Gabriel Garcia Marquez - 6th March 1927 - 17th April 2014
This week saw Colombia pay tribute to its most celebrated author Gabriel Garcia Marquez who died last Thursday aged 87. Famed for his novel ‘One Hundred years of Solitude’, which since its publication in 1967, more than 25m copies of the book have been sold in Spanish and other languages. For at least a generation the book firmly stamped Latin American literature as the domain of "magical realism". After memorial services for the author in both Mexico City and Bogota, the current president Juan Manuel Santos commented, "The world knows about Colombia through Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He represented what Colombia is in many ways. His magic realism is - and he said it - is not an invention. It's a description of what Colombia is." So who was this man behind the magical literary genre? Whose exotic and at times bizarre novels were careful critiques of the Colombian sociopolitical situation.
‘Gabo’ had a childhood under a superstitious grandmother and a grandfather war veteran from the thousand days war. He grew up in the sleepy, dusty town of Aracataca on the Colombian Caribbean coast, left to develop his own vivid imagination whilst his father worked as a telegraph operator. Despite having lived many years outside of Colombia (in Paris and Mexico) the influence of the coast still continued to shape his stories, in tales of love, lust and mystical encounters at times framed by yellow butterflies.
Leaving the coast behind, Marquez began his education in Bogota, which he always referred to as a cold, Andean exile. It was here his love of writing began, in the early 1950s he worked during the daytime as a newspaper reporter, first back on the coast and later in Bogotá on the newspaper El Espectador.
Gabo penned his first novel ‘Leafstorm’ in 1955 aged just 22, however it took him seven years to find a publisher. In 1965, the idea for the first chapter of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ came to him while he was driving to Acapulco. After locking himself in his bedroom with six packets of cigarettes, Marquez penned the novel all in good time – his family were in $12,000 of debt. The novel's first printing in Spanish sold out within a week, and during the next thirty years One Hundred Years of Solitude sold more than twenty million copies and was translated into more than thirty languages. The New York Times called it the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race. It also sparked the period of literature termed the Latin American ‘Boom’, as contemporary authors (rival Mario Vargas-Llosa) began obtaining literary recognition as literature and sociopolitical events met head on.
Famed for his friendship with Fidel Castro and political views, more recently he was involved in the FARC peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba. Despite winning the Nobel prize for literature in 1982, Marquez remained a humble man, spending time at home writing with his childhood sweetheart and wife of over 40 years Mercedes. He leaves behind two sons.
“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”