Picks and Pans Review: The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor

UPDATED 06/02/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/02/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

When the Nobel-winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Autumn of the Patriarch was a young journalist in his native Colombia, he was assigned to interview a sailor who had survived on a raft at sea for 10 days without water or food. García Márquez wrote a newspaper series on the sailor, and that material has been translated for this book into a rousing nonfiction adventure tale. The sailor and seven others were swept off the deck of a Colombian destroyer that had been overloaded with contraband refrigerators and other heavy appliances. He found a raft with three oars and was the only one to survive the accident. A plane flew near, but the pilot failed to see him. The descriptive passages of the sensations of too much sun and thirst and hunger, of the fearsome sharks that gathered at 5 o'clock every afternoon are splendidly vivid. The sailor scratched a mark for each day in the wood of the raft railing. Just before dawn one day he had a vision of a friend visiting him, and toward the end of the ordeal he hallucinated and wished for death. After he was found on a beach and taken home, he survived his celebrity status and the Colombian government's discomfort over the story as resiliency as he did the nightmare on the raft. Readers, especially young people who like stories of remarkable true experiences, will certainly enjoy this book. The telling is straightforward, without literary pretension, and it provides exciting entertainment in less time than it takes to watch a television miniseries. (Knopf, $13.95)

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