38. The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1989) 285 p.

what a pretty cover!

This was one of those difficult books that was objectively good, and I know it was objectively good, and yet I didn’t like it.

Marquez is Latin America’s most famous writer, and in The General in His Labyrinth he chronicles the last days of Latin America’s most famous hero, Simon Bolivar. Breaking with tradition, in which Bolivar is portrayed as a saint-like hero, Marquez depicts him as a sick, tired, weary and bitter old man. He has been turned out of government by his countrymen, and is travelling down a river to the Caribbean coastline with a few loyal aides-de-camp, heading for a European exile.

Bolivar was apparently the George Washington of South America, a military leader, statesman and visionary, but whom I’d never heard of before reading the book. That’s the “problem” with reading it as a Westerner; it’s so peppered with South American history that a foreigner has difficulty understanding what’s going on. It almost felt like a fantasy novel, taking place in a distant and unfamiliar landscape, through countries which may as well be fictional because they don’t exist anymore.

This isn’t an inherently bad thing, of course, but it’s not exactly an accessible book, and I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it.

Books: 38/50
Pages: 11, 680

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