Gerald Martin has taken on an outsized task in this book which defines Gabriel Garcia Marquez's long and complex life and his resulting outlook. It is obviously a labor of love, spanning almost 20 years.
The work is chronological, tracking his life and its synergic literary output. Martin shows how GGM's novels illustrate the scenes, people and tenor of his unusual youth in a politically unstable county. GGM pulls from the experience of his home region which he never really leaves despite a long departures and the purchase of foreign residences. He essentially marries the region in marrying Mercedes to whom he proposed in their adolescence. Despite their pre-marital differences in life experience, the marriage worked and still holds together after 50 years. Like the marriage, his life takes long and circuitous routes back home.
Martin takes the reader through what might be GGM's deepest thoughts as expressed through his novels and political writing. The saga covers continents and powerful international events. Over time, the early passion for socialism peels away. It is not expressed in words, but what else can be made of GGM having dictator friends who imprison and/or execute his intellectual colleagues? There is no real answer as to why he tolerates these leaders who trample on human rights, sometimes with their bank accounts full of the country's money. GGM points to the few he's used his influence to save, but the argument is weak considering the enormity of the rights violations of these leaders whom he supports.
There are many episodes that could be their own books (some have extensive treatment elsewhere as noted by Martin). A few are: his travels behind the Iron Curtain, the saga of the Nobel Prize, the Castro relationship, and the affect of his fame on his country, region and family.
The reader benefits not only from Martin's extensive research, but also from his understanding of Latin America and his specific knowledge of 20th century Colombian events. For the reader there are lots of names to lose track of, I was grateful for the index.
Several years ago GGM put his pen to the topic of his childhood and youth in Living to Tell the Tale. The autobiography, like his novels, is atmospheric and metaphoric (Martin demonstrates that even the title is so). If you plan on reading it, I advise that you read Martin's biography first for orientation. If GGM's orinally promised volumes 2 and 3 are ever produced (doubtful, given Martin's final chapters) Martin would be a good preparatory read for them as well.
I highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in Gabriel Garcia Marquez.