Bolivar, The Liberator

Those who know me a little would know how Gabriel García Márquez’s works make me swoon. Ever since I read Love in the Time of Cholera, ever since I had read the first sentence in its entirety, I was a goner. I am hopelessly in love with him, and a dear friend T, who generally prefers non-fiction, when made to read only the first page of The General in his Labyrinth, accepted the need to read beautiful fiction like Gabo’s. There is an intense power in his storytelling.

The story is based on the last days of Simon Bolivar, a fictional account that delves into the last days of the general, on his journey to leave South America and travel to Europe. Known as El Libertador, Simon was instrumental in fighting for the independence of a number of key South American states from Spain. In fact, Bolivia is named after the illustrious person.

Although I have a certain fondness for war films, I haven’t read too many books on wars and military life in general. It took me some time to find my bearings among the likes of the generals, enemies, life in South America, and the warm, unbearable and often unforgiving weather. By the time I found my footing, I was lost in another world.

The book opens with a rather forlorn image of the general, floating naked in his bathtub, an image of a man broken by war, a weak body ravaged by illness, a soul hurt by those who wanted him to leave the country.

“He always considered death an unavoidable professional hazard. He had fought all his wars in the frontlines, without suffering a scratch, and he had moved through enemy fire with such thoughtless serenity that even his officers accepted the easy explanation that he believed himself invulnerable.”

The book offers such a human portrait of a feeble man who was once powerful, strong willed and determined, showcasing the twilight years of his life, heartbroken by rejection. This personality reminded me of a former colleague and friend, who almost always does what she thinks, is right, and rallies her team to work better, and efficiently. Such are hard taskmasters. We may be grumbling under our breath about something, but in the back of our mind we know, it’s the tough road but the right path.

Simon was a well read person, having read The Art of War and The Social Contract, among other works of Bonaparte and more. He was one who would not listen to doctors and stayed away from modern medicine and witchcraft alike – “Let me be, despair is the health of the damned.” When his entourage, him and his helper Jose Palacios, packed to leave for Europe, journeying across the continent, all his belongings fit into so little luggage that he said, “We never would have believed, my dear Jose, that so much glory could fit into a shoe.”

When reading this book, Bolivar’s personality as painted by Marquez captivated my attention. Be it his relationship with his soldiers, his subordinates, his friends, lovers and even his enemies, I realised how little I knew about him.  He died an early death, almost at the age of forty-seven years, having succumbed to tuberculosis, before he set sail for Europe from Cartagena.

And while it is not just Simon who captivated my attention while reading the book, I intend to delve into more books on South America, be it fiction or non-fiction. After all, reading helps me travel with my mind’s eye.

This post is part of the eighth annual A to Z Challenge that takes place in the month of April. The theme for this month is ‘Between Pages’. It’s my second attempt at this. Feedback is most welcome, constructive criticism, even more. Share your experiences and let’s enjoy this month of fabulous blogging. 

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15 thoughts on “Bolivar, The Liberator

  1. I read One Hundred Years of Solitude this year, and it was my first Gabriel Garcia Marquez book! I’ve read a lot about ‘Love In The Time Of Cholera’, but this is the first time I read about ‘The General and his Labyrinth’, and I’ll surely read both these books soon :)

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  2. I had tried to read One hundred years of solitude but couldnt get my teeth into it, despite several attempts – I found the writing very confusing and just couldnt read!

    Last year a friend gifted me a volume of short stories by GGM and I started reading it on a recent holiday- Oh my god!!! His writing is just so different than most and his thought process is unbelievable! I am loving the stories and have accumulated more of his books to dig into!

    Loved your review and have earmarked this book as well!!

    Cheers Sam!!

    Theme: Peregrination Chronicles (travel)
    C is for ChaiJaai café Srinagar #atozchallenge

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  3. I’ve never read any Gabriel García Márquez although I’ve had Love in the Time of Cholera sitting on the shelf for several years. I always think he’s going to be really hard work. But obviously you recommend?!!

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  4. There’s a quiet strength to your writing: taut yet flexible. I can’t explain it exactly but it captures the love you have for the author’s work. It sort of shines through in your post. It’s clear that the protagonist left an indelible impact on your mind. It reminds me of one of my better students who’d dive so deep into the character that her character sketch would outdo the original author’s description. (I used to teach Language and Literature).

    Since you asked for con-crit, here’s a couple of things I noticed: Minor subject-verb disagreements. They don’t take away from the reading experience but as an editor, I tend to notice these things more. Then, this part, “…died an early death, almost at the age of…’ ‘Just’ at the age of would be a better use than almost.

    *Also, one of the better pieces I’ve read of late, in general, in the blogosphere :)

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    1. Thank you so much Shailaja for your feedback. I will definitely keep these points in mind and try to work on my writing over time. Whimsical Compass is an avenue for me to push myself and my writing, and I hope to do just that. You’ve taught literature and language, wow! I wish you had taught me sometime. Nevertheless, I will keep pushing myself. :)

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  5. I love Marquez’s writing. He has a way with words, they transport you to different lands and sweep you up into his world. I haven’t read this book yet; needless to say, it goes straight on my TBR.

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