Summary

Introduction

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In keeping with the narrative structure of some of his other works of fiction—One Hundred Years of Solitude in particular—the text of The General in His Labyrinth begins with the story’s ending, when General Simón Bolívar is facing the end of his career and life. The reader is introduced to an aging, frail Bolívar, who is a mere shadow of the legendary figure he once was. Against the backdrop of his own native land, García Márquez weaves the fantastic and grotesque into a fictionalized tale of the hero’s last days, bringing to life a very human portrait of this legendary figure and the culture he helped create.

The story takes place as Bolívar travels along the Magdalena River, his journey along which acts as a metaphor for the hero’s psychological and emotional journey. As he follows the river’s winding path, he reflects—sometimes lucidly, sometimes not—on the events of his life and the achievements and failures he has met. Following his resignation as president, the real-life Bolívar had set out along the Magdalena River to travel to the coast and eventually make his way to Europe. García Márquez’s fictionalized version of the hero follows the same path and with the same results: He never makes it to the end of this journey, dying before he reaches the coast and relieving himself of the impossible decision to leave the land of which he is so much a part.

The story speaks to the cultural lore and legends passed...

(The entire section is 563 words.)