The first book review I ever published was of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Living to Tell the Tale. Although its lack of eloquence and trying to hard style somewhat embarrasses me now, I did want to re-publish it on this blog as a tribute to one of the greatest writers this world has ever known. We will not look upon his like again.
There are not too many things in this world that I am sure about. I’m not sure who killed John F. Kennedy. I’m not sure if there will ever be peace between the people of Israel and Palestine. I’m not sure if we will ever discover who Jack the Ripper was. I’m not even sure if God exists. One thing I am absolutely sure about is that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is perhaps our greatest living writer. Each sentence Marquez writes is like an exquisite melody, or sculpture by Michelangelo. He transforms our world into a mysterious and almond-scented landscape reminiscent of some long forgotten moment. Since writing his masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1967 and winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, Marquez has enchanted readers and academics across the globe. He is, quite simply, our era’s Homer, our Shakespeare.
In his new and highly anticipated autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale, Marquez, or “Gabo” as he is affectionately known, recalls the events in his early life and development as a writer. Spanning the late 1920s to the middle 1950s, Gabo paints for his readers a portrait of not only a man who grew up to become a famous novelist, but, and perhaps more importantly, a “lost” magical world that eventually tripped into the bloody arms of a violent and long lasting civil war. Although Living to Tell the Tale is not told in the linear fashion so many readers are used to, the stories he tells are all intertwined and connected to the thesis that a writer is not only the product of the world he or she inhabits, but is the determiner of that world as well. When reading this book one gets the impression that Gabo is sitting right across from us spinning yarns late into the afternoon. It’s quite easy to get lost in the magic of his voice. This is not only an autobiography, it’s a testament to the art of storytelling itself. Consider the epigraph Gabo begins his book with: “Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” What’s important is how we go about telling our stories. With Gabo stories, that is, literature, and journalism are part of the same process. This book discusses the intersection of journalism and literature and how Gabo came to the craft of writing.
All too often we amuse ourselves with the disposable writings of any number of authors on the bestseller lists. Moreover, our society’s obsession with Hollywood and the gossipization of the evening news, has successfully shortened our attention span. We are no longer interested in the epic, the Dickensian plot lines with its cast of thousands. And this is truly a loss for culture at large. We are no longer as smart as we once were. Yet, if we are willing to get lost in the literary labyrinths of Gabo’s words we can regain some of that intelligence.
Living to Tell the Tale allows the reader to wander gently into the conversational stream of a master. It is the mark of a true genius to make the reader feel comfortable enough in his or her writing that the reader will shed all, or almost all, inhibitions. The reader of a really great book will give himself or herself over to the author in much the same way a child will place its trust in a parent. Readers of Living to Tell the Tale will benefit greatly from placing their trust in Gabo. As readers we come away from the table richer for having spent some time with him.