Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(6 March 1927-17 April 2014)
The first sentence of One Hundred Years of Solitude has become one of the most famous opening lines of all time: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
Garcia Marquez was born in Aracataca, a small town near Colombia’s Caribbean coast, on March 6, 1927. He was the eldest of the 11 children of Luisa Santiaga Marquez and Gabriel Elijio Garcia, a telegraphist and a wandering homeopathic pharmacist. Right after his birth, his parents left him with his maternal grandparents and moved to Barranquilla to open a pharmacy. He spent 10 years with his grandmother and his grandfather, a retired colonel who fought in the devastating 1,000-Day War that hastened Colombia’s loss of the Panamanian isthmus.
His grandparents’ tales provided grist for Garcia Marquez’s fiction and Aracataca became the model for ‘Macondo,’ the village surrounded by banana plantations where ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is set. “I have often been told by the family that I started recounting things, stories and so on, almost since I was born _ ever since I could speak,” Garcia Marquez once told an interviewer.
Sent to a state-run boarding school just outside Bogota, he became a star student and voracious reader, favoring Hemingway, Faulkner, Dostoevsky and Kafka. He published his first piece of fiction as a student in 1947, mailing a short story to the newspaper El Espectador. Garcia Marquez’s father insisted he study law but he dropped out, bored, and dedicated himself to journalism.
In 1954, Garcia Marquez was sent to Rome on a newspaper assignment. There he studied cinema, a lifelong love. He later moved to Paris, living among intellectuals and artists exiled from the many Latin American dictatorships of the day. Heavily influenced by the work of William Faulkner, he wrote his first novel at the age of 23 although it took seven years to find a publisher.
His flamboyant and melancholy fictional works _ among them ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold,’ ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ and ‘Autumn of the Patriarch’ outsold everything published in Spanish except the Bible. The epic 1967 novel ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ which took him 12 months to write sold more than 50 million copies in more than 30 languages.
In 1982 Garcia Marquez received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He received praise for the vibrancy of his prose and the rich language he used to convey his overflowing imagination.
In his acceptance speech Garcia Marquez described Latin America as a “source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune.”
In 2006 Aracataca’s mayor made a failed proposal to rename Garcia Marquez’s birthplace after Macondo, the fictional setting for the writer’s most famous work, One Hundred Years of Solitude.
In 2012 Garcia Marquez’s younger brother Jamie said the writer was suffering from dementia. The Nobel prize winner made few public appearances since then and until his death in April 2014.