Gabriel García Márquez Biography

At a Glance

In Gabriel García Márquez’s world, truth and fiction are very relative terms. As part of the Latino artistic movement of magical realism, Márquez masterfully navigates between fantasy and reality. His lyrical writing is best revealed in One Hundred Years of Solitude, one of the most-read pieces of Spanish-language literature in history.

Chronicling a century in the life of a small town not so different from the one in which Márquez grew up, the epic novel captures the cyclical nature of time using a fluidly poetic style that would eventually earn him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Yet for all their fanciful construction, Máquez’s novels also evoke the very real political and social concerns of some of the most turbulent years in Latin American history.

Facts and Trivia

  • Márquez was born in Colombia, and in his youngest years, raised by his grandparents.
  • Early in his career, Márquez belonged to the Barranquilla Group, a loose association of Colombian writers and journalists whose mutual association spurred tremendous creative output.
  • Márquez’s colorful family has long been believed to be a rich source for his storytelling. The oral tradition that was part of his family life growing up manifests itself in some of the author’s best works, including the story “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings.”
  • In 2007, Oprah Winfrey selected Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera for her book club shortly before the film version featuring Javier Bardem was released.
  • The highly political Márquez was a longtime friend of Cuban president Fidel Castro.
  • Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, a dissection of a decades-old murder, was adapted into a stage musical by choreographer-director Graciela Daniele.
  • Márquez, due to his views on U.S. imperialism, was for a long time denied visas to visit the United States. However, as president, Bill Clinton lifted the ban, citing One Hundred Years of Solitude as a favorite novel of his.


(History of the World: The 20th Century)

Article abstract: Nobel laureate García Márquez is one of the best-known and most admired writers of Latin American fiction. His mythic accounts—which reflect a vibrant blending of history, legends, and folktales—have been instrumental in bringing recognition to Latin American authors for their significant contribution to contemporary world literature.

Early Life

Gabriel José García Márquez was born on March 6, 1928, in Aracataca, a small Colombian village in the banana country coastal region. The eldest of twelve children of Luisa Santiaga Márquez Iguarán and Gabriel Eligio García, García Márquez was reared by maternal grandparents. He grew up in a huge house with an extended family of aunts and great aunts who, like his grandmother, were constant storytellers of local myth, superstition, and legend. His grandfather, a retired colonel, was the most important figure in García Márquez’s life. He filled the boy with tales of the civil wars of 1899-1903 and of past times, and young García Márquez himself developed a nostalgia for the way things used to be. Such childhood influences are reflected in García Márquez’s fiction—which abounds with old houses, ancient matriarchs, nostalgia, civil wars, colonels, and banana companies—and many of his works are set in Macondo, a fictional village with a strong resemblance to Aracataca.

In 1936, his grandfather died, and García Márquez was sent first to school in Barranquilla, then to the National Secondary School in Zipaquirá. After graduation in 1946, he was enrolled in the National University of Colombia in Bogotá to study law. During this time, he also read poetry avidly and began to write short stories. In 1947, his first story, “La tercera resignación” (“The Third Resignation”), was published in the Bogotá newspaper El Espectador, and, during the next five years, he published many others therein. Though most were immature and hard to understand, these stories presaged the Surrealist quality of his later fiction.

In 1948, an assassination in Bogotá initiated a civil revolution in Colombia that politicized García Márquez’s writing and provided source material for his later works. When this strife also forced the closing of the National University, García Márquez continued his studies at the University of Cartagena, where he took up journalism. In 1950, he left the university and became a columnist for El Heraldo in Barranquilla, where he lived in poverty and spent considerable time with journalists and writers in local cafés and bookstores. Through these friends, with whom he read and discussed European and North American fiction, García Márquez first became acquainted with the works of the authors who have particularly influenced his writing: Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, and Joseph Conrad.

Life’s Work

García Márquez’s literary development occurred concurrently with his career as a journalist. In 1954, he returned to Bogotá, where he worked for El Espectador and wrote short stories in his spare time. One of them, “Un día después del sábado” (“One Day After Saturday”), won for García Márquez a competition sponsored by the Association of Artists and Writers of Bogotá. In 1955, his first novel was published. La hojarasca (1955; Leaf Storm and Other Stories, 1972) presents life in the fictional town of Macondo from 1900 to 1930 and is generally considered to be his most Faulknerian novel. García Márquez also wrote his short fiction Isabel viendo llover en Macondo (1967; Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo, 1972) during this time as well as a true account of the shipwreck of a Colombian naval destroyer, which El Espectador published in fourteen installments without attribution. This story included material about illegal government activity and caused much controversy. Consequently, the editor of El Espectador thought it wise to send García Márquez abroad to Geneva, where he worked as a foreign correspondent and also studied filmwriting and directing. When the Colombian government eventually closed down El Espectador because of the shipwreck story, García Márquez stayed on in Europe, moving to Paris for several years of writing—and literally starving—in a garret. There, he wrote two political novels: La mala hora (1962; In Evil Hour, 1979) received the Colombian Esso Literary Prize in 1961, and El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (1961; No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories, 1968) has been highly praised for its precise style and psychological insights. Although García Márquez’s fiction did not attract significant attention outside literary circles until the publication of his masterpiece, Cien años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1970), those who did know him recognized an extraordinary talent.

In 1958, García Márquez returned to Venezuela to work for the newspaper Momento in Caracas and, in that same year, married Mercedes Barcha. Over the next several years, García Márquez wrote most of the stories published as Los funerales de la Mamá Grande (1962). Until this point, except for Leaf Storm, García Márquez’s style had been Hemingway-like, appropriate for conveying the political turmoil which was then a characteristic theme in his work, but the title story in Los funerales de la Mamá Grande, which was allegorical and relied heavily on hyperbole, reflected a significant departure. The years 1959-1965 were a period of crisis for García Márquez. Caught between his former sparse style and a burgeoning mythical approach rich in language and imagery, García Márquez wrote no fiction and focused, instead, on journalism.

Like most Latin American intellectuals, he supported the Cuban Revolution. In 1959, García Márquez opened the Bogotá office of Fidel Castro’s Cuban news agency Prensa Latina and went to open its New York bureau in 1961, but stayed only a short time. Leaving New York City on a Greyhound bus, he traveled through the south to see Faulkner country firsthand and then settled in Mexico, where he lived with his wife and sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo, until 1967. From 1961 to 1965, García Márquez worked as an editor, scriptwriter, and copywriter. In January, 1965, he had an experience that ended...

(The entire section is 2666 words.)