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Primero estaba el mar

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  724 ratings  ·  106 reviews
J. y su novia Elena están cansados de la vida superficial en la ciudad y deciden empezar de nuevo en la costa caribe colombiana.

Al poco tiempo, esa promesa de límpidos amaneceres y arena entre los dedos se revela despiadada y la naturaleza deja de ser anhelo para convertirse en el recuerdo de cuán frágil es todo intento humano de perdurar.

Tragedia a
Hardcover, 180 pages
Published November 3rd 2015 by Seix Barral (first published 1983)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  724 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-1983
I wanted to love this book because the original Pushkin edition is so pretty that I wanted to keep it. And I’m only allowed to keep books that I loved. For this reason I probably was more forgiving towards it. The same way a man is allowed to be just a little bit more stupid if he is very handsome (although I find myself to be stricter about this as I grow older – great abs don’t last forever).

‘In the Beginning Was the Sea’ also had a great premise – Colombia, 1970s, a couple moves from the cit
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the beginning was the death of author Tomas Gonzalez’s brother Juan – in real life. Out of that tragedy arose this fictionalized novel and early on, we know the ending: J. (as he is called in this book) and his partner Elena are doomed.

The two of them, in their mid-30s, want to flee “the whole highbrow-anarcho-lefty businessman bullshit, that mixture of colonial, bohemian and hippie” and buy a finca (a decrepit estate) on the coast of Columbia to “enjoy life, buy a little boat for
Alice Lippart
Loved the setting, but wished the characters had a little more depth.
Eric Anderson
I haven’t felt this ambivalent about a novel for a long time. I generally get to a point fifty pages into a novel or halfway through where I pause to consider what I’m getting out of this book. If the answer is nothing I generally put it aside. I wouldn’t throw it out because there are novels I’ve come back to years later and become captivated by after dismissing them on a first reading. Books that don’t grip my imagination more often bore me than offend me. But reading González’s “In the Beginn ...more
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: orgasmic
Loved this. Beautifully rich and vivid tale of dread, rum, and a bohemian couples undoing on the tropical coast - shot through with moments of incandescence, tragedy and a kind of Hemingwayian clout.
Pickle Farmer
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyably dark, deliciously Herzogian and bitingly humorous story about J. and Elena, a yuppie-ish Medellín couple who move to the Caribbean coast of Colombia. At first we think it's just for tourism (even though Elena has brought along her sewing machine) but slowly learn that they are in fact planning to settle down, start a "finca" (the Spanish word for farm), begin a new life for themselves

My favorite thing about this book was the dark, dark humor. Oh, how it made me snort, an
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So beautiful! Loved it! Longer review soon!
Jan 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a grim little book that is published for the first time in English. It was so grim that I had trouble finishing it- and like I said, it’s a very small book. It’s not that the writing is bad- far from it- but the plot is one of bad luck and bad decisions and the characters are not likeable whatsoever.

In the 1970s, J. and his wife Elena decide to give up on their careers and go and live off the land- with investments to sustain them, of course. They have bought a small estate, or finca, s
pushkin press fast becoming one of my favorites. this pushkin paperback is the story of fed up city couple moving to a farm on the coast. chickens, some cows, huge gardens and fish at the doorstep. perfect right? riiight? well, we all remember what happened on the mosquito coast farm The Mosquito Coast
the back story of this story is heartbreaking and sad. so perhaps author gonzalez has some grim outlook, but beautiful writing of nature, farming, fishing, fucked up interpersonal relationships.

jill h
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't understand the acclaim for this. Some of the minor characters are quite entertaining, but little else seemed worthy of praise. The translation may be a poor one - the same gun is referred to as both a shotgun and a rifle, for example - but most if not all of the publications quoted as praising the book in my copy must have read the same version.

I'm typing this on my phone, so I can't be bothered to list everything I thought was uninspired - not awful, just uninspired. Everything, pretty
My rating is 4.5 stars.

Perhaps one of the most atmospheric novels I have read in recent times. The build up to the ultimate event and setting is outstanding enough to give you the creeps. Wish the ending was not so sudden and quick. After all the slow burn it is as if the flame was suddenly snuffed out. A brilliant read nevertheless.
Jun 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty solid as far as debuts go, but lacks emotional depth. Many instances of narrative devices waving OHAI I'M A NARRATIVE DEVICE flags.

Great story though! I'd have loved to watch it play out from a much closer vantage.
Sofia Lozano
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shows a reality of an indie Colombian couple in the 60s-70s. This based-on-real-events novel left me wanting to explore this author. It is one of great depth of analysis... other than in Spanish, it can be found in english or french. The descriptions in the book have the capacity to the reach the deepest senses, and make you live the plot along.
Heidi Burkhart
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It has been quite a while since I felt that I have read a masterpiece. Incredible.

Gonzalez is gifted, and perhaps a Nobel 40 years down the road will have his name on it?
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great start to the reading year.
Dec 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was super short, which i liked. I liked that you get to know the characters but in sort of a detached way, where you want to know what happens to them but don't particularly care if they turn out alright. Good short, easy read.
May 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed it quite a bit, was expecting something adventurous along the lines of 'The Beach' but it was much darker. Considering it was translated it was really well written and had great descriptions of the Columbian island it is set on.
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Astonishing short novel that melds Joseph Conrad, Cormac McCarthy and Robert Louis Stevenson. A sense of hope and excitement gives way to despair and, ultimately murder, as J. and Elana fall victim to their surroundings. Perfectly contained cabin fever-type book.
Andrew West
Jun 08, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I can see why people might like this, but it's very much not my thing. Unpleasant things happen to unpleasant people; this made me glad.
Aly Pavitt
For a character driven story, most of the characters went little beyond cardboard cutout stereotypes. Shame, because the setting was charmingly drawn.
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel starts with J. and Elena in transit to moving Medellin to get away from cocaine, drugs, alcohol parties that have been their life to a small island off the coast, (there is a reference to it being near Panama) where J. has bought a finca (a country house) which has land, some trees and a number of cattle (and less left in the field now than when he agreed to buy them). Misfortune befalls Elena almost immediately as her Singer sewing machine gets damaged as a worker at the bus company ...more
Mary D
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eb-recommend
This very short book starts as a utopian fairy tale and morphs into a Hobbseian nightmare. It is actually based on the real life story of the author’s brother. Even though it is the author’s brother the style at first has some objectivity of the events but slowly pulls you into the more personal and emotional deteriorating lives of the characters.

Quick tempered Elena and somewhat lazy J. are a young idealistic couple who want to escape the trappings of the material world in Medellin, Columbia a
Julie Richert-Taylor
The official review of this book is brilliantly done. Writing is uncomfortably spare and frank which has the effect of heightening the drama. I often read in shock and stunned amusement, recognizing so many of the things that can conspire to work against the best laid plans and highest aspirations. I kept willing our main characters to conquer themselves! To shake off the apathy and to act!
"to J. who had always been fascinated by futile intellectual pursuits which were a part of his inchoa
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Boring. Don't know why I finished it.
Cameron Braun
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A powerful description of a couple that attempts to run a farm on an island. It's a passionate portrayal of how nasty paradise can be to some. A sad story set in a beautiful location.
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
beautiful writing, horrible ending....
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a grim story of a failing relationship and a far-out dream, but I still liked it. The translated writing was ok but I still felt compelled to keep reading.
Aug 09, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't like it at all.
May 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Spoiler alert: the married couple has a conflict in the book.

I was really annoyed by the way the author was framing the husband and wife through this conflict. If you know anything about human psychology, you know that in the conflict in a relationship, there are always two to blame, it's never doing of a one person. Yet, the way the author is describing the wife is so different from the way he is describing the husband. She is crazy, emotional, aggressive, he is calm, peaceful, lovi
May 05, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not much of a story. This book has a family resemblance with "Stones for Ibarra". In both books, a middle-class couple impulsively decides to relocate in the midst of a primitive community, and faces the consequences. In both cases, we learn early on that the man will meet an untimely death, but whereas Richard dies of a cardiac disease, the protagonist of this book dies a violent death. In both books, the author makes a point of giving us few clues about what sort of life the couple led prior t ...more
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Tomás González nació en Medellín, en 1950, y comenzó a escribir a principios de la década de los setenta, poco después de empezar a estudiar filosofía en la Universidad Nacional de Colombia. A partir de entonces no ha parado de escribir, publicando sus libros en Colombia y México. Aparte de algunos poemas y cuentos que se sitúan en Nueva York, el resto de su obra se centra en Colombia. Ha publicad ...more