En agosto nos vemos by Gabriel García Márquez

The cover to En agosto nos vemos by Gabriel García MárquezNew York. Penguin Random House. 2024. 142 pages.

En agosto nos vemos is Gabriel García Márquez’s long-awaited posthumous novella, published ten years after the author’s death in 2014. It tells the story of Ana Magdalena Bach, a middle-aged woman who lives a comfortable life in a city in northern Colombia. She is happily married to Doménico Amarís, an accomplished musician with whom she has had two children. Every August 16, Ana Magdalena travels to a nearby island off the Caribbean coast to lay flowers at her mother’s tomb, after which she spends one night in a local hotel. This annual routine is interrupted one year when she meets a man in the hotel bar and ends up sleeping with him. From then on, her yearly trip includes an affair with a random man, which ultimately and profoundly alters the protagonist’s inner world. As Ana Magdalena’s emotional distress grows, she learns that “a conventional happiness that avoided disagreements so as not to stumble over them, the way people hide dirt under the rug” was all that had sustained her marriage. This idea haunts her, as does the shame of her actions whenever she visits the island.

Although García Márquez’s fiction has always featured strong, determined women, this is the first time his narrative focuses entirely on the trials and triumphs of a female protagonist. Ana Magdalena’s character embodies the tribulations of female desire, along with other key issues such as mother/daughter relationships, solitude, memory, mature love and eroticism, and the passing of time. In short, she is a rich and complex character whose many dilemmas also express liberation and empowerment for women in contemporary society. While the novel underscores these important topics, it also pays homage to García Márquez’s most admired musicians (Bach, Debussy, and Mozart, for example) as well as writers he revered (Defoe, Bram Stoker, and Camus, among others), all of whom Ana Magdalena knows well.

As with other posthumously published works by great masters of the novel (Kafka or Hemingway come to mind), much controversy has surrounded En agosto nos vemos. For some, García Márquez considered this an unfinished piece of writing. Nevertheless, Cristóbal Pera skillfully edited the book in Spanish before it was released this past March with the blessing of the author’s sons. En agosto nos vemos is not one of the author’s best works, but it does give the reader a taste of García Márquez’s poetic prose while offering engaging melodrama and intrigue. Additionally, the novel returns to well-known settings in García Márquez’s fiction, such as the Colombian–Caribbean coastline and its unique universe, which is where Ana Magdalena learns her mother’s secret: why she chose to be buried on this island in the Caribbean Sea. 

A short and enjoyable read, En agosto nos vemos is an invitation to revisit the craft of one of the best storytellers in the Spanish language, Gabriel García Márquez. (Editorial note: An English translation, produced by Anne McLean and published by Knopf, was also released this year under the title Until August.)

César Ferreira
University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee