenty year span (I need to fact check this). They tell the adventures in non chronological order of one Maqroll the Gaviaro (which refers to his serving in that job as a youth). Gaviaro, as his friends use the name also seems to imply he is the Avante Guard positioned to warn h ...more
Feb 26, 2015 Ariel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
Mutis displays prevalent talent in the unveiling of the adventures and misadventures of the mysterious Maqroll. There is a richness to Mutis' prose and a depth to his writing that evokes comparisons to Conrad, Neruda, and Whitman. I also felt a Dickensian tone to certain parts, primarily those that came straight from Maqroll.

On the basis of talent alone, it's an awesome book. Maqroll is the gin to Mutis' vermouth, a timeless combination - the perfect dry martini. Layered but smooth enough to ca
It took me forever to read because this is a book that requires immersion, so it's not a book that can be picked up, read 20 pages, then set down again. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone -- as another commenter has said, it is most definitely a man's book. What I like is more the HOW it's told than WHAT happens. I have pages and pages of notes that I've taken that I just like the style of the writing, little maxims on life and the human condition:

"I pointed out that the living are often
Oct 17, 2007 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hookers and Hoes, Monkies and fools, this here peach colored book, written by a poet that sold out, that worked for MGM, a poet that was more than 70 at the start and who should be dead by now if only because it's too damn torturous to know he's probably too senile to write and one-- meaning, I might kill him myself-- because there's no waiting for another. Albeit, there are seven novellas, but all totaled they're bigger than some books that are too long already, but to short for a book this goo ...more
Jan 10, 2015 Matthias rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
What's wrong with me? This book has a Stalinist rating on this site, but still I didn't like it. Also, I think I kind of had high expectations from a NYRB book. In other reviews I read that "The Snow of the Admiral" is the best story in the book, but I didn't even like that one, so I decided to stop reading the book there.

"The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll" is obviously well written, but the story isn't captivating. As a matter of fact, it just consists out of small, random and meaning
Mar 13, 2013 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This series of short novels suffers ever so slightly from diminishing returns until the last story blasts you in the face with awesome.

Every page is infused with Mutis’ love of humanity and the tenuous but powerful connection between friends, while dripping with negative emotions regarding our species. There were a few times I came close to smiling while crying.

Big recommendation for anyone who tried to read “Heart of Darkness” or finished and hated it. The first novella tells a very similar sto
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NYRB Classics: The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll, by Álvaro Mutis 1 11 Oct 18, 2013 10:53AM  
The travels of Maquoll 1 19 Oct 22, 2012 08:38PM  
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Novelista y poeta colombiano. Uno de los grandes escritores hispanoamericanos contemporáneos. Autor destacado por la riqueza verbal de su producción y una característica combinación de lírica y narratividad. A lo largo de su carrera literaria ha recibido, entre otros, el Premio Xavier Villaurrutia en 1988, el Premio Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras en 1997, el Premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoa ...more
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“Everything changed when I met the girl. She penetrated a corner of my soul that had been kept sealed and even I didn't know was there. With her gestures, the scent of her skin, her sudden, intense glances that filled me with overwhelming tenderness, with her dependence that was a kind of unthinking, absolute acceptance, she could rescue me instantly from my confusions and obsessions, my discouragement and failure, or my simple daily routine, and leave me inside a radiant circle made of throbbing energy and powerful certainty, like the effects of an unknown drug that produces unconditional happiness.” 16 likes
“Life always holds in store surprises that are more complex and unforeseeable than any dream, and the secret is to let them come and not block them with castles in the air.” 14 likes
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