cover image The General in His Labyrinth

The General in His Labyrinth

Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Alfred A Knopf Inc, $19.95 (285pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58258-0

Written in cogent, measured prose, moving to a somber internal rhythm, this short, historically based novel depicts the last days of Simon Bolivar, aka the Liberator of South America. Aged 46 in 1830, prematurely aged, weary and moribund, the General (as he is referred to throughout), once the hero and president of the republic of nations he freed from Spanish domination, is now past his glory. He is wandering destitute, having renounced the presidency and announced his imminent exile--an act he keeps postponing in the hopes that he will be returned to power. Widely reviled, the object of assassination attempts, suffering from chronic insomnia and daily fevers, the General is cynical, bitter and mercurial, frustrated by his failing powers but unable to face his impending death (``How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!'' he cries). In flashbacks that integrate capsule portraits of other historical figures important in Bolivar's life, Garcia Marquez invests the narrative with substance and veracity, but finds little opportunity to unleash his remarkable imagination; thus the novel lacks the incandescent quality of One Hundred Years of Solitude and other of his works of magical realism. The author himself regrets the lack of humor in what he refers to as ``the horror of this book.'' Readers will be impressed, but not beguiled. 150,000 first printing; first serial to the New Yorker; BOMC main selection. (Sept.)