Lovers of lost causes will delight in the latest Marquez, a historical novel in which Mr Magical Realism has jettisoned the fantastic trappings of his early books in favour of facts. These are not just any facts, of course: his subject, South America’s liberating hero General Simon Bolivar, belongs to the shady territory between myth and history, and as such is fair game for the subcontinent’s greatest romancer.
Marquez portrays the Liberator’s last months as a geographical and psychological journey from the centre to the edge of South America. After forcing the Spanish to give up their empire Bolivar has himself been forced out of power by the people he sought to free. His dreams of unifying the