Monday, 26 July 2010

Living to Tell the Tale: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

There hasn’t been much time for reading in my crowded travel itinerary. I’ve been reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ autobiography, ‘Living to Tell the Tale’, a page at a time before the book slips from my exhausted hands and falls on my face. It’s a dense read, but worth persevering with because it’s a fascinating account of how he became a writer, wrestling with poverty and complicated Columbian politics.

Marquez is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century and the way the book is written certainly helps to support the legend.   He’s very frank about the subjective nature of autobiography: "Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it."  He is the narrator and creator of  his own life-story, which is as dense and complex as any of his novels.

The book is crowded with unfamiliar names and a huge extended fammily whose relationships I didn’t completely grasp. I understood the way of living better when I went to Cuba where a whole family will live in a house with a communal eating, sitting, living area in the middle and a kitchen and courtyard at the back. Lots of rooms open off the communal living area and each section of the family has its own room - grandparents, in-laws, uncles, aunts, children. Marquez describes it beautifully and much of the book is about finding the space to write. The autobiography is a fantastic background for the fiction, which by his own admission, was firmly rooted in his own family history.

I also finished the Steig Larsson trilogy and really enjoyed it, though I know that some people have found it hard going. But I love thrillers with complicated plots and I felt the central characters were well developed and credible. If Larsson hadn’t died so suddenly I’d have been queueing up for the next instalment, which I think would have involved Salander’s search for her sister - a plot development signalled up in the last chapters. I want to know where her sister is and what happened to her. And I’m not putting money on Blomqvist’s new relationship either! I bet there’s someone out there already working on the sequel.