3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2002
Probably one of his least well-known works, and his least characteristic, owing to its essentially
biographical nature, but nevertheless an astounding novel, The General in His Labyrinth is Garcia Marquez's reconstructed account of the final days of the great General Simon Bolivar, liberator of South America and founder of Bolivia. The novel begins with Bolivar's final departure from the capital, disillusioned, brow-beaten, defeated. It isn't the first time he has left, only to return, and his enemies doubt it will be his last. The rumours about his ill-health are assumed to be lies planted by the General's agents. But the rumours are true; Simon Bolivar is dying. Garcia Marquez has drawn upon a massive bibliography of historical works and historians in order to craft a convincing and moving account of this great figure's last months, but whilst this means his work is factually near-accurate, this at no point reads like a history text book, and does not pretend to be one. Garcia Marquez's novels always depict personal tragedy and suffering, but never in isolation; they are always, however distantly, portrayed as part of the wider suffering of the whole of South America. If one man's sufferings can encapsulate the broken dreams of a liberated
continent, surely Simon Bolivar is that man, and Garcia Marquez rises to the task with talent and verve. Bolivar's liberation of South America from the Spanish with dreams of seeing the continent united for the common good are dashed by individuals' greed, and in his broken spirit we can envisage the grief of millions. As ever, Garcia Marquez's powerful and emotive writing makes the reader heave every sigh along with the protagonist, trapped in his own internal labyrinth of regret and bitterness. If one wishes to know what betrayal and disillusionment on a grand scale feels like, one need only read The General in his Labyrinth. A truly moving and magnificent work.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 1997
Having read The General in his Labyrinth for the
fourth time, I am still amazed by the story, and
way it is told.
This is the story of the last days of Simon Bolivar
the liberator of South America.He is dying of consumption,
old before his time. He leads a sad and noble group of loyal soldiers
and retainers through the wilds of Nueva Granada. There is no
hope - the General is not wanted any more, having watched the
liberated continent fall in upon itself and fragment. Having
taught the people separatism, the tired General is powerless
to stop the inevitable.
And so the journey proceeds, punctuated by heat, torrential rain,
fever, delirium, memories of great loves, and despair. The General's
state of mind is conveyed to the reader in the minutest detail. We are
shown the destruction and self-destruction of a once powerful
man,and the effect is one of witnessing death itself, with
its mystifying loss of personality.
Bolivar rants in fevers, paces the floor unable to sleep, and talks
of the agony of assassination attempts, treacherous infighting, a fickle
public, and memories of strong women.He goes from town to town
with his entourage,in turn feted or reviled according to local
He has the protective love of his closest generals, and the dignified
devotion of his servant Jose Palacios to comfort him on his seemingly
ignoble flight.But this journey is the only possible end for a man of
such brilliant but caustic powers.It gives him and us time to think
about the real nature of power, achievement, history and fate.And the
unstated conclusion the General reaches is that even those blessed
with power and influence, even the most rigorous souls will come
to an inevitable stop that will seem at the time to be just like
any other "damn business".
Bolivar says "I'm old, sick, tired, disillusioned,
harassed, slandered and unappreciated" and "despair
is the health of the damned".When at last death
overtakes the General, Marquez closes his story with one
of the most moving scenes I have read in any novel.
("...the heartless speed of the octagonal clock racing
toward the ineluctable appointment at seven minutes past one..")
People who know Marquez for the "magic" novels may be
wonderfully surprised by this exquisitely written book.
The people, the skies, the rains, the nature, the loves
and the sorrows in this book are chillingly real.
Its beauty quite literally haunts me.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 1997
With the style and eloquent language that earned him the Nobel prize for literature, Marquez weaves a stunning story of glory and despair. Both real history and Marquez' imagination let us enter the world of Simon Bolivar, Liberator of South America, in all his humanity - good and evil.
Bolivar drove the Spanish out of South America, dealt with treachery from his own compatriots. Once hailed as a hero, he is now scorned and reviled, and fighting his own demons, he refuses to die quietly.
We are given a glimpse of the genius and foibles of the man behind the legend, as we accompany him on his last journey, accompanied only by the loyal remants of his once great army.
It is almost guaranteed that after reading this book you will want to travel to South America and to read more about the places and colorful characters who come to life in this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2008
Both Andy and Bruce share my feelings on this obviously well written but frustratingly dull book. I really (really really) had to force myself to finish this book.
on 13 June 2014
I really enjoyed this novel, which is quite different from others by the author, being based on the real life of Simon Bolivar, in particular his final months in 1830.
I didn't know much about Bolivar before reading this, and wasn't sure how much of the novel was fiction and how much was based on real events, but a quick check on Wikipedia suggests that Marquez has based his story on fact, and the only fictitious bits are those that fill in the more private moments that are less well documented. This attempt at accuracy is confirmed by the author's own note at the end of the book.
Important events in Bolivar's life are dealt with as reflections on the past and blend seamlessly into the novel, and I found this a much more enjoyable read than a typical dry biography.
Other reviewers appear to be less impressed by this book than the author's better-known novels, especially 'One Hundred Years of Solitude', but for me the lack of 'magical realism' is a good thing, as I prefer real life to fantasy, and there are still flashes of the author's trademark humour here.
I found the story both interesting and entertaining, and even quite moving, which is surely the mark of a good book.
G.G. Márquez wrote a forceful, naturalistic evocation of the last years of South-America's most ambitious and most important statesman, Simón Bolivár. It is a real `horror story'.
Simón Bolivár's aim was to create a United States of South-America. He chased his outside enemy, Spain, from the continent, but could not defeat his inside enemy, the oligarchies, who `had declared war to death against the idea of integrity because it was unfavorable to the local privileges of the great families.'
As Simón Bolivár has said himself: `Everything I've done has been for the sole purpose of making this continent into a single, independent country. All the rest is bullsh.t.'
Simón Bolivár fought for an idea, not for personal gain or for special interests. Even on his deathbed he planned to fight for his goal against the oligarchies.
He was the great `Liberator', but he ended as `I'm old, sick, tired, disillusioned, harassed, slandered, and unappreciated.'
G.G. Márquez brushes a powerful, brutal picture of the political defeat and the corporal decline of a great man.
It is a bitter, pessimistic, but realistic book.
Not to be missed.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 2012
Fictionalised account of the months following Simon Bolivar's renunciation of the Presidency of Colombia. Events from the General's climb to power and achievement of his political ambitions are chronicled, together with detailed accounts of his state of health and relations with his retinue. Worthy insights into power and politics but lacking in sparkle, however.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 22 August 2000
I think it's clear that the text is written by an intellectual with a sharp mind and pen, and has been beautifully translated. But I'm interested to know whether other readers have experienced my troubles in actually enjoying the tale. There is no obvious movement away from the central character, no development of his relationships with others, each chapter relates ill-humour, sickness and bitterness. But Marquez's sentences are sharp and dramatic and relate the Hispanic temperament well. I've never before come across what is clearly a good book, but just so unenjoyable.
The book charts the final journey of the doomed South American Unionist Simon Bolivar, ravaged by defeat and illness. He is referred to throughout as "The General" and it appears to me that the labyrinth is most likely the state of the general's decaying mind.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2002
Marquez is one of the great writers of our time and I regard One Hundred Years of Solitude an unassailable masterpiece. I've read two other Marquez novels and several of his stories, so was caught off guard by the format of this work. It is like watching the entirety of The Wizard of Oz in black and white. I miss the flights of fancy and the limpid lyricism of his "magical" fiction. I don't believe Marquez felt comfortable with the historical fiction genre. As another reviewer alluded to, it probably had something to do with the subject matter. Marquez obviously reveres El Liberador so greatly that he doesn't want to overstep certain bounds. In his postscript, Marquez relates the difficulties he encountered in trying to write a serious historical account. He ends the postscript by saying "...I am not certain I should give thanks for these two final pieces of assistance, for it seems to me that such absurdities might add a few drops of involuntary - and perhaps desireable - humor to the horror of this book.
This work recounts Bolivar's final two-week voyage up the Magdalena River, ostensibly to leave the splintered Republics and sail off to a number of possible designations (Jamaica? Europe?); but in essence it is more a voyage across the Styx towards the Underworld. Bolivar, with the scattered remnants of his forces joining him, is a dead man walking. The life force ebbs out of him over the course of the journey, leading to Bolivar's ultimate demise at Riohaca. Marquez depicts him as a disillusioned, cadaverous, old soldier (he's in his forties but looks more like 60)whose grand efforts at war and diplomacy and whose vision of a united Republic of South America have been destroyed by splinter groups and factional infighting. Unfortunately, for this reader at least, I found myself about three-quarters of the way through this novel wishing that the General would hurry up and die. The endless series of card-games, the melange of officers and characters who assume no real importance in the story, the sense of ennui that settles over both character and reader, propel the story nowhere.
I was dissapointed by this book, but it will hardly put me off from reading more Marquez. A friend has recommended Love in the Time of Cholera and it sounds much more like the Marquez I am used to . I am looking forward to reading it.
on 24 February 2015
I received this book as a gift and it blew me away! Beautifully written, intellectual and truly extraordinary. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and just could not put it down. Marquez has a talent for descriptive text and is very vivid within storytelling. This book is most certainly my favorite piece I have read so far and will not be forgotten. I see myself rereading it many times in the coming years, a true masterpiece.