Rumours had long circulated that an entire literary masterpiece, never seen by the public, could still be lying in a dusty safe held by the late author’s family or under lock and key at his archive at the University of Texas.
On Friday Penguin Random House confirmed that an unpublished Gabriel García Márquez novel – titled En Agosto Nos Vemos, (We’ll See Each Other in August) – not only exists, but will be on shelves across Latin America in 2024.
“No?! A Gabriel García Márquez book?” said Juan Moreno Blanco, a professor at the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia, who was lost for words at the news. “I had heard rumours of some manuscripts, but nothing more than rumours. An entire book?!”
Speculation has surrounded the unpublished title ever since 1999 when García Márquez published a short story in the Colombian magazine Cambio.
The tale of Ana Magdalena Bach, a middle-aged woman who has an erotic affair while visiting a tropical island to lay flowers on her mother’s grave, was allegedly the first chapter Márquez was working on.
But after the internationally acclaimed author affectionately known as Gabo died in 2014, it was believed the work would remain unseen as his family was thought to be uncomfortable publishing an unfinished work.
“Until now the position of the two children was that it would not be published,” said Jaime Abello, director of the Gabo Foundation. “It seems they changed their mind after reading the manuscript!”
García Márquez’s children Rodrigo and Gonzalo García Barcha said on Friday that they deemed the work too precious to be hidden away from Colombia and the wider world, which has been heavily influenced by Márquez’s critically acclaimed tales of magical realism.
“We’ll See Each Other in August was the result of a last effort to continue creating against the wind and tide. 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 enjoying the most outstanding 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 misadventures, especially in love, possibly the main theme of all his work,” they said in a press release.
Among the few details made public are that the book will contain five separate sections centred around Ana Magdalena and will number about 150 pages in total. An English edition has not yet been announced.
Gabo is the most translated Spanish-language writer in the world and his literary legacy has inspired works from Midnight’s Children to Disney’s Encanto.
His best known novel, 100 Years of Solitude, told the history of the Buendías, a family in the fictional town of Macondo, and is regarded as one of the most influential works in the Spanish language canon.
García Márquez had the ability to vividly capture the immense beauty of Colombia in his work while at the same time illustrating its tragic, bloody history of cyclical conflict.
“As time passes the importance of his work only grows. Like Dostoyevsky, Joyce and Cervantes, he had a unique style and perspective of seeing the world that has influenced the entire world,” said Ariel Castillo, a professor at the Universidad del Atlántico in Barranquilla and leading expert in García Márquez’s work.
Nowhere is García Márquez’s legacy more visible than his home country of Colombia. The writer put the Andean nation on the literary map but also changed its view of itself, Castillo says.
By producing some of the world’s most-loved novels, Gabo chipped away at Colombia’s inferiority complex and also transformed the country’s image of the Caribbean, where García Márquez was born. The region has long been looked down upon for being culturally inferior, but Gabo illuminated its unique culture and natural beauty.
“There are two Colombian cultures: one before Gabriel García Márquez and one after,” said Castillo.
Though the unexpected announcement has sparked excitement it has also generated critical discussion over whether the unfinished work should be published posthumously.
“Márquez always confided in people close to him and deliberated carefully before publishing anything, so we are in problematic territory,” said Blanco.
“For me it’s great news,” said the critically acclaimed Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez. “You have to know how to read it: it is not a finished work and García Márquez was a very careful craftsman. But we can enjoy it for what it is: an unfinished work by a great artist. There is no reason to deprive us of that pleasure.”