Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez

Born in the coastal town of Aracataca, Colombia, Gabriel García Márquez was the eldest of 12 children by postal clerk turned pharmacist Gabriel Elijio García and his wife, Luisa Santiaga Márquez. His parents moved shortly after his birth to the city of Barranquilla, leaving García Márquez to be raised by his maternal grandparents. His grandfather, Colonel Nicolás Ricardo Márquez Meiji, regaled García Márquez with stories of Colombia's political history, while his grandmother, Tranquilina Iguaran Cotes, shared stories about ghosts and superstition with him. Both viewpoints would come to have a profound influence on García Marquez's writing, as did the town of Aracataca, which would serve as the basis for Macondo, the mythical setting for much of his work. García Márquez reunited with his parents as an adolescent and eventually moved to Bogota, where he studied law at the National University of Colombia. There, he began writing columns and film criticism for various newspapers before accepting a position at a newspaper in Caracas, Venezuela. There, he both covered and participated in the civil unrest that plagued the region throughout the late 1950s before attracting the ire of the country's dictatorial leader, General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. His multi-part editorial about a shipwreck that was initially portrayed as a heroic event by the government led to his departure for Europe, where he worked as a foreign correspondent for the next two years. When Pinilla's government shut down the newspaper, he lived a penniless existence, collecting bottles while writing his first novel, In Evil Hour. A second novel, No One Writes to the Colonel, about a military figure apparently inspired by his grandfather, was completed shortly thereafter, and both books were published in the early 1960s. García Márquez eventually returned to Venezuela, where he married his college sweetheart, Mercedes Barcha, in 1958. A son, future film director Rodrigo Garcia, was born the following year, and the family relocated in Mexico City in 1961. There, he alternated between journalism, fiction and press releases for Fidel Castro before taking a fateful trip with his family to Acapulco in 1965. While driving, he was suddenly struck with the inspiration for a novel about his grandparents' house that he had ruminated on since his teenage years. García Márquez returned home to begin what would eventually become One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), his most acclaimed novel. The writing process would take 18 months, during which his family accrued a debut of more than $10,000. The book would take care of not only the immediate financial loss but also provide for them for the remainder of García Márquez's life, selling more than 30 million copies and minting him as one of the leading literary voices of Latin America. The story, which concerned several generations of a family whose patriarch founded the town of Macondo, was rich in the magical realism that would become a hallmark of his work, and served as a tremendous influence on such authors as Isabel Allende and Salman Rushdie. The worldwide success of Solitude provided García Márquez with not only fame and wealth, but also the political and financial clout to support various left-wing causes and act as a mediator between the Colombian government and several revolutionary factions during the 1960s and '70s. But it also brought him hardships, most notably a reputation as a subversive by the United States government, which prevented him from traveling to America until the 1990s. He also grew to dislike the attention afforded to the book, which he believed would overshadow his later work. For several years, it appeared that García Márquez would not write another novel, due in part to a self-imposed ban on writing he had initiated in protest of General Augusto Pinochet's assumption of power in Chile. However, he realized that he was granting the dictator more power by not using his work to speak out against his reign, and in 1975, he published Autumn of the Patriarch, about a military leader whose reign in a Latin American country has lasted longer than his subjects can remember. Though his fears were initially founded by some reviews which unfavorably compared it to Solitude, the novel became a global best seller. In 1981, García Márquez drew from a real-life murder case that occurred in Sucre, a Colombian town he briefly called home during his childhood, for his next novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold. The book, about a man who remains unaware of a plan to murder him, preceded García Márquez's receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. During this period, he also worked on several film and television projects, including the script for "Eréndira" (1983), which began initially as a novel, and an adaptation of his 1955 short story "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" (1988). García Márquez had began his writing career as a film critic, and remained involved with the international cinema community as a key figure in the Latin American Film Foundation and Film Institute of Havana. In 1985, García Márquez published Love in the Time of Cholera, a romantic novel based in part on the tumultuous courtship of his parents and a real-life criminal case about two elderly Americans whose yearly meetings in Mexico were cut short when they were murdered by the boatman who piloted them on a romantic cruise. The story, about two former lovers who rekindle their relationship after decades of separation, became another bestseller. Four years later, he produced one of his most fantastical works, The General in His Labyrinth (1989), a fictionalized depiction of South American hero Simón Bolívar in his final days. The novel, which showed Bolivar in a less-than-flattering light, received critical praise but fared poorly with American readers while also generating considerable controversy in Latin America, where Bolivar was seen as a political hero. García Márquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1999, which prompted him to devote much of his energies to a proposed three-volume collection of memories. The first title in the series, Living to Tell The Tale, was published in 2002. He returned briefly to fiction in 2004 for Memories of Melancholy Whores, about a romance between an elderly man and a teenaged prostitute, but admitted the following year that he was no longer writing on a regular basis. Though chemotherapy treatments proved initially successful, García Márquez's condition deteriorated over the next decade, and a proposed new novel, titled We'll Meet in August and slated for a 2009 release, went unpublished. Reports that García Márquez was suffering from dementia in 2012 preceded a hospitalization in Mexico for lung and urinary tract infections, which he appeared to initially overcome. But on April 17, 2014, Gabriel García Márquez succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 87. His passing prompted Colombia president Juan Manuel Santos to describe him as "the greatest Colombian of all time."