A master of fiction turns to non-fiction for this narrative of a sailor who was shipwrecked for 10 days on the Caribbean before being washed ashore in his native Colombia, half-dead. Garcia Marquez, the Nobel Laureate famed for his novels, actually wrote this short essay as a series of newspaper articles over 30 years ago in Bogota. Writing in the voice of the sailor, Luis Alejandro Velasco, the author narrates how Velasco had set sail from Mobile, Alabama, in a ship laden with contraband goods. Struck by an ominous storm, Velasco and four of his mates were pitched into the sea, where Velasco watched all of them drown in turn before he miraculously spotted one of the ship's life rafts floating on the turbulent sea towards him. Himself nearly drowning, Velasco managed one last Herculean effort to reach the raft. Therein begins his harrowing tale of fighting off daily rounds of hunger, thirst, blazing sun, and sharks as he drifts aimlessly, yet measurably, toward Colombia. Though near death upon his salvation on a deserted beach, Velasco suddenly finds himself a hero to the peasants who discover him, and he spends some time thereafter trying to peddle his story for money. Garcia Marquez spent 120 hours interviewing Velasco (which amounts to over an hour per page); and the result shows in its detail. When the articles first appeared, Garcia Marquez's name was not used (they were signed by Velasco himself). But the story is undeniably Garcia Marquez; there is a fatalism here which fits neatly into the normal scheme of his great fiction: at no time does Velasco ever really interfere with his fate or grasp any opportunity to transcend his situation. Rather, he drifts and Fate decrees that his direction is toward survival. A tailor-made tale for the author—himself a drifter from his native land—and one that gives great insight into his early years as a writer. To be read for that reason alone.
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