December 08, 2003 12:00 PM

By Gabriel García Márquez

CRITIC’S CHOICE

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Who would have imagined that the wildest flights of fantasy in Gabriel García Márquez’s magical realist novels are rooted in memory and personal history? Or that the story of this Nobel laureate’s life would be as lushly romantic and theatrical as his most inventive fictions? As his dazzling autobiography reveals, some of the most unlikely events in masterpieces such as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera were based on real incidents from his early years in rural Colombia and from the colorful annals of his large, dramatic family.

Living to Tell the Tale, the first volume of a projected trilogy, begins when García Márquez, a fledgling journalist in Barranquilla, is asked by his mother to accompany her to his native village to sell the family house. The trip to his hometown—the model for the fictional Macondo—awakened childhood memories that would shape his work and change his life forever. “In front of me,” García Márquez recalls, hinting at the kinds of narratives he would later weave, “the adults would complicate the story to confuse me, and I never could assemble the complete puzzle because everyone, on both sides, would place the pieces in their own way.”

The book ends in the 1950s, as García Márquez, en route from Colombia to Geneva, writes a love letter to his future wife. He was then 27; he is now 75. He leaves the reader eager for the next installments of this entertaining and profoundly moving account of how a writer finds his true subject and translates experience into great art.

HISTORY

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