Spanish Language Learning – B1+ Spanish learner’s guide to Gabriel García Márquez – Relato de un Náufrago

Hi all, I’ve spent a few hours today writing this guide to reading one of GGM’s first works. I’m really enjoying reading it, but am also surprised by how easy it is for me as an Intermediate, given it’s by a writer known for very advanced and expressive language. It’s also a really cool book to be reading, because of its historical context and controversy, which I explain below.

I am thinking of writing more of these kinds of guides, especially for B1/B2 level books, with the aim of increasing enjoyment and learning ability, but before I write any more I wanted to see what kind of feedback this gets. I’ve included vocabulary lists, which I am prepared to turn into Quizlets and Anki Flashcards if there is demand for them. The idea is that, by using these vocabulary lists, a reader can synthetically jump 1-2 levels and enjoy and learn from a more advanced text than they’d usually be able to.

*PLEASE* give me any feedback you may have on this guide: whether it’s helpful, and whether there’s anything else you think would be useful in a language learner’s guide to a book.

**Spanish Learner’s Guide: Relato de un Náufrago / The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor**

Recommended level: upper intermediate

Could be grasped at lower intermediate or possibly even high beginner if using a Kindle, using the vocab lists below.


Relato de un Náufrago is an intermediate-level introduction to the Nobel Prize winning works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (hereafter GGM), who is considered among the world’s most significant 20th century authors, and is perhaps the most famous Latin American writer. He is a must-read for anyone who wants to deepen their appreciation of the Spanish language or Latin-American history and culture, and Relato de un Náufrago is a great entry point to these works. What’s more, it was embedded in controversy that was formative in GGM’s life and career.

**The history of the story**

GGM is known for his novels, but Relato de un Náufrago was written early in his career at age 27, when he was primarily working as a journalist for El Espectador, one of Colombia’s main newspapers. It was highly controversial, having been ghostwritten by GGM in 1955 and published in 14 daily instalments, originally under the name of the story’s 20-year-old protagonist, Colombian Navy seaman Luis Alejandro Velasco. The military dictatorship claimed that the sailors, all pronounced dead after four hours, perished as the result of a storm, and when Velasco washed ashore 10 days later, he was proclaimed a military hero and became a motivational speaker and poster-boy for the bravery of Colombian servicemen.


The true story told by the surviving Velasco showed that the accident was caused primarily by a heavy load of contraband illegally carried on board the destroyer, caused avoidable deaths by having no lifesaving equipment aboard its rafts, and Velasco himself said that his bravery “consisted solely in not allowing [him]self to die of hunger and thirst for ten days”.

Gustavo Rojas Pinilla’s dictatorship was furious; El Espectador was closed, Velasco was forced to leave the navy, fading from national hero into obscurity, and Marquez fled Colombia to live in exile in France. After the success of “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, GGM’s publishers urged him to dig up the newspaper series and publish it under his own name, which he did, with great success. He generously ceded the royalties and author’s rights to Velasco, who later ended up suing him for the translation rights, which he lost. In the last week of his life, he apologised to GGM for doing so.

You can read more about the story and its controversy here: [](


**Core Vocabulary**

Un Náufrago – a castaway, shipwrecked sailor

Un Naufragio – a shipwreck

Franquicia – exemption from duties

El Buque – The vessel

La Marina – The Navy

La litera – The bunk

El Motín – Mutiny

Los Amotinados – Mutineers

El Barreminas – the Minesweeper

Ingresar (en la Marina) – to join (the navy)

Marear – to get dizzy

Fragata – frigate

Cabo (en la Marina) – corporal

Batir – to beat

Efectuar – to effect/carry out/execute (formal speech)

Zarpar – to set sail

Babor – Port

Estribor – starboard

El marino – the marine

La travesía – the crossing

Una bronca – a row, fight

Embarcar – to embark, board

Echar la casa por la ventana

Teniente – lieutenant

Suboficial – non-commissioned officer

Maquinista – Machinist – naval engineer

Novato – novice

escorar/escorando – to heel over, lean over

Las amarras – the moorings

Auriculares – headphones

La carga – the cargo, load

La popa – the stern

Mástil – mast

Remar – to row

Los remos – the oars

Rumor – murmur

**Intermediate/Advanced Vocabulary**

Tiritando – Shivering, trembling

Perjudicar – to be detrimental to

Rebelde – rebellious, stubborn

Tibio – lukewarm

Una torcedura – a twist

Sordo – dull, muffled

Endurecida – toughened

Infundir – to instill

Botas Dotadas – equipped boats [equipped with lifesaving equipment]

Implacable – implacable, relentless, ruthless

Azotado – Lashed, whipped

Aferrar – to anchor, grapple

Precipitarse en un abismo – to plunge into an abyss

Caucho – rubber

Reventar (las olas reventaban) – to break (waves breaking against the bridge)

Arreciar – to get worse

El pavor – the terror

Conciliar – to reconcile

Un agonizante – a dying person

Manifestar – to declare, express

Desgarrar – to tear, rip

Las presiones – the pressure

Los Gérmenes – the germs

Relojería – watchmaking, clockwork

La patria – fatherland, homeland

El tez – the complexion

Los anteojos – the spectacles, glasses

Estrepitosamente – with a loud crash

Bien plantado – fine looking

Curtir/curtida – to tan/tanned

Infundado – unfounded

Desencajado – dislocated, out of position, shaken [en la media cubierta, el cabo Miguel Ortega estaba sentado, desencajado, luchando con el mareo]

Lívido – livid, furiously angry

Dril – Cotton drill fabric, a heavyweight, durable fabric

Extenuar – to exhaust, weaken

Voraz – voracious

Un Antropófago – a cannibal

Recapitulación – recapitulation – the act of summarising and restating the main points of something

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