|Living to Tell the Tale, the first of three projected volumes in the memoirs of Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia MÃ¡rquez, narrates what, on the surface appears to be the portrait of the young artist through the mid-1950s. But the masterful work, which draws on the craft of the author's best fiction, has a depth and richness that transcends straightforward autobiography. |
Echoing Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited, MÃ¡rquez uses his memoir as justification for telling an artful story that challenges notions of authoritative record or chronology. Time is porous in MÃ¡rquez's Colombia, flowing back and forth among the mythic moments of his personal history to accommodate his fascination for place. While recalling a trip he took as an adult to his grandparents' house in Aracataca, he veers suddenly back to childhood and his earliest infant memories in that house. Nearly one hundred pages have passed before he returns effortlessly to the pivotal moment on the trip when he declares to himself and family: "I'm going to be a writer... Nothing but a writer.'
Similarly, MÃ¡rquez toys with the boundaries of truth and fiction throughout his book. He acknowledges that his memory is often faulty, especially with regards to his crucial, formative years with his grandparents. And his explorations of key moments in his life show that, despite his vivid mental snapshots, the events were often temporally impossible. Further, he colors his tale with recollections of ghostly presences and occult events that pass without a wink into his narrative, alongside the documented accounts of his early successes as a poet and singer or details of his first published writings.
With its play on time and truth, memory and storytelling, Living to Tell the Tale's literary form acts as early evidence for MÃ¡rquez's inevitable calling as a writer, and the language of Edith Grossman's translation, which frequently skirts the boundaries of poetry, mirrors MÃ¡rquez's effort. While he meanders on his picaresque artistic journey--distracted by trysts with a married woman, the tumult of Colombian politics, and the raw energy of the journalist's life--he ends this first volume with the tantalizing promise of the literary career about to explode, and the impossible prospect of even greater riches for his readers. --Patrick O'Kelley