In the Beginning Was the Sea

In the Beginning Was the Sea

3.7 (689 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Death in paradise: sea, sex and a sinister downward spiral on a Caribbean coast

The young intellectuals J. and Elena abandon the parties, the drinking and the money of the city, and start a new life on a remote tropical coast. Among mango trees, hot sands and everlasting sunshine, they plan to live the Good Life, self-sufficient and close to nature.

But with each day come small defeats and imperceptible dramas. Gradually paradise turns into hell, as brutal weather, mounting debts, the couple's brittle relationship, and the sea itself threaten to destroy them.

Based on a true story, In the Beginning Was the Sea is a dramatic and searingly ironic account of the disastrous encounter of the imagined life with reality - a satire of hippyism, ecological fantasies, and of the very idea that man can control fate.

Tomas Gonzalez was born in 1950 in Medellin, Colombia. He studied Philosophy before becoming a barman in a Bogota nightclub, whose owner published In the Beginning Was the Sea, his first novel, in 1983. Gonzalez has lived in Miami and New York, where he wrote much of his work while making a living as a translator. After twenty years in the US, he returned to Colombia, where he now lives. His books have been translated into six languages. In the Beginning Was the Sea is Gonzalez's first book to be published in English.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 176 pages
  • 120 x 165 x 15.24mm | 176.9g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1782270418
  • 9781782270416
  • 339,839

Review Text

"Eight years ago, González was branded 'the best-kept secret of Colombian literature' . . . He has since become one of his country's foremost novelists, and In the Beginning Was the Sea - this taut, uncompromising study of the faultlines in all of us - is earning a wide readership. Perhaps it's time to call him something else." - The Guardian §§"Gonzalez poetically and comically captures the inevitable destruction of those who live in a world of fantasy and hubris, depicting beauty and despair by turns." - Publishers Weekly §§"What makes the characters so recognizable, so uncomfortable and so relevant, particularly in today's hipster-dominated culture, is how their intent to live consciously is thwarted by an utter lack of self-awareness. . . The strength of description, and the menacing tone that runs beneath 'In the Beginning Was the Sea,' however, are ultimately what give the slim novel its haunting power." - The Chicago Tribune §§"González impresses with his enactment of initial dream and subsequent nightmare. His tropical idyll is expertly depicted through a succession of richly conveyed sights and sounds... Based on a true story, 'In the Beginning Was the Sea' is a gripping cautionary tale about how hard, cruel reality sooner or later impinges upon our seemingly imperishable fantasies. It is González's first book to be published in English. If this is a measure of what he is capable of, with luck there will be many more." - The Star Tribune §§"Aided by a devastatingly evocative translation from Frank Wynne and armed with the skill of a master storyteller, over the course of 200 some odd pages Gonzalez constructs a chilling, brilliantly plotted tale . . . From the very beginning the author, and his translator, transport the reader into a scintillating, unsettling dreamlike world where every sentence comes to life in vibrant detail." - Typographical Era §§"[T]he novel leaves its mark... the arresting prose and complex characters shine." - Kirkus Reviews §§"Colombian novelist González tells a common story with uncommon economy [...] For readers following J's fantasies and hopes, it is impossible not to think of Kafka's K [...] González's work has been translated into six languages, but this is his first book to appear in English, an auspicious beginning." - Booklist§§" In the Beginning Was the Sea [is] a book that simultaneously works as a political parable, a novel, and a mournful confessional... written in a fashion meant to hold up his own grief and disorientation as its own strange flower, an emotional germination meant both to stand on its own and be inseparable from all that surrounds it, an individual "you," straining to emerge from a ceaseless body of discovery, loss, memory, and their insatiable repetition." - Los Angeles Review of Books §§"The lyrical, haunting story has the feel of a fable-a young man and his beautiful wife abandon their hectic, intellectual, night-clubbing life in the city to buy a farm on an undeveloped stretch of coast-while the spare, disquieting prose suggests the start of an art-house horror film." - Daniel Levine, Words Without Borders §
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Review quote

Taut, uncompromising study of the faultlines in all of us Juan-Gabriel Vasquez, Guardian The lauded Colombian novelist lives up to the hype...extraordinarily evocative Independent A novel that lingers Telegraph A writerly coup de grace: short and swift, with sharp imagery, menace and sensuality nestling together in its luxuriant Caribbean setting Financial Times Smoothly intriguing narrative, with its touches of sinister, Patricia Highsmith-like menace Irish Times A brief, pungent, powerful and unusual tale Monocle Tomas Gonzalez has the potential to become a classic of Latin American literature... a very pure writer Elfriede Jelinek, Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature Haunting Metro Skilfully planted with narrative bombs... you can hear it ticking Intelligent Life Quietly unsettling, elegantly written Sunday Express Extremely potent: sly, voyeuristic, ominously poetic... a clever riff on the Rousseaus (both Henri and Jean-Jacques), a cautionary tale about choosing to defy the laws of nature and man, and ultimately discovering that idealism can't replace them -- Jessica Loudis TLS Through the sparse language and the handpicked metaphors, the exotic island that J. and Elena inhabit and the realities of mainland South America come to life... lean and severe but still ultimately artistic Bookbag A fascinatingly dark character study. It is an unflinching, and pitch perfect trip into the dark heart of Colombia and hippy culture in general. It is above all a powerful debut Upcoming4Me A revelation...a book of exceptional intensity Le Monde Gonzalez's sharp and succinct delivery, combined with his crisp and startling imagery, leaves an impression upon a reader that takes time to fade. Litro 'As menacingly taut as Hemingway's, and his superlative telling of an idealistic couple's relationship coming apart at the seams brings to mind any number of US fiction's modern heroes, from Richard Yates to Jhumpa Lahiri' Quadrapheme Concentrated and perfect Liberation If Garcia Marquez is Wagner, Tomas Gonzalez is Bob Dylan. Arcadia magazine, Colombia A fascinating sociological experiment...Tomas Gonzalez writes with descriptive beauty and subtle irony The Literateur Tomas Gonzalez is a storyteller of universal range. Die Zeit Not a sad or depressing story, but an absolutely coherent and consistent, plausible, deeply human, even comforting one Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Superb -- Eileen Battersby Irish Times (Books of the Year) Terse but poetic... J's escape is by turns beautiful, hubristic and tragic. Gonzalez writes gloriously about nature for good measure. Independent (Books of the Year) Tomas Gonzalez is among the brilliant Colombian writers emerging from the shadow of Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- Maya Jaggi Pen Atlas Devastatingly evocative... a chilling, brilliantly plotted tale Typographical Era A truly captivating trouble-in-paradise novel... If this is a measure of what [Gonzalez] is capable of, with luck there will be many more Star Tribune The finca's surroundings, richly and sensuously rendered by Gonzalez and Spanish-language translator Frank Wynne, burst with images of fecundity... For the English-speaking world, this novel is merely a taste of what is to come Chicago Tribune Gonzalez poetically and comically captures the inevitable destruction of those who live in a world of fantasy and hubris, depicting beauty and despair by turns Publishers Weekly Touching... Gonzalez has established himself as one of Colombia's leading writers RTE
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About Tomas Gonzalez

Tomas Gonzalez was born in 1950 in Medellin, Colombia. He studied Philosophy before becoming a barman in a Bogota nightclub, whose owner published In the Beginning Was the Sea, his first novel, in 1983. Gonzalez has lived in Miami and New York, where he wrote much of his work while making a living as a translator. After twenty years in the US, he returned to Colombia, where he now lives. His books have been translated into six languages. In the Beginning Was the Sea is Gonzalez's first book to be published in English.
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Rating details

689 ratings
3.7 out of 5 stars
5 21% (148)
4 40% (278)
3 28% (196)
2 7% (48)
1 3% (19)
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