Jun 26, 07
hard-core Latin American historians only!
Read in June, 2007
Boy, I trudged my way through this fictionalized account of Simón Bolívar's final voyage along the Magdalena River. The prose is sharp and beautiful when it needs to be (this is, after all, García Marquez), but the story held no interest. In fact, I'm tempted to ask in response: what story?
People and places from the General's life are constantly evoked, but on this point I have two major critiques: first, the flashbacks are far too paltry (a page or two at most) to really generate any parallel - much less, compelling - storyline. The persons mentioned in these flashbacks reappear throughout the journey, but it feels like a revolving door of dry, one-dimensional historical figures to whom the reader (well, me at least) is unable to form any meaningful relationship. Second, as a consequence of the first point, too much is expected of the reader in terms of, well, South American history, but really Colombian history as well. I found myself thinking, why was this book translated into English?
Finally, I found the General to be a rather uninteresting character. García Márquez often mentions the various "inconsistencies" in his life and loves, but that's a cheap way to add character depth. God, I was so glad when, at the end, the General finally died! If you're going to tell the stories that History forgot, a far more interesting tale would have been the imagined life of José Palacios, a former slave and the General's most loyal servant.