Gabriel García Márquez’s Sons Publish Novel the Author Wanted to Destroy

The famed novelist had instructed his family never to publish drafts of “Until August,” written as he struggled with dementia during his final years

Gabriel García Márquez
Writer Gabriel García Márquez died in 2014 at the age of 87. Ulf Andersen / Getty Images

As author Gabriel García Márquez was suffering from dementia, he told his two sons that the novel he’d been working on was not for the public’s eyes: “This book doesn’t work,” he said. “It must be destroyed.”

Now, a decade after García Márquez’s death in 2014, his sons have had that book published. The slim novel, titled Until August, is available for purchase worldwide.

As Gonzalo García Barcha, one of the sons, tells the BBC’s “Front Row” radio program, he and his brother Rodrigo read a version of the novel in 2022. It was embedded in 769 pages of drafts and notes, housed in the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center. The brothers came to their decision quickly.

“We realized that the book was complete,” says García Barcha. “We realized that we didn’t have to do a lot of editing. We did think about it for about three seconds—was it a betrayal to my parents, to my father’s [wishes]?”

He adds: “We decided, yes, it was a betrayal. But that’s what children are for.”

Gonzalo García Barcha
Gonzalo García Barcha, one of Gabriel García Márquez's sons, publicizes the launch of Until August, or En Agosto nos Vemos, at a press conference in Madrid. Isabel Infantes / Getty Images

Born in Colombia in 1927, García Márquez (who was sometimes called Gabo) was a Nobel Prize winner and pioneering magical realist best known for his novels One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). “A surreal quality, a rendering of the improbable and impossible as real, pervades his work,” as William Kennedy wrote in the Atlantic in 1973.

The protagonist of Until August is a middle-aged woman named Ana Magdalena Bach, who visits her mother’s grave on a Caribbean island every year. On one of these trips, Ana invites a nameless man to her hotel room. “When she wakes in the morning, the man has gone,” writes the Guardian’s Lucy Hughes-Hallett. “Afterwards, every year, she sets out to repeat the experience with another stranger.”

Until August was García Márquez’s first book featuring a female protagonist. It was also his last literary undertaking—his “effort to continue creating against all odds,” as his sons say in a statement by publisher Alfred A. Knopf.

“We discovered that the text had many highly enjoyable merits and nothing that prevents us from delighting in the most outstanding aspects of Gabo’s work: his capacity for invention, his poetic language, his captivating storytelling, his understanding of humankind and his affection for our experiences and misadventures, especially in love,” they add.

Some critics have condemned the brothers’ decision to publish their father’s book. “His family and his publishers should have respected his wishes,” writes the i newspaper’s Max Liu. According to the Guardian, “No one, except for the publicists whose job it is to do so, is pretending that [Until August] is a masterpiece.” As he wrote it, García Márquez was struggling with worsening dementia, his mind becoming less and less his own.

Still, Until August certainly isn’t the first work to be printed against its author’s will.

“On his deathbed, the poet Virgil asked for the manuscript of his epic poem The Aeneid to be destroyed, according to classical lore,” as the New York Times’ Alexandra Alter writes. “When Franz Kafka was gravely ill from tuberculosis, he instructed his friend and executor, Max Brod, to burn all of his work.”

The publication of García Márquez’s “new” novel may ignite debate surrounding the ethics of “posthumous releases that contradict a writer’s directives,” adds the Times. Nevertheless, “literary history is littered with examples of famous works that wouldn’t exist if executors and heirs hadn’t ignored authors’ wishes.”

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