Gabo Works
The following works of nonfiction have all appeared in English translation. They are listed in order of their original, Spanish-language publishing date.

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor
Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín
News of a Kidnapping
For the Sake of a Country within Reach of the Children
Living to Tell the Tale

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor

Translated by Randolph Hogan.

Vintage, 1989, ISBN 0-679-72205-X; Paperback $11.00. [Browse/Purchase]

Originally appearing as 14 consecutive articles in the newspaper El Espectador with the title of "The Truth About My Adventure," this work was first published as a book in 1970 with the title Relato de un naufrago. It's based on a true story, the account of the Caldas, a Colombian ship which was swamped at sea (due to negligence of storing contraband) in 1955, spilling several men overboard. One sailor, Luis Alejandro Velasco, miraculously survived 10 days at sea, becoming something of a national hero. He told his story to Gabriel García Márquez, then a writer at the newspaper El Espectador, and García Márquez put it in words and serialized it as if it were directly written by Velasco. In 1970, when Gabriel García Márquez was something of a name, he was asked to publish the articles as a novella, and The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor was born. A simple but powerful tale, it shows a strong voice, gifted at both telling a story and capturing human emotions. Ironically enough, Velasco's desire to tell the truth about the accident -- the negligence, the contraband, etc. -- was at odds with the government, and it eventually ended with Velasco's downfall and the closing of the El Espectador.
Published in 1989 as El general en su labertino. The subject of this novel is Simón Bolívar, whom García Márquez removes from the mythic glass prison of history and places into the magical alembic of his transforming prose. The Liberator is seen at the end of his life, near the age of fifty, taking a seven month river voyage from Bogotá to the sea. As the journey progresses from port to port, Bolívar mirrors this journey in his head, passing from one subject of his life to another -- his wars, his defeats, his passions, his sins, his loves -- all told against the background and weight of the history that the General helped to create, a labyrinthine and internalized structure of disillusionment and frustration.
Although perhaps one of his most accessible and straighforward novels, it is truly a very sad work, the product of years of research into the Life of Bolivar. García Márquez sees the Liberator as a sympathetic figure who dies seeing his world falling apart -- his country, the allinaces he forged, his dream of American unity, and even his own body.

Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín

Translated by Asa Zatz.

Henry Holt, 1988, ISBN 0805009450; Paperback. Out of Print. [Search for a Copy]

Published in 1986 as La aventura de Miguel Littín clandestino en Chile. I have not yet read this book, but John DeFiore has translated the introduction of the Spanish version, and has provided some commentary. Here is García Márquez's introduction:

"At the beginning of 1985, Chilean film director Miguel Littín -- whose name appeared on a list of five thousand exiled with absolute prohibition of returning to their country -- was in Chile for clandestine works lasting six weeks, and shot more than seven thousand meters of film on the realities of his country after 12 years of military dictatorship. With a disguised face, a different style of dressing and speaking, with false documents and the aid and protection of clandestine democratic organizations, Littín led three European film teams the length and breadth of the national territory -- including the interior of the Presidential Palace. They had entered the country at the same time as him with different legal covers, and were assisted by another six teams made up of young people from the internal resistance movement. The result was a four hour film for television and another two hour film for the cinema, that they are beginning to show worldwide.

"Six months ago, when Miguel Littín told me in Madrid what he had done, and how he done it, I thought that behind his film was another unmade film, that ran the risk of remaining unpublished. Because of this he agreed to submit to an exhaustive interview lasting almost a week, with a tape recorded version lasting eighteen hours. There lay the human adventure, with all of its professional and political implications, that I have returned to tell in this ten chapter series. Some names have been changed and many circumstances altered in order to protect the protagonists still living in Chile.

"I prefer to keep the story in the first person, as told to me by Miguel Littín, trying in this way to preserve his personal, and sometimes confidential tone, without easy dramatisms or historical pretensions. The style of the final text is mine, of course, since the voice of any writer is not interchangeable, even less when he has had to compress nearly seven hundred pages into less than one hundred and fifty. However, I have managed in many cases to retain the Chilean idioms in the original telling, and to respect in all the thoughts and opinions of the narrator, which do not always coincide with my own. By the method of investigation and the character of the material, this is a journalistic report. But it is more; the emotional reconstitution of an adventure whose ultimate result was without doubt warmer and more moving than the original plan, and was successful in making a film exposing the risks of military power. Littín himself has said "This is not the most heroic act of my life, rather the most dignified". Thus it is, and I believe that that is its greatness."
-- Gabriel García Márquez, (c) 1986

John DeFiore comments:
This book is a fascinating documentary -- As García Márquez says, it is something more as well. There is a strong emotional current that runs through the narration. It leaves the reader wondering if he or she would have the courage to secretly return from exile to document the ravages of a military dictatorship, knowing that the penalty for being found out would be to join the "disappeared". The narrator's style is easy and humble, but the scale of the undertaking is immense. How do you smuggle three fully equipped film crews into a country where all information is tightly controlled, and all movement is monitored? The answer is that you appeal to the vanity of the regime -- e.g. in one case, you are filming a documentary on Italian immigration into Chile, with a special emphasis on the work of Italian architect Joaquino Toesca, who designed the presidential palace. In another you are filming a commercial for a French perfume, which requires beautiful scenes from all four seasons. Chile is one of the few countries where you can find conditions like all four of the seasons at any time of the year. In this way, Littín achieves maximum coverage and maximum embarrassment for the dictator, once he is safely out of the country and his documentary is released. I have not seen the films he has made, though I would very much like to locate them on videotape, as the story does not go into much detail about the films themselves, but rather concentrates on the daily trials of making them.

News of a Kidnapping

Translated by Edith Grossman.

1. Knopf, 1997, ISBN 0375400516; Hardcover $25.00. [Browse/Purchase]

2. Penguin, 1998, ISBN 0-14-026944-4; Paperback $15.00. [Browse/Purchase]


Published in 1996 as Noticia de un secuestro, more commentary is planned for the future. Here is the blurb at

A recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the great novelist Gabriel García Márquez, returns to his roots as a journalist in telling an involved story from his native Colombia. Drug kingpins who feared being extradited to the United States, where they would likely face life sentences, decided to dramatically pressure the Colombian government. Ten prominent Colombians, some of whom were well-known television personalities, were kidnapped and held as hostages. Some of the survivors of the ordeal asked García Márquez to tell the story, and the novelist does a masterfully understated job. The various characters, from the hostages kept in makeshift dungeons to the despairing government officials to the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar are portrayed brilliantly in this real-life tale of suspense.

For the Sake of a Country Within Reach of the Children

Villegas Editores, 1998, ISBN 9589393284; Hardcover $40.00. [Browse/Purchase]

This is an essay published in 1998. According to the Publisher:

This exceptionally beautiful essay by the Colombian Nobel Prize-winning author is one of his most lucid and beautiful literary expressions. Originally written as a prologue to a "state of the nation" analysis recently published by a group of eminent Colombian thinkers, it drafts a virtual navigation chart for the future of Colombia, affirming the country's vast human potential and emphasizing the powers of education and national spirit. Four-color photographs enliven this work.

Published in 1975, All of the Storiesis a collection of short stories. They are not found in a separate translation in English, but are scattered throughout several English translations of his other works, with most of them found in Collected Stories.

Living to Tell the Tale

Translated by Edith Grossman

Knopf, 2003, ISBN 1-4000-4134-1, Hardcover $26.95. [Browse/Purchase]

Vivir para contarla, or Living to Tell the Tale, is the first volume of Gabriel García Márquez's three-volume set of memoirs. A Macondo review is forthcoming.
Until then, Publisher's Weekly has the following to say:

Since last October's long-awaited release of this first volume in a trilogy of García Márquez's memoirs, readers in Spain and Latin America have been wondering whether the book is fiction or nonfiction. Can one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th century, winner of the 1982 Nobel for literature, write about his life without confusing reality and fictional adventures? Well, yes and no. At first glance, García Márquez's vivid and detailed portrait of his early life (just released in Spanish in the U.S.) appears to be testament to a photographic memory. Yet as he explains in the epigraph, "Life isn't what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it to tell it." He warns readers that memories are not just fact or fiction, but maybe a mix of both, depending on how one recalls past events.The book begins as García Márquez returns to his hometown of Aracataca with his mother to sell the family's house. The narrative becomes a journey through Colombian history, starting with the writer's childhood in Aracataca and ending in 1957 at age 29, when he traveled abroad for the first time. Snapshot passages about his life as a student and a traveler on Colombia's most important river, the Magdalena, as well as the beginnings of his journalism career, are vividly narrated. Colombia's violent history is always in the background, as García Márquez recalls such historical episodes as the Bananeras massacre, a banana labor strike in 1928 that escalated into the massive slaughter of United Fruit Company workers, and the Bogotazo, a 1948 uprising by the Liberal party that resulted in massive destruction and looting in the country's capital. This first volume reflects García Márquez's experience as both a novelist and a journalist. While his prose is literary, in his imaginative signature style, the historical content is as rigorously researched as journalistic works like his most recent News of a Kidnapping. Readers will also find references to characters and places from the author's classics, including Love in the Time of Cholera, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Some may be tempted to use the trilogy as a manual for interpreting the author's oeuvre. But avid readers will find that García Márquez's fictions are instead guides to understanding the first 592 pages of his life; anyone familiar with Macondo, the fantastic town in One Hundred Years of Solitude, will readily appreciate the writer's descriptions of Aracataca, for instance. This memoir is one of the greatest literary adventures to date from this Nobelist.
--Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Gabo "Works" Pages

Works Main Page -- Back to the Main Page, where you will find the standard Macondo menu and a Quick Reference Card of titles.

Fiction -- All the novels and short stories in English translation.

Spanish -- Works that have yet to be translated into English.

Bibliography -- A coplete García Márquez bibliography.

--Allen B. Ruch
17 November 2003

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