Gabriel García Márquez (born 1928) was a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, and journalist whose works earned him the reputation of being the greatest living writer of Castilian in Spain and Latin America.
Born in Aracata, Magdalena, Gabriel García Márquez received his early education and baccalaureate degree from the Liceo Nacional of Zipaquirá in 1946. That year he started working as a newspaper editor for El Universal in Cartagena. In 1948 he moved to Barranquilla, where he was editor of El Heraldo until 1952. Then he became editor of the liberal newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá during repressive eras of the conservative dictators Laureano Gómez and his successor, General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla.
Between 1955 and 1960 several short stories and a novella had begun to establish García Márquez's fame in the Spanish-speaking world. La hojarasca (1955), a short novel, is set, like his later works, in the mythical town of Macondo in the swampy coastal area of northeastern Colombia known as the Ciénaga. The story reflects the changes the 20th century wrought in the life of this sleepy country town. Much of García Márquez's work centers on funerals. In La hojarasca mourners who knew the dead man in life contemplate the past, each from his own point of view. In three monologues these persons—an old colonel, his daughter Isabel, and Isabel's son—tell their story. The dead man, a doctor and former friend of the colonel, had committed suicide. The narrators do not entirely explain the motives of the suicide, but in the course of each story much of the past history of the village of Macondo is revealed. A strong premonition of imminent, relentless, and inevitable doom for Macondo permeates the novel.
Macondo and the Buendía family were further developed in El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (1961; Nobody Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories). The next short stories, Los funerales de la Mama Grande (1962), strengthened the growing reputation of García Márquez. The publication of Cien años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude) constituted something of a literary phenomenon when it sold over 100,000 copies in 15 editions in Buenos Aires in 1969.
The story of Cien años de soledad depicts the rise and fall of a village as seen in the lives of five generations of one family—an almost biblical pentateuch—ending appropriately with flood and drought, climaxed by cyclonic winds of final destruction, which comes as the last living Buendía deciphers the ancient prophecies of doom and learns that "races condemned to 100 years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth." The setting of this novel is a microcosm for Colombia, and through extension, both South America and the rest of the world. Pablo Neruda, the most famous Chilean poet, called Cien años de soledad, "the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since the Don Quixote of Cervantes." This novel is generally considered García Márquez's masterpiece.
García Márquez considered his next novel, El otono del patriarca (1975; The Autumn of the Patriarch), "a perfect integration of journalism and literature." García Márquez continued to write novels, short stories, essays, and film scripts. In 1982 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. In 1983, he wrote the film script Erendira adapted from his 1972 novella La increible y triste historia de la candida Erendira y su abuela desalmada (Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother). García Márquez's other famous novel, El amor en los tiempos del colera (Love in the Time of Cholera) was written in 1985 (with an English translation published in 1988). This novel is an exploration of the manifestations of love and the relationship between aging, death, and decay. After Cholera he published the novels El general en su laber into (1989; The General in His Labyrinth, 1990), Doce cuentos peregrinos (1992; Strange Pilgrims, 1993), and Love and Other Demons (1994).
García Márquez's fictional blend of history, politics, social realism, and fantasy has given rise to the term "magical realism." The use of magical realism was often imitated by other Latin American authors, most notably, Isabel Allende. His need to tell the story drives García Márquez's writing. In the July 1997 issue of Harper's, García Márquez writes, "the best story is not always the first one but rather the one that is told better." Because of his storytelling ability, García Márquez has assured himself a place in history as the greatest Latin American writer of the 20th century.
Further Reading on Gabriel García Márquez
Critical interpretations of Gabriel García Márquez's work can be found in the series Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 2, 1974; Volume 3, 1975; Volume 8, 1978; Volume 10, 1979; Volume 15, 1980; Volume 27, 1984; Volume 47, 1988; and Volume 55, 1989. Interviews with García Márquez appeared in PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association, March 1989; Variety, March 25-31, 1996; World Policy Journal, Summer 1996; and Booklist, March 15, 1997.