Saturday, August 16, 2014

Great Man Theories


The General in His Labyrinth
This novel reads like an extended Bill Brasky sketch. Like can you believe what a wild man bad ass Simón Bolívar was? “One time Bolívar slept the whole ride to Peru while sitting upright on a horse, and when he got there he conquered everything and they were so grateful they crowned him emperor and asked him to make love to the most beautiful young maiden in all the land!” Okay, that´s not a direct quote, but it´s close. Márquez is ostensibly writing about the final months of Bolívar´s life, yet that often feels like a pretext to roil up the mists of the man´s legend with frequent flashbacks to earlier moments of infamy. To make another reference to Tim Meadows, it occasionally feels like that moment near the beginning of the movie Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story - “You're gonna have to give him a moment, son. Simón Bolívar needs to think about his entire life before he dies.”

To make a long story short, the book is plenty amusing and often quite beautiful but it leans pretty heavily on old fashioned ideas about Great Men in History. And while Márquez´s description of hard-living Bolívar decaying, deteriorating, and dying while still fairly young held my interest, it´s nowhere near as captivating as his Chronicle of a Death Foretold, even if the translation is a lot better here.
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