Gabriel Jose García Márquez: 1928—: Author, journalist
One of the most influential novelists of the twentieth century, Gabriel García Márquez was a key figure in the Latin American literary renaissance of the 1960s and 1970s. His novel One Hundred Years of Solitude was read throughout the world, selling millions of copies and introducing enthusiastic readers across the globe to the genre of "magical realism." A prolific journalist as well as a novelist and short story writer, García Márquez has reported from several world capitals and remained active through the 1990s as publisher of the Colombian news magazine Cambio.
A Childhood Steeped in Myth
García Márquez was born on March 6, 1928, in Aracataca, Colombia, a small town on the Caribbean coast to which his mother's family had moved after her father, Colonel Nicolas Marquez Mejfa, had killed a man in a duel. The oldest child of 11 siblings, García Márquez grew up in Aracataca with his maternal grandparents, who nurtured the budding writer's imagination with fascinating stories of local history and family events. The Colonel reminisced frequently about his youth during the country's civil wars, while the boy's grandmother, who claimed to converse with ghosts and spirits, recounted family legends and became the boy's "source of the magical, superstitious and supernatural view of reality," as García Márquez described it in a New York Times Book Review piece quoted in Dictionary of Hispanic Biography.
Among the more memorable family stories was that of García Márquez's parents' courtship. "This history of their forbidden love was one of the wonders of my youth," he wrote in "Seranade," a piece published in New Yorker. So impassioned were his parents' accounts of the affair, he observed, that when he attempted to write about the subject in his novel Love in the Time of Cholera "I couldn't distinguish between life and poetry." It was the Colonel who disapproved of Gabriel Eligio Garcia as a suitor for his daughter, Luisa Santiaga; the young telegraph operator had a reputation as a womanizer and had been born out of wedlock to a fourteen-year-old girl who went on to have six other children by three different men. "It is surprising that Colonel Marquez was so disquieted by this irregular conduct," García Márquez wrote, "when the Colonel himself had fathered, in addition to his three official children, nine more by different mothers, both before and after his marriage, and all of them were
welcomed by his wife as if they were her own." Gabriel Eligio Garcia was also a political conservative—the party against whom the Colonel had fought in the civil wars—and had few financial prospects. After a passionate courtship that included violin serenades, exile, and even the purchase of a revolver by which Gabriel Eligio Garcia hoped to protect himself from the Colonel's wrath, the couple eloped. When Luisa Santiaga announced her first pregnancy, however, her parents welcomed her and her husband back to Aracataca, where the writer was born in his grandparents' house. García Márquez grew up with ten younger siblings and also has several half siblings from his father's extramarital affairs.
At a Glance . . .
Born March 6, 1928, in Aracataca, Colombia; son of Gabriel Eligio Garcia (a telegraph operator) and Luisa Santiaga Marquez Iguaran; married Mercedes Barcha, 1958; children: two sons. Education: Universidad nacional de Colombia, 1947-48; Universidad de Cartagena, 1948-49.
Career: Began career as a journalist, 1947; reporter for Universal, Cartegena, Colombia, late 1940s, El heraldo, Baranquilla, Colombia, 1950-52, and El espectador, Bogota, Colombia, until 1955; freelance journalist in Paris, London, and Caracas, Venezuela, 1956-58; worked for Momento magazine, Caracas, 1958-59; helped form Prensa Latina news agency, Bogota, 1959, and worked as its correspondent in Havana, Cuba, and New York City, 1961; writer, 1965–; Fundacion Habeas, founder, 1979, president, 1979–.
Memberships: American Academy of Arts and Letters (honorary fellow).
Awards: Colombian Association of Writers and Artists Award, 1954; Premio Literario Esso (Colombia), 1961; Chianciano Award (Italy), 1969; Prix de Meilleur Livre Etranger (France); 1969, Romulo Gallegos prize (Venezuela), 1971; honorary doctorate, Columbia University, 1971; Books Abroad/Neustadt International Prize for Literature, 1972; Nobel Prize for Literature, 1982; Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction, 1988; Serfin Prize, 1989.
Address: Home—P.O. Box 20736, Mexico City D.F., Mexico.
When García Márquez was seven, his grandfather died and the boy returned to his parents in Bogota, the country's capital. During his adolescence the boy developed a love of literature, with such works as Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" inspiring him to dream of becoming a writer. First, though, he planned to obtain a law degree. He entered the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in 1947, the same year he published his first short story in El Espectador. In 1948 the country erupted in violence after the assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan and the university was damaged by fire and subsequently closed. García Márquez then transferred to the Universidad de Cartagena. There he began writing journalistic pieces for El Universal, and also met Ramon Vinyes, who introduced him to the works of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. García Márquez abandoned his legal studies in 1949 and moved back to the Caribbean region, to the town of Barranquilla.
Success as a Journalist
During his two years in Barranquilla, García Márquez worked for El heraldo, the local paper, writing a regular column that included short stories, fragments, and essays about current issues. He then moved on to a job as correspondent for the Bogota paper El Espectador, writing film criticism and investigative reports. In the mid-1950s García Márquez moved to Europe, an environment he considered more amenable to his leftist political views than was the regime in his native country. In Paris, where he was based, he continued reporting for El Espectador and also for another Colombian paper, El Independiente. He also continued to write fiction, publishing his first novel, Leaf Storm, in 1955 and completing the novel El coronel no tiene quien le escriba in 1957. Though he sometimes lived in poverty during these years, particularly after the Colombian government shut down El Independiente and left him without a regular income, García Márquez later noted that his European exile was worthwhile for the fresh perspective it gave him on Latin America.
In 1957 the young journalist moved back to Latin America to help a friend, Plinio Apuleye Mendoza, edit the weekly magazine Momento in Caracas, Venezuela. The following year, García Márquez returned to Barranquilla to marry his childhood sweetheart, Mercedes Barcha Pardo, the daughter of a local pharmacist. Soon afterward, García Márquez and Mendoza resigned from Momento to protest its tacit support of U.S. foreign policy. The pair traveled to Cuba to document the aftermath of Castro's revolution, and signed on with the new government's news agency, Prensa Latina, to establish branch offices in Bogota and eventually in New York City. In 1961 García Márquez quit Prensa Latina and moved to Mexico City, where he managed to support his family by writing screenplays and doing editorial and advertising work.
Wrote Critically Acclaimed Novel
Though García Márquez continued a steady production of novellas and short stories during these years, he did not achieve prominence as a writer of fiction until the publication in 1967 of his landmark novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Based on the author's childhood memories of Aracataca, the novel recounts the founding of the fictional town of Macondo by Jose Arcadio Buendia, and its subsequent rise and fall through several generations from the 1820s to the 1920s. Blending historical events with surrealism and fantasy, the novel includes such characters as Colonel Aureliano Buendia, fomentor of 32 political rebellions and father of 17 illegitimate sons; matriarch Ursula Buendia, who witnesses the town's eventual decline; and the old gypsy scribe, Melquiades, whose mysterious manuscripts are revealed as the novel's text. The complex saga of Macondo and the Buendias, many critics noted, suggests the labyrinthine history of Latin America itself.
The novel caused an immediate sensation, selling out its entire first Spanish printing within one week. So heavy was demand for the book that its publisher could scarcely keep enough copies in print. Critics hailed it as a monumental achievement; Chilean Nobel laureate poet Pablo Neruda was quoted in Time as calling the book "the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since the Don Quixote of Cervantes." One Hundred Years of Solitude went on to sell more than 20 million copies worldwide and to be translated into more than 30 languages. It is widely considered the most popular and influential example of magical realism, a literary style that incorporates supernatural or surreal elements within a realistic narrative. As Faulkner had done with the American South, García Márquez had created in Macondo a world of mythic dimensions.
The success of One Hundred Years of Solitude enabled García Márquez to focus full-time on his own writing. In 1975 he published the novel The Autumn of the Patriarch, about a tyrant who has held political power for so long that no one can remember his predecessor. After that, however, he vowed not to release any additional fiction until Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was removed from office. Though Pinochet was not ousted until 1989, García Márquez published the novel Cronica de una meuerte anunciada in 1982. Considered by some critics to be the author's best work, it tells the story of brothers who plot to kill their sister's husband when, after discovering on his wedding night that his bride is not a virgin, he returns her to her family.
Won Nobel Prize
In 1982 García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. The Swedish Academy, in bestowing the prize, cited not only the author's narrative gifts but also his demonstrated commitment to social justice. Indeed, the problems of poverty and oppression were the theme of the laureate's acceptance speech. Citing figures that documented thousands of violent deaths and millions of involuntary exiles linked to the political turmoil in Latin America during the 1970s, García Márquez commented that the reality of his native continent nourished in him an "insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty," and made it necessary for Latin Americans to "ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable." Implying that Latin America's cultural remoteness has made it difficult for European and North American countries to sympathize with the leftist political agendas of many of its inhabitants, he went on to ask "Why is the originality so readily granted us in literature so mistrustfully denied us in our difficult attempts at social change?"
Criticizing wealthy countries that have "accumulated powers of destruction such as to annihilate, a hundred times over, not only all the human beings that have existed to this day, but also the totality of all living beings that have ever drawn breath on this planet of misfortune," García Márquez ended on a note of hope: "We, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of … a new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth."
Special Access to World Leaders
García Márquez decided to use his Nobel Prize money to start a newspaper. Yet that venture never materialized, because the author was not satisfied that the independent editorial voice he sought would be respected. Sixteen years later, however, he realized his dream to go back to journalism when he bought the Colombian newsmagazine Cambio in 1999. "Journalism is the only trade that I like," he commented in the New York Times, "and I have always regarded myself as a journalist." The magazine had been struggling, but after García Márquez's purchase its circulation and ad revenues skyrocketed. The writer's international prominence, many observers noted, allowed him access to world leaders who were not always eager to speak to other reporters. "Anyone he calls will pick up the phone," said his American editor, Ash Green, in an Associated Press article. Among the friends and associates about whom García Márquez has written in Cambio are Cuban president Fidel Castro, Colombian industrialist Julio Mario Santo Domingo, and U.S. President Bill Clinton, who had once impressed the writer by reciting long passages of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury by heart. When Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky was revealed, García Márquez
defended the president, according to New York Times reporter Larry Rohter, by asking "Is it fair that this rare example of the human species must squander his historic destiny just because he couldn't find a safe place to make love?"
García Márquez's reentry into journalism was not without significant risks. Unlike the more neutral American press, the Colombian media take "a strong position in defense of a democratic state rather than observing from an impartial perch," as Washington Post writer Scott Wilson pointed out. "Reporting in Colombia, particularly by Colombians," Wilson noted, "has long been a perilous vocation. But mounting violence, combined with the weakness of public institutions and the blurry line between journalism and advocacy in a country at war with itself, have increasingly placed journalists high on the list of targets." In the first ten months of 2001, nine journalist were killed in Colombia and dozens received death threats. Despite such dangers, García Márquez continued actively reporting on his country's decades-long war between Marxist guerillas and government forces, as well as on controversial issues in other parts of Latin America.
Among García Márquez's political books from this period are Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littin, a nonfiction account of filmmaker Littin's return to Pinochet's Chile after a period of self-imposed exile. The Chilean government, outraged by the book's content, ordered some 15,000 copies of it burned. In 1997 García Márquez published News of a Kidnapping, based on his investigation of Colombian drug cartels and their destructive influence on that nation's social fabric. "News of a Kidnapping not only provides a fascinating anatomy of 'one episode in the biblical holocaust that has been consuming Colombia for more than 20 years,'" wrote Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times, "but also offers the reader new insights into the surreal history of Mr. García Márquez's native country. Indeed, the reader is reminded by this book that the magical realism employed by Mr. García Márquez and other Latin American novelists is in part a narrative strategy for grappling with a social reality so hallucinatory, so irrational that it defies ordinary naturalistic description."
Through the 1980s and 1990s, García Márquez continued to strengthen his reputation as a literary master with publication of the novels Love in the Time of Cholera, based partially on the story of his parents' courtship; The General in His Labyrinth, a fictional account of the final months in the life of nineteenth-century South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar; and Of Love and Other Demons, inspired by the author's recollection of a tomb excavation he had witnessed in 1949, when a centuries-old skeleton of a young girl was discovered with living hair flowing from the skull. García Márquez used this image to create the character of Sierva Maria De Todos Los Angeles, a girl in touch with both the Spanish and the African legacies of her Caribbean heritage. When she is bitten by a mad dog, the area bishop orders an exorcism, but the priest charged with performing the rite falls in love with the girl. As with many of García Márquez's earlier novels, Of Love and Other Demons was hailed for its symbolic commentary on Latin American history. As Times Literary Supplement contributor Michael Kerrigan observed, "To excavate the historic vault in which his people lie buried is, for García Márquez, an act not of desecration but of liberation."
Since the summer of 1999, when he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, García Márquez has lived in relative seclusion, focusing his attention on completing a planned three-volume memoir. He was quoted in a CNN.com report as hailing his diagnosis as an "enormous stroke of luck" that forced him to put aside less urgent projects. The first volume of the memoir will cover the author's family background and his early life. The second will focus on his writing career, and the third will examine his relationships with world leaders.
La hojarasca (novel; title means "Leaf Storm"), Ediciones Sipa, 1955.
El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (novella), Aguirre Editor, 1961, translated as No One Writes to the Colonel, Harper & Row, 1968.
Los funerales de la Mamá Grande (short stories), Editorial Universidad Veracruzana, 1962.
Cien años de soledad (novel), Editorial Sudamericana, 1967, translated as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Harper & Row, 1970.
Isabel viendo llover en Macondo (novella), Editorial Estuario, 1967.
No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories, Harper & Row, 1968.
Ojos de perro azul (short stories), Equisditorial, 1972.
Leaf Storm and Other Stories, Harper & Row, 1972.
El otoño del patriarca (novel), Plaza & Janes Editores, 1975, translated as The Autumn of the Patriarch, Harper & Row, 1976.
Todos los cuentos de Gabriel García Márquez: 1947-1972 (collected short stories), Plaza & Janés Editores, 1975.
Innocent Eréndira and Other Stories, Harper & Row, 1978.
Dos novelas de Macondo, Casa de las Americas, 1980.
Crónica de una muerte anunciada (novel), La Oveja Negra, 1981, translated as Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Knopf, 1983.
Viva Sandino (play), Editorial Nueva Nicaragua, 1982.
Eréndira (filmscript), Les Films du Triangle, 1983.
Collected Stories, Harper & Row, 1984.
El amor en los tiempos del cólera (novel), Oveja
Negra, 1985, translated as Love in the Time of Cholera, Knopf, 1988.
A Time to Die (filmscript), ICA Cinema, 1988.
Diatribe of Love against a Seated Man (play, first produced at Cervantes Theater, Buenos Aires, 1988), Arango Editores, 1994.
El general en su labertino (novel), Mondadori, 1989, translated as The General in His Labyrinth, Knopf, 1990.
Collected Novellas, HarperCollins, 1990.
Doce cuentos peregrinos, Mondadori, 1992, translated as Strange Pilgrims: Twelve Stories, Knopf, 1993.
The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World: A Tale for Children, Creative Education, 1993.
Del amor y otros demonios (novel), Mondador, 1994, translated as Of Love and Other Demons, Knopf, 1995.
(With Mario Vargas Llosa) La novela en America Latina: Dialogo, Carlos Milla Batres, 1968.
Relato de un naufrago (journalistic pieces), Tusquets Editor, 1970, translated as The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, Knopf, 1986.
Cuando era feliz e indocumentado (journalistic pieces), Ediciones El Ojo de Camello, 1973.
Cronicas y reportajes (journalistic pieces), Oveja Negra, 1978.
(Contributor) Los sandanistas, Oveja Negra, 1979.
(Contributor) Asi es Caracas, edited by Soledad Mendoza, Editorial Ateneo de Caracas, 1980.
El olor de la guayaba: Conversaciones con Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza (interviews), Oveja Negra, 1982, translated as The Fragrance of Guava, 1983.
(With Guillermo Nolasco-Juarez) Persecucion y muerte de minorias: dos perspectivas, Juarez Editor, 1984.
(Contributor) La Democracia y la paz en America Latina, Editorial El Buho, 1986.
Primeros reportajes, Consorcio de Ediciones Capriles, 1990.
(Author of introduction) An Encounter with Fidel: An Interview, by Gianni Mina, Ocean Press, 1991.
Elogio de la utopia: Una entrevista de Nahuel Maciel, Cronista Ediciones, 1992.
News of a Kidnapping, Knopf, 1997.
(With Reynaldo Gonzales) Cubano 100%, Charta, 1998.
Bell, Michael, Gabriel García Márquez: Solitude and Solidarity, St. Martin's Press, 1993.
Bell-Villada, Gene H., García Márquez: The Man and His Work, University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Volume 82, Gale, 1999.
Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, Gale, 1996.
Dolan, Sean, Gabriel García Márquez, Chelsea House, 1994.
Fiddian, Robin W., García Márquez, Longman, 1995.
Janes, Regina, Gabriel García Márquez: Revolutions in Wonderland, University of Missouri Press, 1981.
McGuirk, Bernard and Richard Cardwell, editors, Gabriel García Márquez: New Readings, Cambridge University Press, 1988.
McMurray, George R., Gabriel García Márquez, Ungar, 1977.
Wood, Michael, Gabriel García Márquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Cambridge University Press, 1990.
New York Times, June 19, 1997; March 3, 1999.
New York Times Book Review, September 29, 1968; March 8, 1970; February 20, 1972; October 31, 1976; July 16, 1978; September 16, 1978; November 11, 1979; November 16, 1980; December 5, 1982; March 27, 1983; April 7, 1985; April 27, 1986; August 9, 1987; April 10, 1988; September 16, 1990, pp. 1, 30; May 28, 1995, p. 8; June 15, 1997.
New Yorker, February 19-26, 2001.
Time, March 16, 1970; November 1, 1976; July 10, 1978; November 1, 1982; March 7, 1983; December 31, 1984; April 14, 1986; May 22, 1995; June 2, 1997, p. 79.
Times Literary Supplement, July 7, 1995.
Washington Post, October 14, 2001, p. A28.
World Literature Today, Winter 1982; Winter 1991, p. 85; Autumn 1993, pp. 782-783.
CNN.com, http:www.cnn.com/2000/books/news (December 11, 2000).
Nobel e-Museum, http:www.nobel.se/literature/
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