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The Autumn of the Patriarch
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1001 book reviews > The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Márquez

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Diane  | 2051 comments Rating: 4 Stars

I have read several books by this author and this was by far the most difficult read. Even more so than One Hundred Years of Solitude. There is very little punctuation and no paragraph breaks in my edition. It is also ultra-stream-of-consciousness and heavy in the magical realism department. It even switches tenses frequently and abruptly. Once you get past all of that, it is rewarding. It creates a mesmerizing, almost dream-like state.

The book is about a corrupt, nameless dictator of a Latin American country on the Caribbean, possibly reminiscent of Colombia. The reader learns how he becomes less human as the years progress. He does some completely atrocious and unforgivable things during his 100+ year reign, yet Garcia Márquez manages to make him seem somewhat human. Overall, a difficult, but brilliant novel.

Gail (gailifer) | 1536 comments I have finished reading The Autumn of the Patriarch as part of the Diversity read comparing books from Colombia for January/February 2019.

A brilliant tale about an aging dictator, the General, in a Caribbean country who comes to power through force during multiple civil wars, learns to leverage the "love" of the people and then stays in power through the use of extreme brutality and a power so corrupt that he ultimately comes to trust no one. Further, he is so removed from reality, he only watches the TV station that does what he tells them to (all happy endings) and only reads a newspaper that has a subscriber base of exactly one, the general himself. He is backed by Marines who are obviously a stand in for the US and ends up selling them the very sea in order to fund the government. Although the General is despicable, he is given some human characteristics such as the love of his mother, an obsession with a young nun who he makes his wife and a strange foreboding about death that permeates his entire and very long life.

As Diane notes above, this is not an easy read. It is endless run-on sentences filled with coma's but no other way of setting up a rhythm or breaking the gush of words that never tires and never slows down. Gabriel Garcia Márquez, the author, isn't even using the Modernist convention of one narrator's stream of consciousness. Rather we are in a river of narratives that happen as one stream. There is a god's eye view, the view of an "every man" narrator who is part of the party that finds the general dead on the first page, the general himself who is often just muttering aloud to himself and an occasional other character such as other military men, his wife, an ambassador or his mother. There is never anything that alerts the reader as to spoken dialogue versus internal, plus with the multiple stream you can have a him, they, I, mine in one sentence all denoting the same character or four different groups of characters. There is GGM's Magical Realism at play also, although in this book, it is really Horrific surrealism rather than "magic" or "realism" per se although there is plenty of divinations throughout. There is rushed and forced sex without satisfaction and an on-going obsession with eschatology although the translator uses other words for it. Plus the story flows back and forth through time with GGM's sense of timelessness pervading the whole story so that one is left with the sense that the horrors of this world of dictators and monomaniacs is endless.
I agree with Diane that it is a difficult, but brilliant novel.
4 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4258 comments Mod
Read 2014; This book is a masterpiece of the run on sentence, paragraphs without end and magical realism. It is about a dictator of an Island in the Caribbean. There is several chapters and I believe each chapter repeats the previous one with maybe a shift in the emphasis or characters but all are about the dictator and his mother. The dictator sees himself as eternal God and his mother as a saint. This has been described as having endless layers and I think that is very true and that this books probably should be read many times. Really, whether you like magical realism or not, this author was a master at his craft and a genius.

Daisey | 272 comments I listened to this on audio, which I think helped with the difficulty of the run-on sentences mentioned by other reviewers. It was not easily available in print from any of my libraries, but I am curious to peruse it at some point.
As for the story itself, I‘m not quite sure what to think of it. It is a story of a incredibly cruel dictator. I was often lost as to who was supposed to be telling the story as well as being unsure of exactly what was real and what wasn‘t. Yet, I was caught up in the truly horrible events and fascinated by how they were described, so that I just kept listening.

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