Márquez’ last novel to date is quite different again from all its predecessors. In some respects it is his most ambitious in that it imagines the last months in the life of a world historical figure, Simón Bolívar. Bolívar’s achievement was to gain independence for the Spanish colonies in the northern half of the South American continent but his true ambition had been greater: it was to create a unified state out of all the Spanish colonies and thereby give them a collective power comparable to that of the USA and the major European states. When he died, prematurely aged, at forty-eight, it was already clear that this larger ambition was not going to be realised. Local and national jealousies were more powerful than the longer-term regional commonality of political interest, culture and historical experience. Whereas his contemporary, Napoleon Bonaparte, had had a heroic career followed by a public defeat and imposed isolation, Bolívar’s life, on this reading, was more ambiguously a defeat perceived, in solitude, within an apparent victory. He suffers, or withdraws into, a more mysterious isolation.
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