Gabriel García Márquez Garcia Marquez, Gabriel - Essay


(Literary Masters)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez


1928. Gabriel Jose Garcia Marquez is born 6 March in Aracataca, Colombia, a tiny coastal town between Barranquilla and Santa Marta controlled by the Liberal Party, to Gabriel Eligio Garcia and Luisa Santiago Marquez Iguaran His father will later contend that the year of his birth was actually 1927

1928-1936: Garcia Marquez lives in the house of his maternal grandparents, Colonel Nicolas Ricardo Marquez Mejia and Tranquihna Iguaran

1936-1940: When he is eight years old, Garcia Marquez’s grandfather dies, and he goes to live with his parents in Sucre, where his father is working as a pharmacist He is sent to study at a boarding school in Barranquilla

1940: At the age of twelve, Garcia Marquez receives a scholarship to a secondary school run by Jesuits, the Liceo Nacional in Zipaquira

1946: Garcia Marquez earns his bachillerato (high-school diploma)

1947: Enrolled as a law student at the Universidad Nacional in Bogota, Garcia Marquez publishes his first story, “La tercera resignacion,” in the newspaper El Espectador (Bogota) The editor hails him as “the new genius of Colombian letters!”

1948-1949: Following the assassination of the Liberal senator Julio Eliecer Gaitan on 9 April 1948 and the subsequent noting (called El Bogotazo), the National University is closed Garcia Marquez transfers to the Universidad de Cartagena, where he studies law while writing a column for El Universal (Cartagena)

1950-1952. Garcia Marquez writes for El Heraldo and El Nacional in Barranquilla He joins a literary circle called “el grupo de Barranquilla” and reads the works of Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner.

1953: Quitting journalism temporarily, García Márquez travels around Colombia working at various jobs, including a stint selling encyclopedias in La Guajira. He becomes formally engaged to Mercedes Barcha Pardo.

1954: García Márquez moves back to Bogota and joins the staff of El Espectador as a reporter and movie reviewer.

1955: García Márquez wins the Colombian Association of Writers and Artists Award for the story “Un dia despues del sabado.” El Espectador sends García Márquez to Italy to cover the death of Pope Pius XII, believed to be imminent. Back in Colombia, García Márquez’s friends discover in his desk drawer the manuscript of a novel he had finished and take it to a publisher; his first novella, La hojarasca, is published in Bogota. The Rojas Pinilia dictatorship closes down El Espectador, and García Márquez remains in Europe, where he studies in Rome at the Centro Sperimentale Cinematografico.

1956: A freelance journalist in Paris, García Márquez also works on the manuscripts for La mala hora and El coronel no tiene quien escriba.

1957: García Márquez and his friend Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza travel through the countries of the Communist Eastern Bloc; he then lives in London for two months. Late in the year, García Márquez goes to Venezuela and• begins working for the newspaper Momento (Caracas).

1958: In March, García Márquez marries Mercedes in Barranquilla, Colombia. The couple returns to Venezuela. The novella El coronel no tiene quien escriba is published in Mito (Bogota) magazine.

1959: García Márquez’s son Rodrigo is born. García Márquez helps set up the Bogota bureau of the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina, and works at the main office in Havana, Cuba. In 1960 the family moves to New York City, where García Márquez supervises the North American branch of Prensa Latina.

1961: García Márquez resigns from Prensa Latina and moves to Mexico City, traveling by bus across the United States. In Mexico City, García Márquez is an editor for the magazines Sucesos and La Familia. He wins the Colombian Esso Prize for La mala hora.

1962: García Márquez’s second son, Gonzalo, is born. Los funerales de la Mama Grande is published in Mexico. La mala hora is published in Spain; García Márquez repudiates the book after the publisher removes “objectionable passages” and all Latin American idiom.

1963: García Márquez moves to a house in the San Angel Inn section of Mexico City. El coronel no tiene quien escriba is published (in book form) in Medellin, Colombia. He works for the Mexican branch of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency and cowrites his first screenplay with Carlos Fuentes.

1965: In January, García Márquez begins writing Cien anos de soledad.

1966: The authorized edition of La mala hora is published in Mexico.

1967: In June Cien años de soledad is published in Buenos Aires. Within a week all eight thousand copies are sold. Isabel viendo llover en Macondo, a novella, is published in Buenos Aires. In October, García Márquez moves to Barcelona, where he meets Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian novelist.

1968: No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories is published in New York. García Márquez and Vargas Llosa publish La novela en America Latina: Didlogo.

1970: One Hundred Years of Solitude is published in New York and is chosen as one of the twelve best books of the year by U.S. critics. Relato de un naufrago is published in Barcelona.

1971: García Márquez receives an honorary Doctorate of Letters (LL.D.) from Columbia University in New York City. Vargas Llosa publishes the first book-length study of García Márquez’s writing, García Márquez: Historia de un deicidio.

1972: La increible y triste historia de la Candida Erendira y su abuela desalmada is published in Barcelona. Unauthorized publications of Ojos de perro azul in Argentina and of “Nabo, el negro que hizo esperar a los angeles” in Uruguay appear. Leaf Storm and Other Stories is published in New York.

1973. Garcia Marquez travels in Spain, France, and Mexico A collection of early journalism, Cuando era feliz e indocumentado, is published in Venezuela

1974. Garcia Marquez founds Alternativa, a leftist magazine, in Bogota

1975: El Otoño del patriarca and Todos los cuentos are published in Barcelona Garcia Marquez leaves Spain and alternately resides in Bogota and Cuernevaca, Mexico

1976: The Autumn of the Patriarch is published in New York

1977: Operacion Carlota, a nonfiction account of Cuban participation in the Angolan Revolution, is published in Peru

1978: Innocent Erendira and Other Stories is published in New York De viaje por los paises socialistas 90 dias en la “Cortina de Hierro,” a collection of pieces Garcia Marquez wrote about his 1957 trip through Eastern Europe, is published in Colombia Two collections of journalistic pieces, Cronicas y reportajes and Periodismo militante, are published in Bogota

1980-1983: Garcia Marquez writes a weekly column syndicated in Hispanic newspapers and magazines on subjects ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach to the “disappearances” of writers under the Argentine military regime

1981: Garcia Marquez is awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal and attends the inauguration of President Francois Mitterand When he returns to Colombia from Cuba, the Conservative government accuses him of financing M-19, a guerrilla group He flees Colombia and seeks political asylum in Mexico Cronica de una muerta anunciada is published simultaneously in Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, and Spam

1981-1983: Obra periodistica, four volumes of Garcia Marquez’s journalistic pieces, edited by Jacques Gilard, is published

1982. Garcia Marquez wins the Nobel Prize in literature El olor de la guayaba, conversations with his friend Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, is published in Buenos Aires Garcia Marquez writes Viva Sandmo, an unproduced screenplay about the Nicaraguan Revolution, which is published in Nicaragua El rastro detu sangra en la nieve: El verano feliz de la señora Forbes is published in Bogotá, as is Chronicle of a Death Foretold in London.

1983: García Márquez returns to Colombia from his exile in Mexico. Chronicle of a Death Foretold is published in New York and is nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. -The motion picture Erendira, with a screenplay adapted from García Márquez’s novella La increible ye triste historia de la Candida Erédira y su abuela desalmada, is released by Les Films du Triangle. The Fragrance of Guava is published in London.

1984: García Márquez and Guillermo Nolasco-Juarez collaborate on Persecucion y muerte de minorias: dos perspectivas, published in Buenos Aires. Collected Stories is published in New York.

1985: El amor en los tiempos del colera is published in Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, and Spain. García Márquez founds the New Latin American Cinema Foundation in Havana, of which he is president. Tiempo de morir, a motion picture based on a screenplay by García Márquez and Fuentes, is released in Mexico.

1986: García Márquez addresses the inaugural ceremony of the Ixtapa Summit in Mexico, attended by the presidents of Argentina, Mexico, and Tanzania and the prime ministers of Greece, India, and Sweden; his speech is later published as El cataclismo de Damocles in Bogota. The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor is published in New York and La aventura de Miguel Littin, clandestino en Chile: un reportage is published in Madrid.

1987: Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littin is published in New York.

1988: Love in the Time of Cholera is published in New York. García Márquez’s play Diatriba de amor contra un hombre sentado: monologo en un acto is produced at Cervantes Theater, Buenos Aires.

1989: The historical novel El general en su labertino is published simultaneously in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Spain.

1990: The General in His Labyrinth and Collected Novellas are published in New York, as is Primeros reportajes in Caracas. A stage adaptation of the novel Cronica de una muerte anunciada is performed at the Public Theater in New York.

1991: A collection of journalism, Notas de prensa, 1980 —1984, is published in Madrid.

1992: Doce cuentos peregrinos is published simultaneously in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Spain; and Elogio de la Utopia: Una entrevista de Nahuel Maciel is published in Buenos Aires.

1993: Strange Pilgrims: Twelve Stories is published in New York as are The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World: A Tale for Children, in Minnesota; the play Diatriba de amor contra un hombre sentado, in Bogota; and the novel Del amor y otros demonios, in Barcelona.

1995: Of Love and Other Demons is published in New York.

1997: News of a Kidnapping is published in New York. It is reported that a motion-picture adaptation of Autumn of the Patriarch will be made, with Marion Brando in the title role and Sean Penn as director.

1998: García Márquez is a guest of Fidel Castro during the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba.

1999: García Márquez purchases Cambio, a Colombian newsmagazine, and begins writing for it. In June he is hospitalized in Bogota for fatigue; in September it is announced that he is in Los Angeles undergoing treatment for lymphatic cancer.

About Gabriel García Márquez

(Literary Masters)

Born: 6 March 1928 in Aracataca, Colombia

Married: Mercedes Barcha, March 1958

Education: Attended Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 1947-1948, and Universidad de Cartagena, 1948-1949

Gabriel García Márquez is the most widely read novelist writing in Spanish and the most critically acclaimed in his native Colombia, in Latin America, and, some have argued, in the world. His best-known novel, Cien anos de soledad (1967; translated as, One Hundred Years...

(The entire section is 6314 words.)

García Márquez At Work

(Literary Masters)


As a beginning writer, García Márquez was prolific. Working as a journalist on El Espectador in Bogotá, he recalled, he “used to do at least three stories a week, two or three editorial notes every day, and I did movie reviews. Then at night, after everyone had gone home, I would stay behind writing my novels. I liked the noise of the Linotype machines, which sounded...

(The entire section is 14816 words.)

García Márquez’s Era

(Literary Masters)


Gabriel García Márquez was born in Colombia, the fourth largest country in South America. It is situated in the northern part of the continent, just southeast of Panama, and is bordered on the east by Venezuela and Brazil and on the southwest by Ecuador and Peru. Colombia commands coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Politically, Colombia is divided into thirty-two administrative departments and the special capital district.

The national language is Spanish. Founded by Spanish conquistadores in 1538, the capital of the country is Bogotá, formerly known as Santa Fe de Bogotá; García Márquez uses the original name in The General In His Labyrinth. Bogotá is located in the interior in the Andean highlands and has a culture, as well as a climate and philosophy, diametrically opposed to that of the coast. The people of Bogotá and the interior are called cachacos, and those of the coast, costeños. Four hundred miles of jungle and mountains separate the two regions.

An understanding of the history of Colombia is necessary to an understanding of the fiction of García Márquez. As Regina Janes notes, he himself “once remarked that the reader of Cien anos de soledad who was not familiar with the history of his country, Colombia, might appreciate the novel as a good novel, but much of what happens in it would make no sense to him.”1

As early as colonial times, when it was part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (encompassing most of present-day Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador), Colombia was already a society with strictly stratified classes. Those at the apex of society were people of Spanish blood who had been born in Spain, the peninsulares. This elite formed the basis of an oligarchy that would continue in power in Colombia until the end of the twentieth century. All other Colombians occupied a lower position in the social hierarchy.

Criollos, people of Spanish descent born in Colombia, were regarded as inferior to the peninsulares, but they were socially superior to the largest class, which would become the largest group throughout Latin America, the mestizos. The mestizos were of mixed Spanish and Indian blood. By the end of the twentieth century most Indians had either been assimilated or had intermarried with Colombians of Spanish or African descent, and only 1 percent of the Colombian population was considered to be of pure Indian stock. The mother of Ulises in “The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother” is a Guajira Indian and is treated with respect and admiration by the author. García Márquezthose at the bottom of the social ladder, the also treats with special sympathy those at the bottom of the social ladder, the zambos, people of mixed African and Indian blood, descended from black slaves and indigenous Americans. The disenchanted groom of Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Bayardo San Roman, is a zambo.

Sixty percent of the population is mestizo; blacks and mulattos compose about 20 percent of the population, many residing in the Caribbean Coastal Lowlands, the birthplace of García Márquez. The Bantu noun for banana is in fact macondo, the name García Márquez chose for his fictionalized version of the Zona Bananero (Banana Zone); in his youth there was even an actual banana plantation called “Macondo.” The Spanish had imported African slaves to the colony of New Granada, an event that appears in the fiction of García Márquez in Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

The author’s point of view toward the slave trade is apparent in this novel. Santiago Nasar, the perhaps innocent victim, “pointed to an intermittent light at sea and told us that it was the soul in torment of a slave ship that had sunk with a cargo of blacks from Senegal across from the main harbor mouth at Cartagena de Indias.”2 The image is interpolated into the narrative purely to express the author’s indignation at the history of degradation that is the legacy of his countrymen.

This legacy is one that García Márquez himself claims. When he traveled to Angola on a journalistic assignment in the 1970s, he pronounced himself a “mestizo.”3 Later he added to that description of his racial heritage. “Not long ago,” García Márquez says in the documentary movie Magic and Reality, “I realized that I was a mulatto.”4 However, as the grandson of Colonel Nicolas Marquez, the leading figure in the town of Aracataca, his position was high.

It was in Colombia that the revolutionary movement to throw off Spanish colonial rule in South America began on 20 July 1810, when criollo leaders in Bogotá declared their independence from both the puppet government that had been installed in Spain by Napoleon Bonaparte and the peninsulare-dominated resistance council. The colonial elites argued among themselves about whether they should form a national government that was federalist, resembling the United States, or centralist and more authoritarian. The great federalist leader was named Camilo Torres—namesake of García Márquez’s college friend Father Camilo Torres Restrepo; the centralists were led by Antonio Narino. Civil war loomed before the independent country was even established. The question of the separation of church and state was a deciding issue. These disagreements led to the so-called Patria Boba (Foolish Fatherland) period, with the factions splitting the former colony into several small republics that squabbled among themselves, thus allowing the Spanish to reconquer much of the territory by 1816.

Simón Bolívar, who became known as El Libertador (The Liberator), took charge of the independence forces. He managed to enlist the masses in the war against Spain, and after the last major royalist force was defeated at the Battle of Boyaca in August of 1819, independence was secured.

Bolívar became the first president of the new country, Gran Colombia, which encompassed present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. Later appointed dictator, he was forced to resign in 1830, and both Ecuador and Venezuela soon seceded from Gran Colombia.

The followers of Bolívar, and those of Francisco de Paula Santander, the first vice president, formed the core of the Conservative and Liberal parties, which formally came into existence around the elections of 1849. Before long these two parties, heirs to the earlier centralist and federalist factions, would enter into the series of civil wars that are reflected in many of the novels of García Márquez. These civil wars ran from the nineteenth into the twentieth century.

The Liberals were intent on creating a new society and on dismantling the colonial legacy. They favored the separation of church and state, free trade, restrictions on presidential power, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the abolition of slavery. The Liberals are the party of Colonel Aureliano Buendia.

The Conservatives were committed to maintaining the traditions and institutions established during the colonial period, which they saw as essential to preserving their cultural and national identity. They strongly supported the church retaining all of the power with which the Spanish had invested it. They saw no reason to reduce government control of the economy or to abolish slavery. The Conservatives proposed a society rooted in the traditions of authoritarian Spain and sought to eliminate any new freedoms that might challenge the status quo.

Liberals were represented by the color red and Conservatives by the color blue; when the new mayor arrives in Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude and demands that all the houses be painted blue, the reader immediately knows his political orientation. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in Colombia over the difference in color, red or blue.5

Colonel Nicolas Marquez, the grandfather of the author, fought in the wars between the Liberals and the Conservatives as a Liberal. His grandson, however, rejects the Liberals and Conservatives both as equally contemptible representatives of the ruling oligarchy. As García Márquez puts it in One Hundred Years of Solitude, the only real difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives is that the Liberals go to Mass at five o’clock and the Conservatives go at eight.

Since colonial days, the upper class has been closely identified with the religious hierarchy. The priesthood has been largely made up of men of upper-class or upper-middle-class origins who have shared the values of the ruling oligarchy. They continued social relationships with the friends of their youth, sharing authority and an understanding that excluded participation by anyone not of the traditional elite. The bishop in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, who refuses to set his feet on land to say mass for the people anxiously awaiting his arrival, reflects the view of García Márquez toward this religious hierarchy. There are, however, a few positive images of priests in the work of García Márquez, such as the priest nicknamed “Pup” in Leaf Storm and the Camilo Torres-like priest in The Autumn of the Patriarch.

The Liberals and Conservatives have succeeded in maintaining a traditional pyramidal structure for Colombian society. Members of the ruling oligarchy constitute themselves in informal and small decision-making groups. Called roscas, the name of a twisted pastry, these groups trade favors among themselves and maintain intricate social and political ties—twisted and contorted like the pastry after which they are named. The roscas are a form of “old boy network” by which the ruling oligarchy dispenses patronage, thus perpetuating its power—if one does not belong to a rosca, one is not really part of the upper or upper middle classes.

This oligarchy of two parties has thwarted the emergence of other parties organized around socioeconomic interests instead of traditional loyalties. Colombia, Michael Wood writes, has had “a democracy of the upper classes . . . a contest between rival oligarchies.”6 Despite the unraveling of the social order, the traditional parties continued in the second half of the twentieth century to believe that government leadership was the prerogative of a paternalistic upper class whose members made the decisions for the nation and its people, a perspective abhorrent to a socialist such as García Márquez.

Historically, when moderate factions within each party have been in power, the Liberals and the Conservatives have worked out their differences, since, as García Márquez notes, there is not much difference ideologically between them. Although the parties were once clearly ideologically opposed, since the early twentieth century both have supported the status quo and have generally opposed altering the existing social structure.

During periods when radical factions were in control, one party has sought through violent means to eliminate the rival party’s participation in the political process, as during the so-called War of the Thousand Days (1899-1902), of which Colonel Marquez was a veteran and in which more than one hundred thousand were killed, and the period known as La Violencia (The Violence, 1948-1966), which claimed nearly three hundred thousand lives. Ostensibly a democracy since 1886 under a constitution that established executive, legislative, and judicial branches with a separation of powers, from the moment of independence Colombia has been beset by anarchy and civil war.


If he were born in 1928, and not 1927 as his father claimed, then the year of the birth of García Márquez would coincide with the famous strike of banana workers near Santa Marta, a pivotal event in the history of Colombia. Based in Boston, the United Fruit Company—known as La Campania to Colombians—had brought a kind of prosperity to the area in the early part of the twentieth century, culminating in 1915-1918, but by 1928 the boom time had long passed.

Although the United Fruit Company helped the local economy somewhat, this U.S. company was never really integrated into the local community. United Fruit operations in the area around Santa Marta and Aracataca included residential compounds that were fenced in, so that the North Americans could maintain their own schools and social life apart from the local inhabitants. United Fruit even ran its own railroad and its own private irrigation system. Workers were paid in scrip that could be redeemed only in company stores that sold goods brought on the company-owned transport ships, which otherwise would have had to return from New Orleans empty. The company hired most of its workers through subcontractors to avoid Colombian labor laws that regulated working conditions and benefits.

When the trouble began, United Fruit insisted that it had no employees on its payroll. Workers’ employment cards were burned so they could not prove how long they had worked and could not prove their eligibility for pensions, a theme that is developed in No One Writes to the Colonel. In One Hundred Years of Solitude the spokesmen of the banana company argue sophistically that since all workers were hired temporarily, they were never really employees; the court to which the workers have turned agrees, issuing a decree that the workers do not, in fact, exist. As Janes points out, this incredible assertion, that the workers do not exist, is not García Márquez’s invention but is the actual judicial ruling in favor of United Fruit.7

When García Márquez was a child, he heard conflicting accounts of the massacre that followed the strike; some of his neighbors said that no one had actually been killed while others claimed a relative—an uncle or a brother—had been among those who died.8 In the official version of the event, General Cortes Vargas, the military commander sent by the Conservative government in Bogotá to quell the strike, reported that the crowd was all men, and that only nine had died in the massacre itself, with others being killed later. In One Hundred Years of Solitude the crowd is comprised of men, women, and children, and three thousand die. García Márquez has admitted to exaggeration; three thousand was probably the entire population of the town.

In the 1940s, before one more uneasy alliance between the Liberals and Conservatives could be cobbled together, Colombia was overtaken by La Violencia, nearly twenty years of murder and mayhem between Conservatives and Liberals. La Violencia was set off on 9 April 1948 by the assassination during the lunch hour on the streets of Bogotá of the popular Liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan.

Gaitan had been in favor of radical reform and had investi-gated the notorious banana strike of 1928; his progressive views split the Liberal Party and allowed the Conservatives to win in the election of 1946. Gaitan restrained his followers from a violent uprising, but strikes and police repression grew.

The Bogotázo, the outpouring of rage and the rioting following the murder of Gaitan, was a profound experience for the young García Márquez, who was then a student at the National University; he later recalled:

. . . the people of Bogotá went mad in the streets. I was in my pension ready to have lunch when I heard the news. I ran toward the place, but Gaitan had just been put into a taxi and was being taken to the hospital. On my way back to the pension, the people had already taken to the streets and they were demonstrating, looting stores and burning buildings. I joined them. That afternoon and evening, I became aware of the kind of country I was living in, and how little my short stories had to do with any of that.9

More than two thousand people were killed in the Bogotázo. The National Police, largely Liberal in their sympathies, sided with the rioters, giving weapons to the crowd and sometimes joining them in fighting with the Conservative-dominated army troops who had been summoned to Bogata to suppress the riots. Stories that García Márquez had written while he was a student went up in flames along with the pension in which he had been living.

The violence had actually begun in the early 1940s, with vio-lent attacks on rural Liberals by Conservatives opposing the Liberal agenda. After Gaitan’s assassination La Violencia raged even more profoundly. It extended deep into the countryside but erupted again in the capital as well. In 1949 there was even a gun battle between Liberal and Conservative congressmen on the floor of the legislature —one Liberal legislator was killed and four others wounded. In the provincial capital of Barranquilla, a crowd of Liberals almost succeeded in taking over the city. They seized the provincial government building and raised a red flag.

The objective of La Violencia became to eliminate any of one’s countrymen belonging to the opposite party. The entire country was in a state of anarchy. Conservative and Liberal villages wiped each other out with extreme brutality. The army, having been purged of Liberals, could not quell the violence. The wars fought by Colonel Buendia in One Hundred Years of Solitude are, in fact, a composite of the civil wars of the nineteenth century and La Violencia of the twentieth.

The Liberals boycotted the presidential election of 1949. The Conservative candidate, Laureano Gómez Castro, running unop-posed, succeeded to the presidency in 1950 and immediately ordered that even greater force be used against the resistance in the country-side. Military expenditures grew to nearly one-quarter of the national budget.

By the middle of 1952 as much as a third of the national terri-tory was controlled by forces opposed to the government. At the height of La’ Violencia, some twenty thousand armed rebels operated in Colombia, some organizing themselves into guerrilla groups and establishing their own “independent republics” in the jungles.

Gómez Castro went on to draft a proposed new constitution in 1953. Fascist in outline, the constitution would have increased the powers of the presidency and expanded the role of the church within the political system. Although unsuccessful in amending the Constitution of 1886, he canceled pro-Labor laws, curtailed civil liberties, and censored the press.

Gómez Castro was overthrown by a military coup on 13 June 1953. It was the military leadership’s first intervention in the political sphere in nearly a century. The coup leader, General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, promised to bring an end to La Violencia. Emulating the Argentine dictator General Juan Domingo Peron’s populist program, Rojas Pinilla tried to create a broad-based movement that would bring rural peasants and urban workers together, thus circumventing the control that the Liberal/Conservative oligarchy had traditionally had in the political realm. He failed to create this new power base but succeeded in angering the oligarchy.

Rojas Pinilla had declared an amnesty to those who would lay down their arms, and at first many of the fighters accepted his offer. Within a year, however, violence broke out again. Enlisting Cold War ideology, the Rojas Pinilla government now labeled the rebels in the countryside “communists.” The Constitution of 1886 was abolished in 1954, and Rojas Pinilla created a new, rubber-stamp government. The armed forces of Colombia had more than doubled, from fourteen thousand men in 1948 to thirty-two thousand troops in 1956, and the National Police had been brought under the command of the armed forces.

Out of control, Rojas Pinilla had a law enacted that made showing disrespect to the president punishable by imprisonment or fines. At the notorious Bullring Massacre in February of 1956, many were killed or injured at a bullfight after refusing to join in a demonstration of loyalty to the regime. Near the end of his regime Rojas Pinilla shut down the Liberal newspaper El Espectador leaving foreign correspondent García Márquez stranded in Europe with no income.

By early 1957 the oligarchy had had enough of Rojas Pinilla’s rule. Meeting in secret, the leaders of the Liberals and Conservatives agreed to stop fighting one another and united in opposition to Roja Pinilla. Faced by widespread demonstrations and having lost the sup-port of both the church and key military leaders, Rojas Pinilla was pressured by the military to resign his office in May of 1957. He was allowed to select his successors, who promised a return to civilian rule. They handed power over to the Liberal and the Conservative elites, who instituted a National Front coalition government, which, through a plebiscite in December of 1957, restored the Constitution of 1886, divided legislative power equally along party lines, and introduced some reforms, such as female suffrage.

Most importantly, the National Front agreement stipulated that the two parties would alternate the presidency every four years for a period of twelve years (later extended to sixteen years). The first National Front president, the Liberal Lleras Camargo, was elected in August 1958; partially because of reforms he enacted, fighting in the countryside diminished. Nonetheless, La Violencia persisted, and in 1965 the Conservative president Guillermo Leon Valencia declared the country under a state of siege, which decree was not formally lifted until 1982.

The novels that grew out of La Violencia, García Márquez insisted in a 1960 essay, were bad: writers concentrated on the details of the violence with no larger perspective, so that their books consisted of descriptions “de los decapitados, de los castrados, las mujeres violados, los sexos eparicidos y las tripas sacadas”10; that is, they offered details of the atrocities of decapitated people, castrated men, women who were raped, with no sense of the cause of these events. In his own work the influence of La Violencia may be observed both in No One Writes to the Colonel in the sinister murder of the Colonel’s son and in In Evil Hour in the animosity between the dentist and the mayor.

Although the National Front government managed to diminish the violence between Liberals and Conservatives, disaffection with the traditional oligarchy continued. In 1964 Fabio Vasquez Castano and Victor Medina Moron founded the Ejercito de Lib-eracion Nacional (ELN; Army of National Liberation) in the department of Santander. This group was inspired by the Cuban Revolution and by the methods employed by Fidel Castro and his band of guerrilla fighters to defeat Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar. The ELN, comprised mainly of student radicals, focused its activities in the countryside, attempting to win over the local peasantry and conducting raids on small towns where the guerrillas would rob banks and liberate prisoners from local jails. There were occasional skirmishes with the army. Another major revolutionary movement inspired by the Cuban example, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC; Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), began guerrilla operations in 1966.

García Márquez’s college classmate Father Camilo Torres Restrepo joined the ELN in October of 1965, after he had been laicized by the church and stripped of his powers and privileges as a priest. Although he had become the most popular political leader in the country, addressing thousands in his speeches, he had been unable to see a path to actual power.

Father Torres explained his extraordinary decision in this way: “I don’t want to let them kill me as they did Gaitan on the Carrera Septima. They will have to kill me in the mountains. They killed Gaitan in the city, and his death did not point to any solution. If they kill me in the mountains, my death will show the way.”11 Torres was killed in the mountains in a battle with the Colombian armed forces in February of 1966.

García Márquez himself was profoundly influenced by the Cuban Revolution. Like other Latin American writers, he looked toward Cuba as the nation opposed to cultural colonialism. Cuba became an emblem for ending the economic dependence of the region upon the United States and for putting an end to economic exploitation.

This resistence to U.S. economic and cultural domination was a dominant theme for many writers of the Boom, the sudden flourishing of the Latin American novel in the late 1960s. In The Boom in Spanish American Literature Jose Donoso notes that prior to the 1960s the works of Latin American writers were distributed only in their own countries. The publishers explained that this was to “keep foreign currency within the country.” Donoso and others noticed that “there was more than enough currency to import Walt Disney comic books.”12

The relations of Colombia with the United States have been strained since 1903 when Theodore Roosevelt’s administration was involved in the revolt of Panama, which until then had been a part of Colombia. García Márquez sees the neighbor to the north, a country with no exclusive right to call itself “America,” as having exploited Colombia in particular and the continent in general.

In his fiction García Márquez has been vehemently critical of the role of the United States in Colombian history. The depiction in One Hundred Years of Solitude of a U.S.-owned company in Macondo, modeled on the actions of the United Fruit Company in the Caribbean Coastal Lowlands in the first decades of the twentieth century, reveals a heartless exploiter with no concern for the welfare of the workers on its plantations. In the novel, as in history, the pillaging of the country by the U.S. company culminates in a massacre. In The Autumn of the Patriarch the country is so ravaged economically by its foreign debt to the United States that the dictator, rather than accept the alternative of the landing of U.S. Marines, chooses to sell off the sea. García Márquez’s love of the sea runs through all of his fiction; loss of the sea amounts to the loss of national identity.

The United States has also been involved, if more indirectly, in other Colombian problems. Beginning in the 1970s Colombian narcotics traffickers emerged as a dominant economic force, with most of the drugs going to meet the voracious demand of U.S. consumers. By 1999 Colombia had begun to include income earned from growing illegal drugs in calculations of the size of the national economy. Traditional export earnings on coffee, bananas, flowers, sugarcane, and cotton are still important, as are those from the sale of oil, gold, silver, and emeralds; however, income from drugs is as much as four billion dollars a year.13 Colombia produces half of the world’s supply of cocaine, most of it destined for the U.S. market.

With the rise in the drug trade came a wave of violence in Colombia; by the middle of the 1980s, much of Colombia had slid into chaos, with the powerful drug kingpins openly defying the national government and out to torture, intimidate, or murder anyone who openly opposed their operations, striking at journalists, politicians, law enforcement, and judicial authorities with seeming impunity. Kidnappings in Colombia had become especially endemic; García Márquez even wrote a full-length nonfiction book, Noticia de un secuestro (1996; translated as News of a Kidnapping, 1997), describing the kidnapping of ten people, mostly journalists, by gunmen from Pablo Escobar’s Medellin drug cartel. The victims included a friend of García Márquez, Maruja Pachon, who was kidnapped ’because she was the sister of the widow of Luis Carlos Galan Sarmiento.

A presidential candidate, Galan had been gunned down in August 1989 in the presence of his eighteen bodyguards. He was the founder of the Movimiento Nuevo Liberalismo (MNL; New Liberalism Movement) faction of the Liberal Party, which supported the extradition of Colombian nationals to stand trial in the United States. Extradition was a policy the drug lords feared and violently opposed. In Colombia they could escape imprisonment or be jailed in relative luxury, but they knew the U.S. authorities would treat them far more harshly.

This set of kidnappings, illustrating the control of civilian life in Colombia by the drug cartels, was, García Márquez wrote, “only one episode in the biblical holocaust that has been consuming Colombia for more than twenty years.”14 Colombia had become a society where people, as García Márquez wrote, “tended to believe the lies of the Extraditables more than the truths told by the government” (132). “Extraditables” were those leaders of the drug trade whose crimes extended to the United States and whom the U.S. Department of Justice was eager to try in its courts; their campaign of terror was aimed at forcing the Colombian government to grant them protection from extradition, and their slogan was “We prefer a grave in Colombia to a cell in the United States” (22).

By the 1990s no one in Colombia was safe. “Are you dealers or guerrillas?” Maruja had demanded of her kidnappers (9). They might have been either. Bombs explode daily, some set by the drug traffickers, others the work of urban guerrillas.

Although the direct impact of the narcotics traffickers has lessened since the early 1990s when the dominant Cali and Medellín cartels were largely suppressed, the drug kingpins have not been the only ones contributing to the violence and anarchy in Colombia. Since their inception in the 1960s, guerrilla groups in Colombia have continued to fight the central government. In addition to the ELN and the somewhat larger guerrilla movement FARC, other, smaller guerrilla groups appeared on the scene, such as the Maoist group Ejercito Popular de Liberacion (EPL; Popular Liberation Army) and the Movimiento 19 de Abril (M-19; 19th of April Movement).

The M-19 group became notorious for two actions. In January 1974 guerrillas broke into a museum in the capital and stole Bolívar’s sword, in a symbolic gesture meant to identify their actions with those of the Liberator. Although a ceasefire was signed in 1984 between most of the guerrilla movements and the government, the ELN refused to sign, and the agreement broke down.

M-19 guerrillas stormed the Palace of Justice in 1985, taking several hostages. Ostensibly, they were motivated by the government’s alleged failure to live up to the provisions of the 1984 agreement, although it is also widely believed that they were acting on behalf of the drug cartels, which wanted them to destroy court records relating to U.S. extradition requests. When the government troops recaptured the building, more than one hundred people, including twelve supreme court justices, were killed. In 1990, however, M-19 signed an agreement with the government in which the organization renounced violence, voluntarily disarmed, and became a legitimate political party. The sword of the Liberator was also returned to the government.

Meanwhile, in the 1990s the ELN stepped up its assaults on the system. The group has attacked petroleum pipelines and drilling sites to draw attention to the exploitation of Colombia’s natural resources by foreign companies. In 1999 the ELN decided that by kidnapping ordinary citizens they could make their point more dramatically. Their war would be against everyone.

In April of 1999 the ELN hijacked an Avianca domestic flight bound from Bucaramanga, for thirty years an ELN stronghold, to Bogotá, with forty-one people on board. This action was followed by the abduction of more than one hundred people from a church in Cali during Sunday mass on 30 May. Several hostages were released because they made deals with the ELN, agreeing to sell their property and possessions and turn the proceeds over to the guerrillas. The government argued that the ELN had now reverted to the same tactics as the late drug lord Pablo Escobar, who had been killed by police in 1993.

The peace efforts instituted by President Andres Pastrana have focused, however, on the FARC, which was granted control over four departments or counties. Unlike the ELN, the FARC has chosen to negotiate with the existing government. The FARC has included among its demands the curbing of right-wing military groups, over which the government insists it has no control. The Colombia Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998, issued by the U.S. State Department, estimated that up to seventeen thousand guerrillas had significant control of approximately 65 percent of the country’s municipalities and, where the perpetrator could be positively identified, were responsible for approximately 21 percent of all “politically motivated extrajudicial killings,” while right-wing paramilitary groups, with between five thousand and seven thousand members, accounted for more than 75 percent of such murders. The State Department report went on to note that the Colombian national average for successful prosecutions was less than 3 percent.15 In 1998 President Pastrana agreed to withdraw all army and police forces from an area of roughly fifteen thousand square miles (about the size of Switzerland) that includes the town of San Vicente Del Caguan, ceding sovereignty to the FARC.

In September of 1999 President Pastrana was in New York City speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, asking for international monetary aid to help resolve his country’s continuing slide into anarchy. The Colombian government was seeking more than one billion dollars worth of U.S. military aid; although Pastrana and other government officials emphasized that this materiel would be directed against the drug trade, as both the ELN and FARC are now engaged in this trade, many observers were worried that the United States might be pulled into the civil war. With the insurgents apparently more powerful than ever, it seemed unlikely that the Colombian government could resolve the situation militarily. While Pastrana was in the United States, it was reported that García Márquez was prepared to act as an intermediary between Colombia, the United States, Cuba, and the Colombian insurgents.

The sympathies of García Márquez toward the guerrilla movement may be observed in the fate of the murderer Pedro Vicario in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. “Without love or a job,” both of which are necessary for a good life, Pedro Vicario reenlists in the armed forces. “One fine morning,” however, as the weather cooperates with justice, his patrol “went into guerrilla territory singing whorehouse songs and was never heard of again” (83). The guerrillas have brought about justice where the civic authorities have failed.


García Márquez was born into a rigid and highly stratified class society. Status differences were pronounced. Social mobility was limited. There was almost no middle class. Class consciousness, particularly in the interior, was high and permeated social life.

As first cousins, García Márquez’s maternal grandparents, Colonel Nicolas Marquez Iguaran and Tranquilina Iguaran Cotes, belonged to the most eminent family in the local aristocracy of Aracataca. Colonel Marquez had fought under the great Liberal general Rafael Uribe Uribe, and Aracataca, as a result of his efforts, had become a Liberal city. Until the age of eight García Márquez lived in their large, commodious house and enjoyed certain privileges.

As for Colombia as a whole, the elite lived primarily in Bogotá. They modeled their lifestyles on European and North American norms and dictated them to the rest of society. They emphasized racial and cultural purity and wealth derived from property. The only approved forms of employment for this class were landowning, law, medicine, or architecture. Journalism was also considered respectable by the time García Márquez entered manhood. Aid from relatives often enabled families to maintain the facade of prosperity, and the children of the elite were often sent to school in Europe or the United States.

People defined themselves by their ancestry, and regional and local connections were emphasized. Only after the 1940s did mesti-zos, predominantly peasants, move from the highlands, where the Spanish conquerors had mixed with Indian women, into the cities.

The new rich, people who had worked their way up through entrepreneurial skills and entered banking, commerce, and industry, were not accepted as socially equal to the old elite. Upper-class children received the best educations, attending one of the country’s exclusive private schools and then one of the national universities. García Márquez, whose family was impoverished, was fortunate to receive one of the few available scholarships and was thus able to study at better schools.

During the coming-of-age of García Márquez, Colombia was a society so centered on class privilege that people were judged by the degree to which they spoke Spanish in a pure manner most similar to castellano, the official language of Spain, a language free of Latin American inflections or references. They prided themselves as well on the eloquence of their spoken Spanish. The elite of Bogotá considered their capital “the Athens of South America"; however, they have virtually no literary tradition.

In an early article, “La literatura Colombiana: un fraude a la nacion” (Colombian Literature: A Fraud on the Nation), García Márquez pointed to the absence among Colombian writers of a sense of national identity, of what distinguished the culture and people of Colombia. He set out to accomplish that task. In creating that missing national literature, he took as his model The Plague (1947), a work in which Albert Camus, as García Márquez notes, recounts “a brief episode of the human race in which not even the germs of the plague are definitely bad, nor its victims necessarily good.”16

For writers like García Márquez their lifestyle involves an acute disenchantment with the politics of the United States. Latin American intellectuals of the Left have long distrusted the motives of their neighbor to the north. “What the United States Government wants in Central America are governments it can control,” he has said.17 An important part of his life involves his political commitment, in particular a struggle for an independent politics for the region.

Because of his well-publicized friendship with the Cuban leader, when Cuban-trained guerrillas from M-19 made a minor incursion by boat from Panama, the Colombian government tried to get them to admit that it was García Márquez who “had coordinated the landing with Fidel Castro.”18 García Márquez sued the Colombian military for abuse of authority for making these accusations. The charges were preposterous; yet, part of his lifestyle has included periodic visits to Cuba, where, he has said, his discussions with the Cuban leader have focused on matters of literature. In 1982 he stopped off in Cuba after he accepted the Nobel Prize in literature in Sweden, and he was a guest of Castro at the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba in January of 1998.

Personally, García Márquez has considered himself in his culture and frame of reference, like his hero Simón Bolívar —who was born in Caracas, Venezuela —a man of the coast, a costeno, a Carib-bean man. The northern coast, with its diverse population, has been a place of the supernatural, of fantastic stories told by old women. Supernatural elements are a part of everyday reality. It is from this style of life that he has drawn inspiration for his technique of magic realism.19

The northern coast of Colombia, which embraces the cities of Barranquilla, Santa Marta, and Cartagena de Indias and the smaller towns of Riohacha and Aracataca as well, is a place where a man does not bundle up in a suit and tie. It is an area where behavior is free and easy and often spontaneous, distinct from the manners of Bogotá, where the women are dressed in the fashions of Paris.

Historically, the interior of Colombia has produced nearly all of the country’s military men and its clergy. Few generals have been costenos, and no bishop or archbishop has hailed from the northern coast, where the very idea of seclusion, of the asceticism that characterizes both of these professions, is alien.20 The coast is a place gifted in the celebration of being/alive; there in One Hundred Years of Solitude Jose Arcadio Buendia has to struggle to find a single image of God.

Far from the emphasis on purity of blood and one’s antecedents that has created a repressive atmosphere in Bogotá and the interior, the coast welcomes people of diverse backgrounds and mixed blood. It offers a melange of cultures coming together in its carnivals and celebrations, which are depicted in García Márquez’s story “Big Mama’s Funeral.” Spain and Africa mix.

“People here,” he has said, describing the coast, “sense the presence of phenomena or other beings, even if they are not here. These must be influences of ancient religions, of Indians and blacks.

This world’s full of spirits you find all over, in Puerto Rico, in Cuba, in Brazil. In Santo Domingo and in Vera Cruz.”21

As a consequence of the slave trade, García Márquez has written, “it became possible to distinguish as may as eighteen different degrees of mestizos,” who were not permitted to hold high positions in the national government or even to enroll in secondary schools. He attributes to Bolívar himself the missed opportunity of creating a democratic society. Bolívar, he has written, “lost the first opportunity to eradicate this deplorable legacy.” Instead, yielding to repression as a means of gaining power, behaving abominably, and setting an early example of the ruthlessness and violence that have beset Colombia throughout its history, he “ordered the execution of eight hundred Spanish prisoners, even those lying wounded in a hospital.”22

The coast, García Márquez has said proudly, is comprised of “bandits . . . dancers, adventurers, people of gaiety.” The people are descendants of pirates and smugglers who had intermarried with black slaves; “they are people capable of believing in anything.”23 In his childhood he heard stories of people able to move chairs simply by looking at them and of a man who could deworm cows by simply standing in front of them. In particular, he has said that he admires the first inhabitants of his native land, the Indians, for two qualities: “a talent for creativity, the supreme expression of human intelligence,” and “a fierce commitment to self-improvement.”24

In his essay “For the Sake of a Country Within Reach of the Children” García Márquez describes the people of the coast as having “discovered the political miracle of living as equals despite their differences.” Such a political culture is a far cry from that of Bogotá and Colombia as a whole, which is “a centralized, bureaucratic nation, creating out of colonial lethargy the illusion of national unity.”25

In the heat of the Caribbean even passing time loses its rele-vance. “The feeling of cold,” he has said, “is something the people born in Bogotá cannot imagine.”26 So it was traumatic for this man of the coast to come into contact with Bogotá, which, he says, has marked him, has impressed him, but which only reminded him that he was not a cachaco, but a costeño.

Before he travelled to the interior, it had been difficult for García Márquez to conceive of living in a city without the sea. He received his secondary education in an old colonial convent in Zipaquira one thousand meters above sea level. He remembers it as a school “in a town with a narrow mentality, distant and gloomy.” Having been born near the Caribbean, he found this place “a punishment, and a frozen town, an injustice.”27 It reeked of the Spanish colonial culture, which was not his. He spent most of his time reading.

The coast is a place of sexual freedom, where the brothel, as depicted in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, is a positive place, one concealing “the incapacity for love” and even “the hesitations of old age.” Simultaneously, women have suffered in Colombia from a “cult of virginity,”28 whose consequences he describes in Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

Catholicism has imposed a double standard upon Colombia, even on the free and easy coast. Men have been offered a degree of sexual freedom, symbolized by the brothel, where, in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, all of the young men of the town experience their sexual initiation, including the narrator, who found his experience with Maria Alejandra Cervantes sublime. The authority of the church is represented by the ringing of bells that draw the free young man back to the world of repression and denial.

García Márquez has offered one clarification. The concept that every young man in the village had been initiated by Maria Alejandra Cervantes was another of his exaggerations. “In fact, brothels cost too much for the young,” he has said. Sexual initiation “actually starts with servants at home. And with cousins. And with aunts.”29 He adds that it was not easy in his youth to have a relationship with a woman who was not a prostitute. Prostitutes provided both company and companionship. He has remarked, playfully, that he married “not to eat lunch alone.”30

Life in Colombia does not differ markedly from that of the characters in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Colombians of the present, whom García Márquez has called “the unfortunate seed of Colonel Aureliano Buendia,” are members of “a sentimental society where action takes precedence over reflection, impulsiveness over reason, human warmth over prudence. We have an almost irrational love of life but kill one another in our passion to live.” Most Colombians today are descended from both the invading Spanish conquistadores and the indigenous people who were the first inhabitants: “five centuries later the descendants of both,” García Márquez laments, “still do not know who we are.”31


1. Regina Janes, “Liberals, Conservatives, and Bananas: Colombian Politics in the Fictions of Gabriel García Márquez,” in Gabriel García Márquez, edited by Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House, 1989), p. 125.

2. Chronicle of a Death Foretold, translated by Gregory Rabassa (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 66-67.

3. Gene H. Bell-Villada, García Márquez: The Man And His Work (Chapel Hill & London: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), p. 22.

4. Gabriel García Márquez: Magic and Reality, written, directed, and produced by Ana Cristina Navarro, 60 minutes, Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 1981, video.

5. Ibid.

6. Michael Wood, Gabriel García Márquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 8.

7. Janes, “Liberals, Conservatives, and Bananas,” p. 142.

8. Ibid., p. 140.

9. Peter Stone, “Gabriel García Márquez,” Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews —Sixth Series, edited by George Plimpton (New York: Viking, 1984), pp. 320-321.

10. Quoted in Janes, “Liberals, Conservatives, and Bananas,” p. 126.

11. Gérman Guzman, Camilo Torres (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1969), p. 237.

12. José Donoso, The Boom in Spanish American Literature, translated by Gregory Kolvakos (New York: Columbia University Press/Center for Inter-American Relations, 1977), p. 25.

13. Larry Rohter, “Colombia Adjusts Economic Figures to Include Its Drug Crops,” New York Times, Sunday, 27 June 1999.

14. “Acknowledgements” to News of a Kidnapping, translated by Edith Grossman (New York: Knopf, 1997).

15. U.S. Department of State Colombia Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 26 February 1999.

16. Bell-Villada, The Man and His Work, p. 87.

17. Claudia Dreifus, “Playboy Interview: Gabriel García Márquez,” Playboy, 30 (February 1983): 72.

18. Ibid.: 73.

19. García Márquez: Magic and Reality.

20. Ibid.

21. Marlise Simons, “A Talk with Gabriel García Márquez,” New York Times Book Review, 5 December 1982.

22. “For the Sake of a Country Within Reach of the Children,” A Country for Children, edited by Benjamin Villegas (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, n.d.), pp. 7-8.

23. Dreifus, “Playboy Interview”: 74.

24. “For the Sake of a Country,” p. 8.

25. Ibid., pp. 6-7.

26. García Márquez: Magic and Reality.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

29. Dreifus, “Playboy Interview”: 177.

30. Ibid.: 178.

31. “For the Sake of a Country,” p. 5.

García Márquez’s Works

(Literary Masters)


La hojarasca. Bogotá: Sipa, 1955. Translated by Gregory Rabassa as “Leaf Storm” in Leaf Storm and Other Stories. New York: Harper &Row, 1972; London: Cape, 1972. Gabriel García Márquez’s...

(The entire section is 14352 words.)

García Márquez On García Márquez

(Literary Masters)


“The Solitude of Latin America," delivered to the Swedish Academy 8 December 1982. (©The Nobel Foundation, 1982)

Antonio Pigafetta, a Florentine navigator who went with Magellan on the first voyage around the world, wrote, upon his passage through our southern lands of America, a strictly accurate account that nonetheless resembles a venture into fantasy. In it he recorded that he had seen hogs with navels on their haunches, clawless birds whose hens...

(The entire section is 5759 words.)

Study Questions

(Literary Masters)

  1. What themes and motifs are shared by William Faulkner’s imaginary world, Yoknapatawpha County and García Márquez’s Macondo? Compare the historical origins of these two communities, within the ethical context created by the author.
  2. In what ways does the imaginary Caribbean village in Chronicle of a Death Foretold become a microcosm of Colombia, its laws, morality, religion, politics, sexuality, and superstitions?
  3. Discuss how the moments of magic realism in García Márquez’s novels intersect with his “realistic” depictions of people and society.
  4. What does the recurring figure of Colonel Aureliano Buendia, the hero of One Hundred...

(The entire section is 1033 words.)


(Literary Masters)

Adams, Robert M. “Big Little Book,” New York Review of Books, 14 April 1983, p. 3.

Barnard, Timothy, and Peter Rist, eds. South American Cinema: A Critical Filmography, 1915-1994. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.

Barroa, Rei. Literature of the Americas. College Park: University of Maryland Press, 1990.

Bell, Michael. Gabriel García Mdrquez: Solitude and Solidarity. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993.

Bell-Villada, Gene H. García Márquez: The Man And His Work. Chapel Hill & London: University of North Carolina Press, 1990. A comprehensive and illuminating introduction to García Márquez with many quotations from interviews and a strong biographical approach.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Gabriel García Márquez. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. This is a good collection of eighteen essays. Two deal with the influence of William Faulkner on García Márquez. Colombian politics is discussed in Regina Janes’s essay, “Liberals, Conservatives, and Bananas: Colombian Politics in the Fictions of García Márquez,” as well as in “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” by the superb critic Raymond Williams. Begin, as Bloom does, with “García Márquez: From Aracataca to Macondo” by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Brink, Andre. “Making and Unmaking: Gabriel García Márquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude,” in The Novel: Language and Narrative from Cervantes to Calvino. New York: New York University Press, 1998. A South African novelist, Brink has used many of the techniques of magic realism in his own work, particularly in the novels Imaginings of Sand (1997) and Devil’s Valley (1999).

Brotherson, Gordon. The Emergence of the Latin American Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

Buford, Bill. “Haughty Falconry and Collective Guilt,” TLS: The Times Literary Supplement (London), 10 September 1982, p. 965.

Butt, John. “The Liberator in Defeat,” TLS: The Times Literary Supplement, 14-20 July 1989, p. 781.

Clemons, Walter. “A Dictator’s Debris,” Newsweek, 88 (8 November 1976): 105.

Conversations with Latin American Writers: Gabriel García Márquez, interviewed by Silvia Lemus, 44 minutes, Films For The Humanities & Sciences, 1998, video. Lemus, the interviewer, is the wife of Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes. She interviews García Márquez in Cartagena, the setting for Love In The Time Of Cholera. The discussion ranges from autobiographical sources of the novel to García Márquez’s reflections on the art of fiction.

Dolan, Sean. Gabriel García Márquez. New York: Chelsea House, 1994.

Donoso, Jose. The Boom in Spanish American Literature, translated by Gregory Kolvakos.. New York: Columbia University Press/Center for Inter-American Relations, 1977. This superb and personal book chronicling Donoso’s own career places García Márquez in the literature of the era and of his continent. There are personal glimpses of García Márquez and other writers such as Carlos Fuentes and of course Donoso himself.

Dreifus, Claudia. “Playboy Interview: Gabriel García Márquez,” Playboy, 30, no. 3 (February 1983): 65-77, 172-78. The political naivete of the interviewer mars this interview. When García Márquez asks her playfully whether, like other North American journalists, she is going to ask him whether he is a communist, she becomes flustered, and lacking any knowledge of Colombian politics, goes ahead and does it.

Fau, Margaret Eustella. Gabriel García Márquez: An Annotated Bibliography, 1947-1979, Westport, ConnGreenwood Press, 1980.

Fau and Nelly Sfeir de Gonzalez. Bibliographic Guide to Gabriel García Márquez, 1979-1985, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1986.

Foster, David William. Handbook of Latin American Literature. New York: Garland, 1987.

Frisch, Mark. “Teaching One Hundred Years Of Solitude with The Sound and the Fury.” on-line document.

Gabriel García Márquez: Magic and Reality, written, directed, and produced by Ana Cristina Navarro, 60 minutes, Films For the Humanities & Sciences, 1981, video. Available in both Spanish and English, this documentary offers interviews with the author as well as several of his friends and critics, among them Alfonso Fuenmayor, who appears as a character in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Especially interesting is the footage of the Bogotazo, of the riots following the assassination of Liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, and of old photographs and rare footage as well of the Santa Marta railroad built by the banana company, and the strike described in One Hundred Years of Solitude; survivors of the massacre are interviewed.

Gallagher, D. P. Modern Latin American Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.

Gonzalez, Nelly Sfeir de. Bibliographic Guide to Gabriel García Márquez, 1986-1992. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.

Guibert, Rita. Seven Voices: Seven Latin American Writers Talk to Rita Guibert. New York: Knopf, 1973. This book is an excellent introduction to García Márquez and easily the most comprehensive interview with this author. He discusses his work process and his techniques fully. See also in this volume a rare interview with Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who offers some remarks about García Márquez.

Gullon, Ricardo. “Gabriel García Márquez and the Lost Art of Story-telling.” Diacritics. (1971): 27-32.

Guzman Campos, German. Camilo Torres. New York: Sheed & Ward, 1969.

Guzman Campos, Orlando Fals Borda, and Eduardo Umana Luna. La Violencia en Colombia: Estudio de un Proceso Social, volume 1, Bogota: Ediciones Tercer Mundo, 1963. This book, although only available in Spanish, is indispensable for any understanding of Colombia and the historical culture from which García Márquez emerged.

Harss, Luis, and Barbara Dohmann. Into the Mainstream: Conversations with Latin American Writers. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.

Janes, Regina, Gabriel García Márquez: Revolutions in Wonderland. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1981.

Janes. One Hundred Years of Solitude: Modes of Reading. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Kakutani, Michiko. “García Márquez Novel Covers Love and Time,” New York Times, 6 April 1988, p. C21.

Kennedy, William. “All of Life, Sense and Nonsense, fills an an Argentine’s Daring Fable,” National Observer, 9 (20 April 1970): 23.

Kennedy. “The Yellow Trolley Car in Barcelona and Other Visions: A Profile of Gabriel García Márquez.” Atlantic, 231, no. 1 (January 1973): 50-58. Republished in Riding the Yellow Trolley Car: Selected Nonfiction. New York: Viking, 1993, pp. 243-267. Despite Kennedy’s knowledge of Spanish, and the generous offering of his time by García Márquez, this interview adds too little to the existing literature. This was the first biographical interview widely available to readers in the United States and England.

Luis, William, ed. Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 113: Modern Latin-American Writers. Detroit: Gale, 1992.

“Magic, Matter, and Money: Pioneers Who Have Explored Four Aspects of Reality,” Time, 120 (1 November 1982): 88-89.

Mano, D. Keith. “A Death Foretold,” National Review (10 June 1983): 699-700.

McGuirk, Bernard, and Richard Cardwell, eds. Gabriel García Márquez: New Readings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. This anthology is superior to Bloom’s and more scholarly in approach. There are twelve essays, including Robin Fiddian’s “A Prospective Post-script: Apropos of Love in the Time of Cholera,” which offers a somewhat dissenting view regarding the treatment of women in the works of García Márquez. “On ’Magical’ and Social Realism in García Márquez” by Gerald Martin is particularly helpful.

McMurray, George R. Gabriel García Márquez. New York: Ungar, 1983.

Mead, Robert G. Jr. “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Saturday Review, 7 (March 1970): 34-35.

Muller-Bergh, Klaus. “Relato de un ndu-frago: García Márquez’s Tale of Shipwreck and Survival at Sea,” Books Abroad, 47, no. 3 (Summer 1973), pp. 460-466.

Oberhelman, Harley D. “The Presence of Faulkner in the Writings of García Márquez,” Graduate Studies Texas Tech University, 22 (August 1980): 1-43.

O’Hara, J. D. “Sick, Simpering Tyrant,” Washington Post Book World, 14 November 1976, p. 14.

Pynchon, Thomas. “The Heart’s Eternal Vow,” New York Times Book Review, 10 April 1988, pp. 48-49.

Riding, Alan. “Revolution and the Intellectual in Latin America,” New York Times, 13 March 1983. Rodman, Selden. “Gabriel García Márquez,” in Tongues of Fallen Angels: Conversations. New York: New Directions, 1974.

Sheppard, R. Z. “Love Among the Ruins,” Time, 145 (22 May 1995): 73.

Simons, Marlise. “The Best Years of His Life: An Interview with Gabriel García Márquez.” New York Times Book Review, 10 April 1988. Simons is a journalist and not a scholar, but there are some interesting moments here.

Simons. “Love and Age: A Talk with García Márquez.” New York Times Book Review, 1 April 1985. This interview appeared at the time of the publication of Love in the Time Of Cholera and is excellent.

Simons. “A Talk With Gabriel García Márquez.” New York Times Book Review, 5 December 1982.

Stone, Peter. “Gabriel García Márquez,” in Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews —Sixth Series, edited by George Plimpton. New York: Viking, 1984, pp. 313-339.

Streitfield, David. “The Intricate Solitude of Gabriel García Márquez,” Washington Post, 10 April 1994, pp. Fl, F4.

Valdes, Maria Elena de and Mario J. Valdes, eds. Approaches to Teaching García Márquez’s One Hundred Years Of Solitude. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1990.

Vargas, German. “Autor de una obra que hara ruido,” Encuentra liberal (Bogota), 29 April 1967.

Vargas Llosa, Mario. García Márquez: Historia de un Deicidio. Barcelona: Breve Biblioteca de Respuesta: Barral Editores, 1971. Written at a time when Vargas Llosa and García Márquez were still friends, this book is an affectionate and comprehensive critical biography. Especially useful are the discussions of the youth of García Márquez as a costeno. See the Bloom anthology for a piece by Vargas Llosa in English: “García Márquez: From Aracataca to Macondo,” pp. 5-19.

Wood, Michael. Gabriel García Márquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. This personal, yet brilliant and accessible, study of García Márquez is the most measured piece of writing about this author. The chronology is particularly useful and includes historical material as well as the details of the life of García Márquez.

Zamora, Lois Parkinson and Wendy B. Faris, eds. Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. This comprehensive volume is a must for penetrating the nuances of “magical realism” from its beginnings to the present and including its use by other authors.

WEB SITES Created and maintained by A. Ruch, “Macondo” is a complete and quite reliable site. There are special features, such as news about García Márquez, recent articles, information about new books in the works, and the latest on new motion-picture adaptations. “Macondo” includes an impressive section titled “Biography” that includes a time line with the dates of his major works and the events that helped shape his writing; “Bibliography,” which includes works available only in Spanish; “Criticism”; “Audio: Books on Tape”; “Images, “ which is an online gallery of García Márquez images, photographs, paintings and book covers; “Papers,” containing links to essays; “Film,” a link to a directory of films based on García Márquez’s works; his Nobel Prize lecture; links to other resources; and “Bookstore,” linked to for easy ordering. This web site is not only comprehensive, but it is also charming, thought-provoking, and obviously created with considerable affection for the subject. No other web site about García Márquez comes close to “Macondo” in its professionalism, enthusiasm, and passion.

Also a García Márquez site, with quotations from his novels, news articles, home pages, biographies, and a link to the web site “Macondo.” Several of the links may be nonoperational, however, and one, a review of The General In His Labyrinth, written for “The Tech,” was not particularly illuminating. The “New Readings” link led, not very helpfully, to the “Cambridge On Line Catalog.” links relevant to Colombian culture and politics are available through the Latin American Information Center maintained at the University of Texas website, including a link to a general overview of Colombian history maintained by the Library of Congress.