Few people outside of Colombia have ever heard of the town of Aracataca, located in northern of Colombia between the border of Venezuela and the port of Barranquilla, if it didn’t happen to be the home of one of the writers that gave meaning to the expression “magic realism”: Gabriel García Márquez.
Gabriel García Márquez’s biography is full of moments that give us insight into his great passion for stories and for the presentation of fantasy as a common occurrence. We also see his own ability to elevate seemingly mundane situations to new magical realms. Gabo, as he is known around the world, was born on March 6, 1927, the son of a telegraph operator and the daughter of a Colombian colonel (the colonel would only allow his daughter to marry the telegraphist after long periods of separation and a number of letters, serenades, and telegrams).
Gabo lived part of his childhood with his maternal grandparents. Colonel Nicolas Ricardo Marquez, a tough man who was something of a womanizer, greatly influenced his grandson’s vision of reality and violence, and it was he who first introduced the writer to ice (a surprising event that is reflected on the first pages of his book 100 Years of Solitude). His grandmother Tranquilina told him stories that the author has described as his “first and main literary influence […] inspired by the way she treated the extraordinary as something perfectly natural when she told stories. No matter how fantastic or improbable her tales were, she always told them as if they were the irrefutable truth.” We clearly see this early influence in the 100 Years of Solitude character Ursula Iguaran.
Upon the death of his grandfather, Gabo's parents sent him to Barranquilla, where he studied until he was in high school. Then he went to study in Bogotá on a scholarship, supposedly to study law, although his real interests were reading and writing. He published his first short story at this time, entitled "La tercera resignación" (The Third Resignation) in the newspaper El Espectador.
When the university closed after the 1948 disturbances known as the “Bogotazo” erupted, Gabo moved to Cartagena and began his work as a journalist at El Heraldo. Five volumes compile his work in journalism spanning from 1948 to 1984, which include thirteen more texts that range from his 1970 Relato de un náufrago (The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor) to his 1998 La bendita manía de contar (The Blessed Mania of Telling Stories).
In 1958, he married his school sweetheart Mercedes Bacha. One year later his first son, Rodrigo, was born, who is now a movie director. In 1961, the family settled in New York when Gabo was sent there as a correspondent with Prensa Latina, the news agency created by Fidel Castro (García Márquez’s close relationship with Castro would cause certain problems for the writer). After an uncomfortable period in New York, the family moved to Mexico City.
In 1967 an event occurred that forever changed not only García Márquez’s life but also the course of Latin American literature: 100 Years of Solitude was published. This epic book has been called one of the greatest novels in history, in any language. The masterpiece brought Gabo great success: all 8,000 copies of the first edition sold out in one week. This was his fifth novel, and it opened the doors to worldwide recognition and international awards including the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature.
As a public personality, he was well known for his outspoken political ideas, his sullen character, and his fight with lymphatic cancer — which he won. This battle with cancer had caused a stir when some media outlets prematurely announced his death in 1999. Although García Márquez was not publicly active in last years of his life, he maintained his popular and mysterious persona. In 2012 his brother, Jaime, announced that García Márquez was suffering from dementia and on April 17, 2014, García Marquez died of pneumonia in Mexico City.
Gabriel García Márquez has not only been a highly influential writer in the Spanish-speaking world; he has also earned a place among the greatest writers in literary history.
NOVELS BY GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ
1955- La hojarasca (Leaf Storm)
1961- El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (No One Writes to the Colonel)
1962- Los funerales de la Mamá Grande (Big Mama’s Funeral)
1966- La mala hora (In Evil Hour)
1967- Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude)
1975- El otoño del patriarca (The Autumn of the Patriarch)
1981- Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)
1985- El amor en los tiempos del cólera (Love in the Time of Cholera)
1989- El general en su laberinto (The General in His Labyrinth)
1994- Del amor y otros demonios (Of Love and Other Demons)
2004- Memoria de mis putas tristes (Memories of My Melancholy Whores)
Marquez also wrote a play, two movie scripts, 38 short stories, 9 anthologies, 5 collections of articles, 13 essays, and an autobiography called Vivir para contarla (Living to Tell the Tale).