Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Great writer, pioneer of magic realism
GABRIEL GARCIA MÁRQUEZ: This Nobel prize-winning Columbian writer, journalist and screenwriter was a pioneer in the writing style known as magic realism which combines a realistic narrative with fantasy. His best-known novels are One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.
Born on March 6, 1927 in a town named Aracataca in Columbia, Marquez was raised by his grandparents. His rationalist grandfather was a retired army colonel who shaped his political ideology while his grandmother told him stories about magic and ghosts which later influenced his writing.
When Márquez was seven, his grandfather died and he shifted base to Bogota, the Columbian capital city where he began living with his parents. As a teenager, he developed interest in reading books. Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis inspired him to take up writing. Initially, he planned to study law and in 1947 enrolled at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. During that year, he published his first short story in a periodical. Violence broke out
in the country around that time and the university was closed. Márquez then enrolled at the Universidad de Cartagena. He began writing reports and articles for local papers. He met Ramon Vinyes, who introduced him to the novels of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. In 1949, Márquez abandoned legal studies and moved to Barranquilla town.
In the mid-1950s, Márquez travelled to Europe which was more conducive than his native land to his left-wing political views. He dropped anchor in Paris and reported for El Espectador and also for another Colombian paper, El Independiente. He published his first novel, Leaf Storm, in 1955. Though he lived in relative poverty, he was able to get a fresh perspective on Latin America while watching it from a distance.
In 1957, he returned to Latin America to help a friend edit a magazine titled Momento in Caracas, Venezuela. The next year, he returned to Barranquilla and married his childhood friend, Mercedes Barcha Pardo, the daughter of a pharmacist. Soon after, Márquez resigned from the magazine that supported the American foreign policy. He went to Cuba to report on the aftermath of Fidel Castro’s socialist revolution.
In 1967, Marquez published his most popular novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude and won international acclaim.
The novel sold out its entire first Spanish printing within a week. Sales were so brisk that the publisher could barely keep enough copies in print. Chilean Nobel laureate poet Pablo Neruda said in Time magazine that the book was “the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since the Don Quixote of Cervantes.” Over the years, it sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and was translated into over 30 languages. The novel is considered to be the most popular example of magical realism, a style that combines supernatural elements with a realistic narrative.
The success of One Hundred Years of Solitude enabled García Márquez to become a full-time writer and not depend on other sources of income. The book won him the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Romulo Gallegos Prize in 1972. American author William Kennedy said it was “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.” The success of that novel helped Marquez develop friendships with many influential people. He took part in negotiations between the Columbian government and guerillas.
He wanted to use his Nobel Prize money to start a newspaper, but the venture never took concrete shape. He was able to pursue journalism again when he bought the Colombian newsmagazine Cambio in 1999. The circulation and revenues of the ailing magazine shot up after he bought it. He said, “Journalism is the only trade that I like and I have always regarded myself as a journalist.”
His novel Autumn of the Patriarch was based on a Venezuelan dictator and dealt with the solitude one feels when one has power. Chronicles of a Death Foretold consists of a plot of the murder of its central character named Santiago Nasar.
He fell ill with cancer in 1999 and began writing his memoirs. On April 17, 2014, the great writer died of pneumonia at the age of 87.
Marquez’s novel titled Love In the Time of Cholera was based on the interesting love story of his parents’ interesting love story. His father had wooed his mother with poems, love letters and serenades. Initially his mother’s family objected, but then they were allowed to marry.
Márquez, who was nicknamed Gabo, objected to the formal teaching of spelling. In September 2004, he was barred from the International Congress of the Spanish Language following disagreement over the writer’s views.
Marquez had also worked as a film critic, founded the Film Institute in Havana and wrote several screenplays that were turned into films.
He has lived in many parts of the world, including Cuba, Spain, Mexico, France, the United States, and Columbia. Cuban President Fidel Castro kept a mansion for him in Havana, Cuba.
On Marquez’s 91st birth anniversary, Google created a doodle that described the writer as a cultural icon whose star continues to shine brightly. It further stated that “Gabo’s keen sense of political activism and courage allowed him to author a number of non-fictional works that eloquently document the times that he lived in.”
Sources: famousauthors.org, notablebiographies.com, softschools.com