Synopses & Reviews
La primera biografía completa y autorizada sobre el más querido y admirado escritor latinoamericano
Gerald Martin dedicó más de dos décadas a investigar y escribir esta magistral biografía. Pasó horas con Gabriel García Márquez y entrevistó a más de trescientas personas, incluyendo a la madre, mujer, hijos y familiares del autor, además de a famosos escritores y políticos como Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa y Fidel Castro. El resultado revela tanto al escritor como al hombre.
Nacido en 1927 y educado por sus abuelos en una pequeña aldea colombiana, el tímido e inteligente muchacho se convirtió en un hombre reservado, un periodista que encontró la fama como novelista, a los cuarenta años, tras publicar Cien años de soledad, la novela que dio lugar al Realismo Mágico y obra cumbre de la literatura latinoamericana del siglo XX. Pero a pesar de su fama, nunca perdió el contacto con sus raíces; aunque vivió lejos de Colombia desde 1955, la concesión del Premio Nobel fue celebrada por todos los latinoamericanos que, entonces como ahora, consideran a “Gabo” como uno de los suyos.
Al contar la apasionante historia de su compleja vida, Martin balancea las tensiones entre pobreza y riqueza, popularidad y calidad literaria, política y literatura, y entre poder, soledad y amor. Gerald Martin ha escrito una biografía magnífica: enriquecedora, iluminadora, tan apasionante como el más agudo periodismo de García Márquez y tan fascinante como la mejor de sus novelas.
The first comprehensive biography of the popular international novelist, author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Love in the Time of Cholera," is now available in a Spanish-language edition.
About the Author
Gerald Martin es el Profesor Emérito Andrew W. Mellon de Lenguas Modernas en la Universidad de Pittsburgh y profesor de Estudios Caribeños en la London Metropolitan University. Durante veinticinco años fue el único nativo inglés miembro de los “Archivos” Asociación de Literatura Latino Americana del Siglo XX en París, y ha sido presidente del Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana en los Estados Unidos. Entre sus publicaciones se encuentra Journeys Through the Labyrinth: Latin American Fiction in the Twentieth Century, una traducción y edición crítica de Hombres de maíz de Miguel Ángel Asturias y varias contribuciones al Cambridge History of Latin America. Vive en Inglaterra.
Reading Group Guide
1. Martin points out that Márquez's living with his grandparents was crucial to the person and the writer he became: “Gabito and [his sister] Margot were being brought up by old people and had developed quite a different world-view, obsessive, superstitious, fatalistic and fearful but also diligent and efficient. . . . [They] must have felt inexplicably abandoned by their parents . . . yet privileged to be cared for in the house of the much-respected and much-loved grandparents” (p. 56). What did this early stage of life provide for the future writer, despite the bewilderment of his mother’s absence? Why was the influence of his grandparents so powerful in his life and imagination?
2. Arguably the most important moment in García Márquez’s life occurred when he and his mother took a journey to Aracataca to sell the house of his maternal grandparents. “What really happened to me in that trip to Aracataca was that I realized that everything that had occurred in my childhood had a literary value that I was only now appreciating” (p. 133). Why is this episode so crucial not only to his vocation as a writer but as a key to his whole imaginative world?
3. In Bogotá during the 1950s, García Márquez took a point of view in his journalism “which was implicitly subversive of official stories and thus challenged the ruling system more effectively than any of his more vocal leftist colleagues” (p. 170). How did his career as a journalist help to develop his political and social conscience? How did it shape his approach to storytelling?
4. García Márquez has often been criticized for his tendency to be drawn to men of power—Fidel Castro, General Omar Torrijos, Felipe González, Bill Clinton, and many others—and to attempt to mediate between them in international affairs. Regarding an article García Márquez wrote in praise of his friend Torrijos, Martin asks, “Was he writing about men of power, to men of power, or for them?” (p. 380). How would you answer this question?
5. About García Márquez’s memoir Living to Tell the Tale Martin says, “The book contains his public life and his ‘false,’ invented life, but it does not contain much of his ‘private’ life and very little indeed of his ‘secret’ life” (p. 524). Throughout the biography, Martin shows how García Márquez has taken measures to control the story of his life. If you have read Living to Tell the Tale, what is the version that comes across? How does it differ from the story the Martin tells? Discuss García Márquez’s directive to Martin, “Just write what you see; whatever you write, that is what I will be” (p. xxi).
6. From 1973 to 1979, García Márquez dedicated himself to political engagement and activism, mainly on behalf of Chile and Cuba (Chapter 19). Then, in September 1981, he turned away from direct political action and declared himself “more dangerous as a writer than as a politician” (p. 390). Is this a judgment with which you agree? Why or why not?
7. Martin provides a great deal of insight into the cultural divide between coastal and upland Colombia (Chapters 4 and 5). What does it mean to be from the Caribbean coast, as García Márquez is, and from Bogotá and the interior? How does the biography help you to understand how deeply Latin American, and more specifically a costeño Colombian, García Márquez is, and how he brings that sensibility to his writing? Why did Gabriel García Márquez make such a point of displaying his native culture and dress at the Nobel Prize ceremony (pp. 418-21)?
8. García Márquez said, after winning the Nobel, “I was always famous, from the time I was born. It’s just that I was the only one who knew it” (p. 430). The second half of the biography describes the process whereby García Márquez adapted to his immense popularity. He fiercely protected his private life and destroyed all letters and drafts of his work, while on the other hand, he seems to have exploited his fame and actively sought attention on the world political stage. This is the story of a cultural phenomenon as well as that of a great writer. How do you understand the relationship between these two personas?
9. One of the notable elements of García Márquez’s work is the strong presence of prostitution alongside love and marriage. García Márquez’s first sexual experience was with a prostitute at a local brothel, and his father seems to have arranged the situation. García Márquez said, “It was the most awful thing that ever happened to me, because I didn’t know what was going on” (p. 71). How do you see the effect, in his work, of the extensive early sexual experiences detailed by Martin in Chapter 4? Discuss, too, García Márquez’s family situation; his difficult relationship with his father Gabriel Eligio, who “kept his long-suffering wife locked inside the home on a strict, patriarchal basis, yet . . . betrayed her sexually—even scandalously—on numerous occasions” and produced four illegitimate children as well (p. 434).
10. What do you see as the key moments in García Márquez’s long and varied artistic career? Which books, for you, are clearly great works? What are the elements of his imaginative world that are unique, appealing, unforgettable?
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The questions, discussion topics, and suggested reading that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about Gerald Martin’s Gabriel García Márquez: A Life. The second half of the guide is intended to provide an introduction to the work of García Márquez and to provide ways of thinking about and discussing his fiction and nonfiction.