The General In His Labyrinth

Late in the afternoon on Sunday I sat on my back porch finishing THE GENERAL IN HIS LABYRINTH while The Boy sautered electrical connections for a wooden flashlight and bloated mosquitos feasted on my flesh. This book is a creeper. I didn’t notice it was affecting me until I was ripping through the last thirty pages, gasping for air and blinking back tears.

For those of you unfamiliar with this book, THE GENERAL IN HIS LABYRINTH is a fictional interpretation of the final months of Simon Bolivar’s life. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writing throughout most of the novel is really quiet and methodical, but every once in awhile the veneer of stoicism is broken for one dazzling, enchanted sentence. He really fools the reader in this way, I think. The storytelling is so steady and matter of fact that you don’t really notice that Marquez is slowly, painstakingly escalating the pace and intensity. In the last fifty pages the style is just completely cracked open. Throughout the book there’s this really frank recounting of facts, to the point where it almost feels like nonfiction. That’s still present at the end, but it’s so blunt and honest it becomes raw. The result is a stunningly savage portrait of death and its cruel inevitability. This is definitely a book you have to stick with a little, but the end result is so worth it.

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