Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel García Márquez, the influential, Nobel Prize-winning author
of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Love in the Time of Cholera,"
has died, his family and officials said.
He was 87.
The literary giant was treated in April for infections and dehydration at a Mexican hospital.
García Márquez, a native
of Colombia, is widely credited with helping to popularize "magical
realism," a genre "in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined
in a richly composed world of imagination," as the Nobel committee
described it upon awarding him the prize for literature in 1982.
He was sometimes called
the most significant Spanish-language author since Miguel de Cervantes,
the 16th-century author of "Don Quixote" and one of the great writers in
Western literature. Indeed, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda told Time that
"One Hundred Years of Solitude" was "the greatest revelation in the
Spanish language since the Don Quixote of Cervantes."
The author's cousin,
Margarita Marquez, and Colombia's ambassador to Mexico, José Gabriel
Ortiz, confirmed the author's death to CNN on Thursday.
Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
"We're left with the
memories and the admiration to all Colombians and also Mexicans because I
think Gabo was half Mexican and half Colombian. He's just as admired in
Mexico as he is in (his native) Colombia, all of Latin America and
throughout the world," Ortiz told CNN en Español.
"I believe they were
somehow emotionally ready for this regrettable outcome. They knew he was
suffering from a complex, terminal disease and was an elderly man. I
believe (Garcia Marquez's widow Mercedes Barcha) was getting ready for
this moment, although nobody can really prepare themselves for a moment
The author -- known by
his nickname "Gabo" throughout Latin America -- was born in the northern
Colombian town of Aracataca, which became the inspiration for Macondo,
the town at the center of "Solitude," his 1967 masterpiece, and
referenced in such works as his novella "Leaf Storm" and the novel "In
"I feel Latin American
from whatever country, but I have never renounced the nostalgia of my
homeland: Aracataca, to which I returned one day and discovered that
between reality and nostalgia was the raw material for my work," reads a
mural quoting the author outside of town.
García Márquez was tickled that he had earned so much praise for his fertile imagination.
"The truth is that
there's not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in
reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest
imagination," he told The Paris Review in 1981.
A storyteller's childhood
García Márquez's early
life was shaped by both familial and political conflict. His
grandfather, a widely respected figure known as the Colonel, was a
liberal military man who strongly disagreed with the political views of
García Márquez's father, a conservative telegraph operator who became a
pharmacist. (His father's ardent pursuit of his mother later inspired
"Love in the Time of Cholera.")
disagreement came to reflect that of Colombia as a whole, a country that
spent a postwar decade in the grip of what was called "La Violencia," a
civil war that followed the assassination of a populist leader.
García Márquez spent his
early childhood with his grandparents while his parents pursued a
living in the coastal city of Barranquilla.
Both his grandparents
were excellent storytellers, and García Márquez soaked in their tales.
From his grandfather he learned of military men, Colombian history and
the terrible burden of killing; from his grandmother came folk tales,
superstitions and ghosts among the living.
stories were delivered "as if they were the irrefutable truth,"
according to the García Márquez site themodernword.com. The influence is
obvious in García Márquez's works, particularly "One Hundred Years of
In 1936 the Colonel,
died and García Márquez returned to his parents and their growing
family. He was eventually one of 11 children, not to mention several
half-siblings from his father's affairs, a familial sprawl that also
found its way into his books.
After finishing high
school, García Márquez went off to college with dreams of becoming a
writer. His parents, on the other hand, had plans for him to become a
lawyer. Writing ended up taking precedence: When La Violencia broke out,
García Márquez started contributing stories to a local newspaper and
eventually became a columnist. He had also been exposed to writers such
as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka and especially William
Faulkner, who had turned his own patch of land in Oxford, Mississippi,
into the shape-shifting past and present of Yoknapatawpha County.
In the mid-1950s, García
Márquez left Colombia for Europe, a move partly provoked by a story
he'd written that was critical of the government. The distance, he later
said, helped shape his perspective on Latin American politics.
For years, García
Márquez had been writing and publishing fiction, including short stories
in Latin American journals and a handful of longer works, including
"Leaf Storm," which was published in 1955. But it wasn't until 1967 with
the publication of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" that he broke
through to a wide audience.
'100 Years' of literary renown
The novel is set in
Macondo, a town founded by the patriarch of the Buendia family, José
Arcadio Buendia. Over the generations, members of the family are set
upon by ghosts and visions, fall in love, dream of riches and fight in
wars. Natural events take on supernatural aspects -- rains that last
years, plagues that create memory loss. It is a tapestry of almost
biblical proportions in which reality and spirit swirl and merge, a
world unto itself -- as well as a commentary on the politics and history
of the world at large.
"The narrative is a
magician's trick in which memory and prophecy, illusion and reality are
mixed and often made to look the same. It is, in short, very much like
Márquez's astonishing novel," wrote The New York Times in a 1970 review
upon the release of the English translation by Gregory Rabassa.
García Márquez worked on
"Solitude" tirelessly, selling off family items, living on credit,
smoking up a nicotine frenzy. Upon its release, the book became an
instant bestseller in Latin America and was equally successful in
English. It has been estimated to have sold in excess of 20 million
copies -- some sources say as many as 50 million -- in two dozen
The book didn't ease all
of García Márquez's problems, however. As a vocal leftist and defender
of Castro's Cuba, he was regularly limited or denied visas by the United
States until President Bill Clinton, a fan of "Solitude," revoked the
Clinton commented on Garcia Marquez's death Thursday.
"I was saddened to learn
of the passing of Gabriel García Márquez," he said in a statement.
"From the time I read 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' more than 40 years
ago, I was always amazed by his unique gifts of imagination, clarity of
thought, and emotional honesty. He captured the pain and joy of our
common humanity in settings both real and magical."
García Márquez was also
involved in a feud with onetime friend writer Mario Vargas Llosa, a
Peruvian and a Nobel laureate, who punched the Colombian in the face in
1976 -- believed to be over politics but later revealed to be over Vargas Llosa's wife.
García Márquez's ensuing
works were generally praised. They included "The Autumn of the
Patriarch" (1975), "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" (1981) and "The
General in His Labyrinth" (1990). He is said to be the most popular
Spanish-language author in the world.
"Love in the Time of
Cholera," with an English translation published in 1988, was a
particular bestseller. The love story, which was turned into a 2007
movie, was referenced in such works as the 2001 movie "Serendipity" and
the finale of the TV series "How I Met Your Mother."
García Márquez's style and impact have been widespread.
He is credited with
spearheading "el Boom," attracting attention to a generation of Latin
American writers, including Vargas Llosa and Mexico's Carlos Fuentes.
Magical realism is now an accepted genre, to the point that some critics
believe it has been overused.
And he prompted a focus
on Latin American politics -- protesting the 1973 CIA-aided coup in
Chile, calling attention to corruption and free speech issues in South
America and around the world.
He never gave up journalism.
"I've always been
convinced that my true profession is that of a journalist. What I didn't
like about journalism before were the working conditions," he told The
Paris Review. "Now, after having worked as a novelist, and having
achieved financial independence as a novelist, I can really choose the
themes that interest me and correspond to my ideas."
He was one of the most
honored -- and highly respected -- authors on Earth, particularly in
parts of the world where literature is taken as seriously as politics.
"On behalf of Mexico, I
would like to express my sorrow for the passing of one of the greatest
writers of our time, Gabriel Garcia Marquez," tweeted Mexican President
Enrique Peña Nieto.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos summed up the author's presence on Twitter.
"Giants never die," Santos tweeted.
For all of his
immortality, however, Garcia Marquez preferred the here and now. Asked
about the impact of dreams on his dreamlike writing, he said he'd rather
focus on reality.
"Life itself is the
greatest source of inspiration," he said. "I see dreams as part of life
in general, but reality is much richer.
"But maybe," he added, "I just have very poor dreams."