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A Life
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A probing biography of the 1982 Nobel Prize laureate in literature, whom Pablo Neruda hailed as a Cervantes for our time.

Martin (Modern Languages/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Journeys Through the Labyrinth: Latin American Fiction in the Twentieth Century, 1989, etc.) begins by noting that he has been working on this life of Gabriel García Márquez for two decades. The effort shows. Born in 1927, García Márquez remains best known for the book he published when he was 40, One Hundred Years of Solitude, a generational epic whose landscape stretches from ocean to deep jungle. Martin’s signal contribution is to reveal, even more so than García Márquez did in his memoir, just how roman à clef–ish that fictional world is. Yet, of course, a particular storytelling genius is needed to bring even the liveliest real-world figures into habitation in a novel. Martin rightly notes that whereas the literature of the first half of the 20th century has several central figures—Woolf, Joyce, Hemingway et al.—that of the latter half finds only García Márquez universally acknowledged as a master. That acknowledgment took years to come, of course, and early on García Márquez was written off as a would-be Faulkner—Faulkner being one of his idols and central to the development of modern Latin American literature, a body of work in which, as Martin also observes, García Márquez’s writings appear conservative against his postmodern fellows, and even scorned for being “transparent, easy to read, and accessible even to people who only had a modest literary education.” Martin offers lucid literary commentary alongside the facts of his subject’s life, which, as is well known, was marked by excellence in journalism and controversy in politics. Though García Márquez was a noted scourger of Yankee imperialism and friend of Castro, Chavez and the like, he was not shy about having amassed considerable wealth over a long career.

Essential for García Márquez fans, and an exemplary literary biography.

Pub Date: May 20th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-307-27177-8
Page count: 672pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2009


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