Authors: Gabriel García Márquez

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2017

Colombian-born novelist, short-story writer, journalist, and screenwriter

March 6, 1927

Aracataca, Colombia

April 17, 2014

Mexico City, Mexico

Biography

Gabriel García Márquez ranks among the major figures in the great surge of creativity, from the late 1940’s to the early 1970’s, that placed Latin America in the forefront of the global literary scene. García Márquez was born in a Colombian village on the Caribbean coast. He was the first of twelve children. Owing to his parents’ indigence, he was reared by his maternal grandparents, who provided him with the stories, legends, and superstitions of Aracataca that were in time to inform a number of his short stories as well as his monumental novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. He was sent to school at the age of eight, after the death of his grandfather. Completing his early and secondary education at Barranquilla and Zipaquirá, he matriculated in 1947 at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá.

During the 1940’s he read the modern writers, especially Franz Kafka and William Faulkner. In his freshman year in Bogotá his law studies were punctuated by his reading of fiction and by the publication of his first story, “The Third Resignation,” a chilling Kafkaesque narrative about a comatose male who lives from the age of seven to the age of twenty-five in a coffin.

From the original image. Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara

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By Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara (File:Gabriel Garcia Marquez (2009).jpg Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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By F3rn4nd0, edited by Mangostar [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The volatile political situation in Colombia, marked by the conflict between the Liberal and Conservative Parties, culminated in 1949 with the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, the Liberal candidate for president, and initiated a decade of civil bloodshed known as la violencia (the violence). The university in Bogotá had closed during the preceding year, and García Márquez continued his studies at Cartagena, where he abandoned law studies in favor of journalism.

In 1950 he moved to Barranquilla and became a columnist for the newspaper El Heraldo. Four years later he returned to Bogotá and became a writer for El Espectador, the newspaper that had published his first story. His determination to become a writer had been fostered by his reading of Faulkner, and his first long fictional work, Leaf Storm (a Faulknerian rendition of the thoughts during a funeral that occupy the minds of the deceased’s son, mother, and grandfather), was published in 1955. In the same year he was sent by El Espectador to Geneva, where he was left without resources after the military government shut down the newspaper. He then spent some three years in Paris, living in poverty and continuing his writing. He traveled extensively to Europe, the Soviet Union, and Venezuela, where he edited Momento and, in 1958, married Mercedes Barcha. From 1959, the year of Cuba’s revolution, until 1961 he worked as a journalist for Fidel Castro’s Prensa Latina. In 1961 he, with his wife and son, journeyed from New York through Faulkner’s South to Mexico, where in the following year he saw the publication of eight of his stories in one volume.

After the publication of more stories and novellas, García Márquez went into seclusion. He emerged in 1967, having written One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel that resists and revises conventional notions of temporality, morality, and the demarcations between life and death. The immediate international success of this novel established its author as a major figure of twentieth-century literature. In One Hundred Years of Solitude the history of the New World and of the human spirit is encapsulated in the generations of the Buendía family, the founders and chief residents of the fictional town of Macondo. In the novel the most ordinary events are related as though they were miracles, while ostensibly extraordinary events are presented as mere matters of fact. After the publication of this landmark work, García Márquez was awarded the 1972 Books Abroad/Neustadt Prize for outstanding achievement in fiction.

García Márquez’s distaste for extremist politics, especially dictatorships, is evident in his writing. The Autumn of the Patriarch is based upon the Venezuelan dictator of the 1950’s, Marcos Pérez Jiménez. The novel’s fictional counterpart, Zacarías Alvarado, is a grotesque whose atrocious tyranny is recorded in an unrelenting style that retains the humor of One Hundred Years of Solitude but darkens it with grisly and diabolic details. The regime of Augusto Pinochet in Chile is depicted as oppressive in Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín. Pro-Marxism is much in evidence in this historically based first-person narrative of filmmaker Littín, who returned in disguise to Chile to compile a cinematic documentary of life under Pinochet twelve years after the violent overthrow of the Marxist president Salvador Allende in 1973.

While his views on world events were well known and were published under fictional guise and in journalistic form from 1968 onward, it was for his Magical Realism that García Márquez won international acclaim. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1982, and his Love in the Time of Cholera—with its assumption of the immortality of the lover’s vow, in which physical resurrection is implicit—was well received upon its translation into English in 1988. An American screen adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera was released in 2007.

Critics and reviewers continued their praise of his talent and creative imagination upon the appearance of his short novel Of Love and Other Demons, recounting a twelve-year-old girl’s “possession” (the effects of an attack by a rabid dog) and a priest’s being possessed by rabid love in his attendance on her. The novel, as R. Z. Sheppard notes, extends the gallery of Maconderos and maintains “the daring and irresistible coupling of history and imagination.”

In his prologue to Strange Pilgrims, a collection of twelve short stories written between 1976 and 1982, García Márquez is explicit about his concept of nonlinear narrative: A “story has no beginning, no ending: it either works or it does not.” Scholars consistently make profound inquiries into the revolutionary art of García Márquez, with its inventive voice and its inexhaustible thematic constitutions, and readers delight in the strangely realistic humor of this creative artist, whom Thomas Pynchon once called a “straight-faced teller of tall tales.”

Toward the end of his life, the once-prolific García Márquez's literary output slowed. He was treated for lymphatic cancer in 1999. Ten years passed between the Spanish-language publication of Of Love (1994) and that of his final novel, Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004), about finding love and sexual pleasure in old age. He did write a few nonfiction works, however. These focused on Colombia's political status, the hostage-taking of journalists during the drug war, and the origins of the nation's identity, respectively. García Márquez also produced the first volume of a planned three-part autobiography, which covered the years 1927 to 1955 but was notable for its nonlinear chronology and for blurring the line between fact and fiction. It was much anticipated and soon became an international best-seller. Interviews, speeches, and news pieces from Cambio, the Bogotá weekly news magazine he had bought in the 1990s, were compiled and published not long before his death in April 2014.

García Márquez was also involved with the Latin American film industry. Beginning in the mid-1960s, he wrote original screenplays for Latin American films, and several of his books and short stories were adapted for the big screen as well. He even headed the Havana, Cuba–based Foundation of New Latin American Cinema, after its establishment in 1985. Yet García Márquez left his biggest mark on the printed page, and it is for his written works that he will be best remembered.

Author Works Long Fiction: La hojarasca, 1955 (novella; Leaf Storm, and Other Stories, 1972) El coronel no tiene quien le escriba, 1961 (novella; No One Writes to the Colonel, 1968) La mala hora, 1962, revised 1966 (In Evil Hour, 1979) Cien años de soledad, 1967 (One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1970) El otoño del patriarca, 1975 (The Autumn of the Patriarch, 1975) Crónica de una muerte anunciada, 1981 (novella; Chronicle of a Death Foretold, 1982) El amor en los tiempos del cólera, 1985 (Love in the Time of Cholera, 1988) El general en su laberinto, 1989 (The General in His Labyrinth, 1990) Collected Novellas, 1990 Del amor y otros demonios, 1994 (Of Love and Other Demons, 1995) Memoria de mis putas tristes, 2004 (Memories of My Melancholy Whores, 2005) Short Fiction: Los funerales de la Mamá Grande, 1962 Isabel viendo llover en Macondo, 1967 (Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo, 1972) No One Writes to the Colonel, and Other Stories, 1968 La increíble y triste historia de la Cándida Eréndira y de su abuela desalmada, 1972 (Innocent Eréndira, and Other Stories, 1978) El negro que hizo esperar a los ángeles, 1972 Ojos de perro azul, 1972 Todos los cuentos de Gabriel García Márquez, 1975 Relato de un náufrago: Que estuvo diez días a la deriva en una balsa sin comer ni beber, que fue proclamado héroe de la patria, besado por las reinas de la belleza y hecho rico por la publicidad, y luego aborrecido por el gobierno y olvidado para siempre, 1970 (The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor: Who Drifted on a Liferaft for Ten Days Without Food or Water, Was Proclaimed a National Hero, Kissed by Beauty Queens, Made Rich Through Publicity, and Then Spurned by the Government and Forgotten for All Time, 1986) Collected Stories, 1984 Doce cuentos peregrinos, 1992 (Strange Pilgrims: Twelve Stories, 1993) Nonfiction: La novela en América Latina: Diálogo, 1968 (with Mario Vargas Llosa) Cuando era feliz e indocumentado, 1973 Chile, el golpe y los gringos, 1974 Crónicas y reportajes, 1976 Operación Carlota, 1977 Periodismo militante, 1978 De viaje por los países socialistas, 1978 Obra periodística, 1981-1999 (5 volumes; includes Textos costeños, 1981; Entre cachacos, 1982; De Europa y América, 1955-1960, 1983; Por la libre, 1974-1995, 1999; Notas de prensa, 1961-1984, 1999) El olor de la guayaba: Conversaciones con Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, 1982 (The Fragrance of the Guava: Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza in Conversation with Gabriel García Márquez, 1983; also known as The Smell of Guava, 1984) La aventura de Miguel Littín, clandestino en Chile, 1986 (Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín, 1987) Por un país al alcance de los niños, 1996 (For the Sake of a Country within Reach of the Children, 1998) Noticia de un secuestro, 1996 (News of a Kidnapping, 1997) Vivir para contarla, 2002 (Living to Tell the Tale, 2003) Identidad caribe: Síntesis y génesis de la nacionalidad colombiana, 2006 Conversations with Gabriel García Márquez, 2006 (Gene H. Bell-Villada, editor) Yo no vengo a decir un discurso, 2010 La nostalgia de las almendras amargas, 2014 Gabo contesta, 2015 Gabriel García Márquez: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, 2015 (David Streitfeld, editor) Screenplay: El gallo de oro, 1964 Tiempo de morir, 1966 Erendira, 1983 Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes, 1988 Drama: Diatriba de amor contra un hombre sentado, 1994 Bibliography Bell, Michael. Gabriel García Márquez: Solitude and Solidarity. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993. This book explores García Márquez’s works from a number of different perspectives, ranging from comparative literary criticism to political and social critiques. Also included are commentaries on García Márquez’s styles, including journalism and Magical Realism. Bell-Villada, Gene H. García Márquez: The Man and His Work. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990. Includes biographical information on García Márquez, analyses of his major works, an index, and a bibliography. Bell-Villada, Gene H, ed. Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude”: A Casebook. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. A dozen essays on García Márquez’s masterpiece, comprising a wide range of critical approaches. Bloom, Harold, ed. Gabriel García Márquez. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. Essays by eighteen critics, with an introduction by Bloom, on the fiction of García Márquez. Includes two studies of Chronicle of a Death Foretold, estimates of the influences of Kafka and Faulkner, analyses of narrative stylistics, and inquiries into the author’s types of realism. Byk, John. “From Fact to Fiction: Gabriel García Márquez and the Short Story.” Mid-American Review 6 (1986): 111-116. Discusses the development of García Márquez’s short fiction from his early imitations of Kafka to his more successful experiments with Magical Realism. Gerlach, John. “The Logic of Wings: García Márquez, Todorov, and the Endless Resources of Fantasy.” In Bridges to Fantasy, edited by George E. Slusser, Eric S. Rabkin, and Robert Scholes. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982. Argues that the point of view of “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” makes readers sympathize with the old man by establishing his superiority over the villagers. González, Nelly Sfeir de. Bibliographic Guide to Gabriel García Márquez, 1986-1992. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. An annotated bibliography that includes works by García Márquez, criticism and sources for him, and an index of audio and visual materials related to the author and his works. Hart, Stephen M. Gabriel García Márquez: “Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada.” London: Grant and Cutler, 1994. A thorough critical guide to Chronicle of a Death Foretold. McMurray, George R., ed. Critical Essays on Gabriel García Márquez. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987. A collection of book reviews, articles, and essays covering the full range of García Márquez’s fictional work. Very useful for an introduction to specific novels and collections of short stories. Also includes an introductory overview by the editor and an index. McNerney, Kathleen. Understanding Gabriel García Márquez. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989. An overview addressed to students and nonacademic readers. After an introduction on Colombia and a brief biography, the five core chapters explain his works in depth. Chapters 1 through 3 discuss three novels, chapter 4 focuses on his short novels and stories, and chapter 5 reviews the role of journalism in his work. Includes a select, annotated bibliography of critical works and an index. McQuirk, Bernard, and Richard Cardwell, eds. Gabriel García Márquez: New Readings. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1987. A collection of twelve essays in English by different authors reflecting a variety of critical approaches and covering García Márquez’s major novels as well as a selection of his early fiction: No One Writes to the Colonel, Innocent Eréndira, and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Also includes a translation of García Márquez’s Nobel address and a select bibliography. Martin, Gerald. Gabriel García Márquez: A Life. New York: Knopf, 2009. The product of seventeen years of research, this biography takes a comprehensive look at García Márquez’s personal life as well as his writing. This work provides insightful analysis of his novels and stories. Essential for anyone interested in his life and works. Minta, Stephen. García Márquez: Writer of Colombia. New York: Harper and Row, 1987. After a useful first chapter on Colombia, the book traces García Márquez’s life and work. Minta focuses his discussion on the political context of the violencia in No One Writes to the Colonel and In Evil Hour. Includes two chapters on Macondo as García Márquez’s fictional setting and another chapter with individual discussions of The Autumn of the Patriarch, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and Love in the Time of Cholera. Includes a select bibliography by chapter and an index. Oberhelman, Harley D. Gabriel Gárcia Márquez: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1991. Argues that García Márquez’s short fiction is almost as important as his novels. Suggests that his stories have the same narrative pattern as his novels. Includes five interviews with García Márquez and essays by four critics. Solanet, Mariana. García Márquez for Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers, 2001. Part of the “Beginners” series of brief introductions to major writers and their works. Very basic, but a good starting point. Williams, Raymond L. Gabriel García Márquez. Boston: Twayne, 1984. A good introduction to García Márquez’s works for the beginning student. Wood, Michael. Gabriel García Márquez: “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. This book provides much of the background information necessary to understand the history and cultural traditions that inform García Márquez’s writings, including insight into the sociopolitical history of Latin America and biographical information about García Márquez himself.

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