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The Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez was an unabashed fan of English versions of his novels, suggesting that Gregory Rabassa's translation of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" surpassed the original. Anne McLean's marvelous rendering of García Márquez's posthumous "Until August" continues the tradition, immersing us in the dreamy richness of the author's fictional worlds, amid characters pummeled by the demands of marriage, family and the dead — who linger in a kind of limbo. It weighs in at a mere hundred pages (plus an afterword), but it's far more than a coda to a magnificent career.

Each Aug. 12, Ana Magdalena Bach makes a pilgrimage to a cemetery on an island off Colombia's shore. Her purpose is twofold: cleaning her mother's grave and reveling in a brief escape from her husband, a domineering professional musician, and their grown children, a colorless son and a punk daughter inexplicably determined to enter a convent. Bach is in her late forties, a teacher who always carries a book, her beauty still glittering in her golden eyes.

Her annual ritual repeats itself: She arrives on the island, scrubs dirt and foliage from the headstone while speaking aloud her deepest transgressions as if confessing to a priest. Then she takes a ferry back to the tourist town, showers and heads to a bar for a drink, returning home the next day. One summer, her routine is disrupted when she meets a nameless man in the bar and brings him to her room, waking to pangs of guilt and a $20 bill left as payment for services tendered, or a token of just how much he thinks she's worth.

This tryst sparks an obsession: From now on she will use her getaway both to mourn and indulge herself — à la Freud, there's a struggle between sex and death at play. She yearns for a blessing: "She was so convinced that her mother would send her a sign of approval that she expected it instantly. She looked up at the ceiba in flower, its repeated clusters blowing in the wind; she saw the sky, the sea, the Miami-bound plane."

"Until August" pays tribute to composers whose music inspired García Márquez — hence Ana Magdalena's surname — as well as to writers such as Daniel Defoe and Ray Bradbury. García Márquez wrangles, too, with signature themes like the vulnerability of love and the buzzsaw of desire.

Although her luck waxes and wanes, casual affairs may be the answer, as when a younger man seduces her in a club, issuing "with a languid hand, his invitation to dance. Ana Magdalena Bach, alone and free on her island, gripped that hand as if it were the edge of a precipice." She finds uneasy resolution only after she reconstructs her mother's story.

García Márquez wrote "Until August" against the clock; his memory withered during his final years. He considered it unfinished and forbade his sons to publish it. But in what they call "an act of betrayal" they pulled it from their father's papers, recognized its merits and moved forward.

McLean's nuanced translation harkens back to the maestro's canonical novels while evoking, in a composition as tight as a Rembrandt portrait, the ache of human need.

Hamilton Cain, who reviews for publications including the New York Times Book Review and Washington Post, lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Until August

By: Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Anne McLean.

Publisher: Knopf, 129 pages, $22.