Why Did Mario Punch Gabriel? (TBT)

Throwback Thursday: Originally published on 12 November 2015

My daughter came down to dinner the other day and by way of initiating conversation (it was the first time I saw her that day), asked me, “Did you know that Mario Vargas Llosa punched Gabriel García Márquez?”

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A Day’s Hiking (No One Writes to the Colonel)

Two years ago I read No One Writes to the Colonel (El coronel no tiene quien le escriba) by Gabriel García Márquez on the train en route for a day’s hiking. (It was just the right length.) Yesterday it was the first genuinely nice day of the year, so we went hiking; and I re-read No One Writes to the Colonel on the train.

I mean the first time round I thought it was brilliant and my Spanish is two years better now.

It’s BRILLIANT.

(The day’s hiking wasn’t bad either.)

There’s only one problem with No One Writes to the Colonel: I feel completely discouraged from picking up any of García Márquez’s other books ever again: there’s no way  he could have surpassed this one.

In fact, I know he didn’t think he ever did.

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Death in the Andes

As soon as the old woman entered the miserable hut, Lituma knew what she was going to say. And sure enough, she says it, although Lituma can’t understand a word because she’s speaking in Quechua. But even while he waits for his adjutant, Tomás Carreño to translate, he knows what’s being said: that a third man has gone missing from the village – if you can designate the place as such – of Naccos.

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Ten Facts I Learned from Books This Year

I read an article in the New Yorker – I steal my ideas from wherever I can, which, according to Pablo Picasso or Steve Jobs, take your pick, makes me a great artist – in which the author Kathryn Shultz made a list of the ten best facts she learned from books this year.

Immediately this struck me as a good way to finish the year for a young book blog.

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Why Did Mario Punch Gabriel?

My daughter came down to dinner the other day and by way of initiating conversation (it was the first time I saw her that day), asked me, “Did you know that Mario Vargas Llosa punched Gabriel García Márquez?” As this probably strikes you as an odd conversation starter on meeting up, I should explain that she does A-level Spanish and they are reading Crónica de una muerte anunciada – which she likes very much by the way. So did I when she passed it on.
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Of Love and Military Dictatorship

I finished reading Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende. It felt not one book but two (plus a dictionary of synonyms). A perfectly good love story which unfortunately isn’t the sort of story I particularly care for: “Of Love…” And the perfectly good story of life under military dictatorship: “…and Shadows“. The title should have been my clue! The best story in the book, that of the Leal family escaping one military dictatorship only to end up in another and then having to escape back, got a bit lost in it; to me it would have merited a book on its own.
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Gabriel García Márquez, Minus Magical Realism

I bought the book El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (No One Writes to the Colonel) a few months ago for the unconvincing reason that the title put me in mind of my father (it’s lucky he doesn’t read English so he can’t take offence). That, and because I had liked Relato de un naufrágo (The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor) which I read the month before. So I bought El coronel and then kept on not reading it, thinking it was just the right size to take on holiday in October. In the end I couldn’t stand it any longer and took it with me for the train on the day when we went walking on the South Downs’ Way. Just as well, because I finished it that very night, so it would have left me rather short of reading material during the holiday.

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