An unpublished novel by Gabriel García Márquez will be released in the spring of 2024. This is what the heirs of the Nobel Prize in Literature have decided on the 10th anniversary of the author’s death. The book is En agosto nos vemos (”See you in August”), a 150-page manuscript whose writing and endless rewriting the Colombian writer dragged on for years and which was deposited, like other papers of the author, at the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas, the entity that acquired the funds. The text will be published by his usual publisher, Penguin Random House, in all Spanish-speaking countries except Mexico.
The novel is made up of five short stories, closed and autonomous tales that form a unitary whole starring Ana Magdalena Bach, a cultured and still beautiful woman, on the verge of old age, who every August 16 travels to the small town where her mother is buried, in the cemetery of the poor, to tell her about her furtive and extramarital sexual encounters.
The first time the existence of this work was known was in 1999, when the author gave a reading of one of the stories at Casa América in Madrid, which he presented as a fragment and starting point for a future novel composed of five self-conclusive stories. At the time, the Colombian was 72 years old and had recently overcome cancer.
This is how that story began: “She returned to the island on August 16 on the three o’clock ferry. She wore a plaid shirt, jeans, simple low-heeled shoes and no socks, a satin parasol and, as her only luggage, a beach bag. In the line of cabs at the pier she went straight to an old, saltpeter-worn model. The driver greeted her as an old acquaintance and she stumbled through the destitute town, with mud-brick houses and bitter palm roofs, and white sand streets facing a burning sea”. The audience burst into applause when the reading ended. The author asked for silence and begged those who were bored to leave quietly so as not to wake those who had fallen asleep. There was laughter and more applause.
A version of one of the stories was published in the May 25, 2003 edition of EL PAÍS. It can be read in the newspaper archive, under the title La noche del eclipse.
The author prioritized the writing of Living to Tell the Tale, his long-awaited memoirs, which came out in 2002 and were a publishing success, especially in the U.S. market. Later, in 2004, came Memories of My Melancholy Whores, his last work of fiction. However, En agosto nos vemos, which could also have appeared at that time, was left in the drawer. This could also have been influenced by the fact that, from that moment on, his memory worsened, whose deterioration only got worse and worse until his death, in 2014, at the age of 87.
Although he commented in a 2004 interview with journalist Rosa Mora that he felt “quite satisfied” with how he had dealt with the crisis suffered by the protagonist, his editor Cristóbal Pera revealed a year after his death that he was not convinced by the final result of the novel, despite having worked on it for a long time. Gabo had a reputation for rewriting his books a dozen times until he reached the desired result; in this case, the final version had not been achieved and the novel was finally discarded.
Faced with this situation, the decision to publish it or not fell to his sons Rodrigo and Gonzalo García Barcha, who have been considering this possibility for a decade and, finally, have now decided that it should see the light of day. “En agosto nos vemos was the fruit of a final effort to continue creating against all odds. Reading it once again almost 10 years after his death, we discovered that the text had many and very enjoyable merits and nothing to prevent us from enjoying the most outstanding aspects of Gabo’s work: his capacity for invention, the poetry of language, the captivating narrative, his understanding of the human being and his affection for his experiences and misfortunes, especially in love, possibly the main theme of all his work,” they explained in a statement issued by Penguin Random House.
The Colombian Nobel’s personal archive was acquired in 2014 for 2.2 million dollars by the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) for the humanities at the University of Texas at Austin. There came everything the writer kept in his home in Mexico, which occupied 20 cardboard boxes, including the 10 versions he made of In En agosto nos vemos. Before a year had passed, it had been sorted into 78 boxes of documents, 43 photo albums and 22 scrapbooks and notebooks. In October 2015, the archive was opened for researchers and since 2017 it can also be consulted digitally.
Gabriel García Márquez is the most widely read Latin American author and the most translated author of Spanish in the 21st century, according to the Cervantes Institute, unseating the author of Don Quixote. The novel is expected to be translated into English, French, German, Arabic and other languages.
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