Saturday, May 16, 2009

Gerald Martin Gabriel García Márquez - A Life

Jonathan Yardley reviews Gerald Martin's Gabriel García Márquez - A Life

Far more so than most writers, Gabriel García Márquez has lived a full life that goes beyond his typewriter or, more recently, his computer. Not merely has he written three of the 20th century's greatest novels -- "One Hundred Years of Solitude," "The Autumn of the Patriarch" and "Love in the Time of Cholera" -- but he has been a highly active participant in public events during a time of immense change and controversy in Latin America. He has been the friend and confidant of presidents (and dictators), a leading advocate of leftist politics, a dabbler in movie-making and a widely read, influential journalist, among other things.

For the literary biographer, this is a heady mix. To be sure, in García Márquez's case as in every writer's, the books are all that really matters, but there's a real story here as well. Gerald Martin, a British academic who specializes in Latin American literature, has been "working on this biography for seventeen years," with the "friendly, hospitable and tolerant" acquiescence of its subject, and on the whole has made the most of the opportunities that García Márquez's life offers. He does rattle on too long about García Márquez's political activities, but he skillfully shows how a long journalistic apprenticeship led to the incredible creative explosion that produced "One Hundred Years of Solitude."

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