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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Until August

Gabriel García Márquez

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To purchase Until August

Title: Until August
Author: Gabriel García Márquez
Genre: Novel
Written: (2024) (Eng. 2024)
Length: 130 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Until August - US
En agosto nos vemos - US
Until August - UK
Until August - Canada
Nous nous verrons en août - France
Wir sehen uns im August - Deutschland
Ci vediamo in agosto - Italia
En agosto nos vemos - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • Spanish title: En agosto nos vemos
  • First published posthumously, in 2024
  • Translated by Anne McLean
  • Edited by and with an Editor's Note by Cristóbal Pera
  • With a Preface by Rodrigo and Gonzalo García Barcha
  • With four facsimile pages from the original manuscript

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Our Assessment:

B : a bit thin, but has its appeal

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Economist . 9/3/2024 .
Financial Times . 11/3/2024 Chris Power
The Guardian C 6/3/2024 L.Hughes-Hallett
The NY Times Book Rev. D 31/3/2024 Michael Greenberg
The Observer . 10/3/2024 Anthony Cummins
El País . 6/3/2024 Nadal Suau
The Spectator . 23/3/2024 Philip Hensher
The Telegraph B 6/3/2024 Sarah Perry
The Times . 6/3/2024 David Mills
TLS . 15/3/2024 Miranda France
Wall St. Journal . 6/3/2024 Sam Sacks
The Washington Post . 13/3/2024 M.Roig-Franzia

  From the Reviews:
  • "The master’s voice can certainly be heard in Until August. (...) García Márquez sketches the complicated complicities and compulsions of love and sex, his favourite subject matter. With his precise, vivid prose, beautifully translated into English, García Márquez creates an atmosphere as few other writers can. But here he does not do as much with it as he might have in his prime. (...) Diehard fans will rejoice at this posthumous bonus track. But others will find it hard to banish a slight queasiness -- much as Ana Magdalena Bach felt on the return ferry from the island -- at the commercial opportunism surrounding its publication." - The Economist

  • "Until August offers momentary pleasures, but is obviously unfinished, and certain sentences make you understand why he wanted to suppress it." - Chris Power, Financial Times

  • "No one, except for the publicists whose job it is to do so, is pretending that it is a masterpiece, lost and now regained. (...) The narrative style is cool. (...) The novel reads like a film treatment: plenty of observation, little interiority, a spareness that would make it easily transferable to cinema. (...) There are small errors of continuity. The structure is ungainly. More importantly, the prose is often dismayingly banal, its syntax imprecise. (...) This slight book is like a faded souvenir, tatty but treasurable for its associations with the fabulous imaginary world that García Márquez conjured up in his prime." - Lucy Hughes-Hallett, The Guardian

  • "It would be hard to imagine a more unsatisfying goodbye from the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude (.....) Until August, nimbly translated by Anne McLean, is a microscopic story, its contents hardly sufficient for it to be called a novella, much less a finished novel. Reading it may provoke unhealthy levels of frustration in those familiar with García Márquez’s most indelible creations. (...) None of his editors or longtime publishers appears to have thought of protecting him or acknowledging the manuscript’s vapidity. What is most jarring is that the story has all the hallmarks of García Márquez; despite its deficiencies, the writing is unmistakably his. (...) Reading Until August is a bit like watching a great dancer, well past his prime, marking his ineradicable elegance in a few moves he can neither develop nor sustain. This is most keenly felt in the second half, when the author’s command of his subject slips and the story rushes to its hackneyed conclusion." - Michael Greenberg, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(A) brisk and frisky tale of extramarital sex doubling as a parable of parental inscrutability (.....) Well... it’s all part of the quirky knockabout vigour that is García Márquez’s storytelling fuel. Madame Bovary this is not: Ana Magdalena’s infidelity isn’t a psychologically complex sating of unmet appetites so much as a way to just plug the book into the mains. (...) Another jolt lies in the surreal payoff, which is entirely García Márquez’s own, chosen in 2010, his editor states, contra the belief of García Márquez’s agent (cited in the afterword) that her client didn’t have an ending; satisfyingly symmetrical, it lends this gentle diversion the depth of fable." - Anthony Cummins, The Observer

  • "La versión que legó a su familia es un trabajo a medio pulir (se nota en cada página), aunque acabado. No es una versión final, pero sí una cerrada. (...) Para empezar, es mucho mejor de lo que (para ser honesto) me temía, sin desmerecer de Memoria de mis putas tristes (que, a ver, no fue un libro logrado). Se lee con amabilidad, tiene ráfagas de belleza, calidez… Tiene virtudes, y a quién no le va a gustar el reencuentro con un autor que lo hizo feliz. No hay vergüenza alguna en que el inédito vea la luz. Al mismo tiempo, tampoco conviene llamarse a engaño con sus verdaderas dimensiones, que son chiquitas. (...) Entonces, me temo que esta no es, en absoluto, la mejor novela que se publicará este mes ni este año. Tampoco la peor, obviamente. Es otra cosa. A mí me vale." - Nadal Suau, El País

  • "The devoted reader will seek out their beloved Gabo. He is not absent. (...) The novel’s chief concern is love, or more specifically sex -- a subject Marquez always accorded the diligent, amused and unashamed attention it deserves. The novel is wisest and most persuasive when depicting the endlessly mutable transactions of desire, which can move within moments between compassion, want and fear (.....) Still, it isn’t difficult to note the hand of time and mortality on the text. (...) Nonetheless, the lasting impression is one of deep feeling, astutely observed and beautifully conveyed. Until August does nothing to enlarge the legend of Gabo; it does nothing to diminish it." - Sarah Perry, The Telegraph

  • "Count this reader among the undelighted. Until August is a recognizably Marquezian fable, stripped down to its basics. There are flashes of the author’s trademark charm: flowers, Caribbean gentlemen in linen suits, the scent of jasmine. Some of the old tricks and artifices are there, but all the subtlety is gone. The author’s once rich vocabulary is noticeably diminished. (...) You could call Until August an erotic morality tale, if you were feeling generous. (...) (T)here is something nasty about the abasement at this novel’s heart." - Miranda France, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Smushing these disparate chapters together with a few that hadn’t been publicly revealed is one of the fundamental problems with Until August. (...) (T)here’s little insight about love to be found here amid the cringey sex scenes. Until August only occasionally gives glimpses of the master stylist. (...) Still, the story of the book’s publication turns out to be more interesting than the book itself." - Manuel Roig-Franzia, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The protagonist of Until August is Ana Magdelena Bach. Her mother had asked to be buried on a rather out-of-the-way island, and Ana makes an annual pilgrimage there every August, to bring a bouquet of gladioli to place on the grave. It is a journey that was arduous at first -- the crossing to the underdeveloped island took: "almost four hours in a canoe with an outboard motor" -- but over the years the island becomes more accessible and visited, with hotels sprouting (while the local: "village grew more and more impoverished") and a proper ferry-service replacing the motorboat.
       Ana Magdelena has been happily married to Doménico Amarís for over two decades -- "they knew each other so well deep down that they ended up seeming like one and the same" -- and they have two children just entering adulthood, a son who is already first cello with the National Symphony Orchestra and "charming hothead" daughter Micaela, who is determined to become a nun (and does indeed join the Discalced Carmelites).
       Things change when Ana Magdelena makes her annual pilgrimage when she is forty-six. She goes through the usual routine -- only then to add a final flourish: she has a quick fling with a stranger -- "for the first time in her life, she had fornicated and spent the night with a man who was not her own". Thereafter, it becomes part of her routine, too; her grave-visit-trip now includes: "her August favor" .....
       That first "happy adventure" is spoiled by the man -- who had left before she woke the next morning -- leaving behind a twenty-dollar bill in the book she is reading (Dracula), debasing the experience. She finds it an "unbearable humiliation" and, indeed, continues to carry it around with her -- as, indeed, years later, she is: "always with a twenty-dollar bill ready to throw in his face". She also tries to recreate what she felt that night by engaging in similar one-night stands on her later annual trips, but it's never quite the same (though at least the other men don't leave a cash-tip for her after the fact).
       The feelings roused in Ana Magdelena also complicate her relationship with her husband, as she worries more about his own (possible) affairs with other women and feels guilt about her annual adventures; she both challenges him about his own experiences with other women and makes an effort keeps up their own "frequent lovemaking".
       Though quite smoothly presented -- presumably helped by the considerable editorial efforts put into presenting the text --, the slim novella verges on the threadbare. There's a robust foundation, and, focused tightly on Ana Magdelena, her experiences and the inner turmoil they cause -- "Everything changed after she returned from the island" -- are quite well presented, but much of the surrounding structure remains too thin. The changing island and her routine there are well sketched out, but her life on the mainland rather less so. The husband and their relationship is fleshed out some, but not sufficiently, while the novel's most intriguing twist -- daughter Micaela's becoming a nun -- isn't gone into anywhere near enough.
       An interesting facet is how Ana Magdelena is presented as a reader -- "In recent years she had delved deeply into supernatural novels" --, with the titles of several books mentioned as she does (or doesn't) read them. (One is also left wondering whether there's any significance to the later placement of the offending piece of currency -- "the twenty-dollar bill she carried around at page 116 of her book" -- and whether there is some relevant passage there .....)
       The unfolding of the story in Until August is quite satisfying at first -- the foundations of the plot and the portrait of Ana Magdelena and the effects on her of what she's done (and wants to keep doing) --, but eventually it all sputters. The conclusion, in which Ana Magdelena figures out why her mother had wished to be buried on the island, has some promise, but García Márquez never seems to have gotten a full handle on how to present it. There's potential here, and even as is it's certainly memorable (with the heavy bag Ana Magdelena drags home...), but it doesn't quite come off
       Until August is a decidedly minor novel -- but there's enough of the master to it. Sex is central to the story, and, as is the case with so much writing about sex, some of it here is cringe-worthy, but as subject-matter, and its significance in his characters' lives, García Márquez weaves it into his novel better than most. Much here is sketched out well -- but there is simply not enough to most of it, and while García Márquez's surface does, for the most part, satisfy, there's a great deal here where one really wants and needs there to be more depth (Micaela -- named after her grandmother ! -- in particular, but hardly only her).
       Certainly, when compared to García Márquez's towering masterpieces, Until August looks very feeble -- but that is, after all, the highest of bars. Considered just as is, it's a decent little entertainment, and certainly worth the quick read that it is.
       The Editor's Note and several facsimile pages that are presented are also of interest, and help make for an appealing -- if somewhat sad, given the author's struggles -- volume, of obvious interest to any fan of García Márquez.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 March 2024

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Until August: Reviews: Gabriel García Márquez: Other books by Gabriel García Márquez under review: Books about Gabriel García Márquez under review:
  • Álvaro Santana-Acuña's Ascent to Glory: How One Hundred Years of Solitude Was Written and Became a Global Classic
Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez lived 1927 to 2014. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.

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© 2024 the complete review

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