The Autumn of the Patriarch – Gabriel García Márquez

gabriel-garcia-marquez-the-autumn-of-the-patriarchReading anything by Gabriel García Márquez, is always an experience and most of the time it is a grand affair, as my previous three reviews of the same author will attest, but this time, I felt The Autumn of the Patriarch lacked in some way,

The plot, centres around the isolated, and lonely figure of a dictator, who is feared and mocked in equal measure. Tracing a line throughout the despots history (the General of the Universe as he becomes known), it shows the corrupting influence of power upon the souls of the people in charge, the hypocrisy of a system hopelessly out of date and slowly dissolving in its own putrescence. It glories in the irony of the ultimately powerless dictator finally becoming just a figurehead of a nation and nothing more.  Once a hero, now just a jaded man whose public waits patiently for the end of his reign.

The usual backdrop of tangible magical realism is still palpable as well as the trademark duality of the almost surreal world of decay and miracles.  A dark atmosphere of mercenary thoughts and solitude pervading throughout making this a very brooding novel.

The wonderful soaring and sweeping of the language, the very basis of what sets Márquez apart from most other authors is still as audacious as ever:

…dishevelled by the winds of space as it left across the world a trail radiant with star debris and dawns delayed by tarry moons and ashes from the craters of oceans previous to the origins of earth time, there it is, queen, he murmured, take a good look at it for we won’t see it again for another century, and she crossed herself in terror, more beautiful than ever under the phosphorous glow of the comet, and with her head snowy from the soft drizzle of astral trash, and celestial sediment, and it was then that it happened, mother of mine, Bendición Alvarado, it happened that Manuela Sánchez had seen the abyss of eternity in the sky and trying to cling to life she had reached out her hand into space and the only thing she found to hang onto was the undesirable hand with the presidential ring, his hot stiff hand of rapine cooked in the embers of the slow fire of power.

I don’t usually quote at such length but this time I think it’s justified, in showing you the scope of what he consistently achieves.  It was really difficult to pick out a quote partly because it is all so first-rate, as well as this there is the structure of the book to consider, it prevents what I would call a ‘clean’ quotation, in the sense that there hardly and full stops and no paragraphs whatsoever and with writing of this quality the temptation to quote just a little more was always with me.

What lets it down however, albeit slightly, is the lack of structure, this is very much a stream of consciousness piece, Character perspectives run into each other and change sometimes in mid sentence meaning for a confusing few seconds, to begin with.  Although it does take you by surprise for the first few times, after that it becomes almost second nature to read it as such.

What makes this book less appealing than the others…well it’s something I can’t really put my finger on, perhaps it was more to do with my mindset than it is to do with the book, or perhaps it is the style in which the languid plot develops that never really satisfied me.  Still I would urge everyone to read Márquez, as I always do, just not start with this one.

23 Replies to “The Autumn of the Patriarch – Gabriel García Márquez”

    1. That’s part of the challenge, you may be catapulted into a whole new genre of awesomeness…and there are some wondrous magical realism authors out there.


  1. Ok ~ so I imagine that for my first Marquez read then, you might suggest *Love in the Time of Cholera* — Yes? I just read your review on it, and sounds pretty fabulous… Thanks Set J – you are a most excellent connoisseur of books for us! 🙂 ~ x RL


    1. It is structurally less complicated than his other great work One hundred Years of Solitude, not that that is to complicated but to ease yourself in then yes love in the Time is the one I would pick. I purchased a copy for Christina who is enjoying it immensely at the moment.


      1. Thank you so much Set J~ that sounds perfect. Yes – better for me to begin with “structurally uncomplicated” ~ I am limited in my ability to be still for very long… always needing to move to engage muscle and stabilize this misbehaved hip joint that thinks its job is to dislocate all day. This has really gotten in the way of my reading long literary works… and complex ones that require a lot of dissecting. I’ve actually been discovering audio books – and it’s not a bad deal – but if the narrator is lacking can kill the experience. Of course can’t earmark pages and color in margins either 😦 ~ Ok will put this book on my wish-list for sure then. So cool Christina is reading it too~ yay~ Love to you …and not sure where you are — thinking not in USA? — so unsure if Happy 4th is in order?


          1. I wouldn’t have noticed had you not mentioned it. I thought computers were supposed to be clever these days, or does that only apply to Chess, I wonder.


        1. I am an Englander, so I hope you enjoy your ‘stealing land off of us, who stole the land off others’ day! Hehe, I hope you have a fantastic one. I know what you mean about audio books, there are some narrators who have no passion and have you drifting off with their monotony, which is how I envision my long in the works vlog post may turn out…but that is for another day.


          1. lol ~ so nice to learn more dear Englander!
            oooo you are doing a VLOG post? Will it be a book review as well? I am very excited — get going… I am sure it will be fantastic! 🙂


            1. I am thinking it may be a book review, I do get a bit tongue tidied in my enthusiasm so I have to take a deep breath and try and be more eloquent or at least enunciate. If the first one goes well, I will be looking to experiment with different types of vlogs…although I haven’t worked out what that phrase means yet.


              1. I did not know what vlog meant either – but then Christina did one ~ and Penny used the term.. so I made the connection finally:) I am sure yours will be superb!


                1. I am hoping so, I had grand ideas of explosions and all star casts until I realised I have no budget other than a bit of money to buy some food. Perhaps I can fashion that into something exciting…or not, best stick to the books.


  2. Like Alastair, I’ll look this author up… I wonder… Is he the author of ‘The Shadow Of The Wind? Don’t bother, I’ll find out myself! Great review by the way! 🙂


    1. Thanks, I wasn’t going to do it but got that inspiration bug that I crave to have all the time. The Shadow of the Wind is not as accomplished as this in terms of style or prose in my opinion. I thought some of those plot points seemed a bit forced. Perhaps I should keep my opinions in my pocket until I review that though….


  3. Despite the sweep of democracy all over we still have some despotic figures around even if parading under the guise of good old democracy and monarchies. This is a book that may have implications for us even today. A fine review. 🙂


    1. I think anyone in government anywhere should read this and learn about how power is a dangerous and corrupting thing. You are right there are so many democracies out there that are really just masquerades of what they claim to be, or worse.


  4. As soon as I saw the author’s name I was excited about the review. I will most likely put this lower on my list as I trust your words. Hope all is well on your side of the pond. It is a dreary rainy day in the midwest.


    1. He had a scoring 82F today, which is just to hot! I’m glad you trust my words, although he is a better writer than most, I just didn’t have the same enjoyment with this one. He has done better books, although most authors would give their right arm and possibly left to have written this…they would have given them after they’d written it of course.


  5. I am yet to lay hands on this. Like you, Marquez has so far only always amazed me, and I quite seem to never have enough of his literary magic. So to say. I may do this when days get draggy for me which’ll anytime now as the summer’s starting to set in.


    1. He was a true talent and is sorely missed. You will love this for all of its (as usual) amazing writing. I haven’t read any Márquez for a good year or two now, I need to get involved with him again.

      Liked by 1 person

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