Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Gabriel García Márquez: Sons publish last novel that late author wanted destroyed

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Gabriel García Márquez is best known for One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera

When Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez died a decade ago, he left behind a novel he had written while struggling with dementia.

In his final days, he told his sons the book must be destroyed.

However they defied their father and, in what they have called an act of “betrayal”, have published the book.

Until August has received mixed reviews, with The Guardian’s critic describing it as a “sketch, as blurry and flawed as sketches generally are”.

She said the 100-page book “is like a faded souvenir, tatty but treasurable for its associations with the fabulous imaginary world that Márquez conjured up in his prime”.

The Colombian writer, who died in 2014, was best known for pioneering the magical realist style of writing.

He wrote books including Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude, which has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.

‘That’s what children are for’

Justifying their decision to publish, García Márquez’s son Gonzalo told BBC Radio 4’s Front Row that by the end, the author “wasn’t in a position to judge his work as he could only see the flaws but not the interesting things that were there”.

After reading the text again recently, Gonzalo said he didn’t “find it as disastrous as Gabo had judged it” and that it was a valuable addition to his work because it showed a new side to him and was “unique”.

“Definitely, we weren’t going to destroy it,” he said. “In 2022, we took one of the versions and we read it, and there really wasn’t a lot of discussion about it.

“We realised that the book was complete, we realised that we didn’t have to do a lot of editing. There are no additions, there are no great changes. So there really wasn’t any discussion there.

“We did think about it for about three seconds – was it a betrayal to my parents, to my father’s [wishes]?

“And we decided, yes, it was a betrayal. But that’s what children are for.”

He said it was bound to eventually be published, so the family wanted to publish a version they approved of, and which would protect its copyright.

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Gonzalo García Barcha said he believes this new book is unique

The novel centres on a middle-aged woman who travels alone to an island every summer to visit her mother’s grave, and during each trip takes a new lover despite being happily married.

It is the first time that García Márquez has centred on a female protagonist.

“Usually, in a review of an underwhelming posthumous publication or minor work by a major author, it is worth saying that, despite its flaws, it will delight devoted fans.

“I do not believe that is true of Until August. Márquez knew this and was right not to want it to see the light of day,” he continued.

‘Oddly moving’

Nonetheless, he added that the “novel has qualities” and “it is set in a world that strikes an evocative balance between the real and dreamlike”.

“It’s as if the book contained both Marquez the elder and Marquez the younger, with the perception and weary good humour of old age conveyed in the searching, tentative manner of the apprentice,” she wrote.

She noted, however, that the “the novel is stripped of the endless, inventive discursions into folk-tale, backstory and verbal brio that characterise the best of Marquez”.

“Until August does nothing to enlarge the legend of Gabo; it does nothing to diminish it,” she concluded.

Netflix plans

As well as a new book, Márquez’s 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is being adapted into a Spanish-language Netflix series.

According to the New York Times, Márquez received many offers over the years to adapt his book into a film but refused because he only wanted it to be done in Spanish.

García Márquez’s book is not the first novel to be published posthumously against the authors’ wishes.

  • Before author Franz Kafka died from tuberculosis in 1924, he told friend Max Brod to burn all of his work. However, between 1925 and 1935 Brod published his collection of works including The Trial, The Castle and Amerika.
  • Lolita writer Vladimir Nabokov asked his wife to destroy his final novel, The Original of Laura, if he did not live to complete it. In 2009, 30 years after Nabokov’s death, his son released the unfinished work, which had been written in pencil on index cards.
  • According to legend, Roman poet Virgil asked for the scrolls he wrote his epic The Aeneid on to be burned because he feared he would be unable to finish the work before his death.

Hear more from Gonzalo García Barcha on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row from 19:15 GMT on Wednesday, 6 March, and then on BBC Sounds.

Until August will be published in the UK on Tuesday, 12 March.

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