Gabriel García Márquez 1928-
(Full name Gabriel José García Márquez) Colombian novelist, short story writer, journalist, playwright, critic, autobiographer, screenwriter, and children's writer.
The following entry presents an overview of García Márquez's career through 2003. See also Gabriel Garcia Marquez Criticism (Introduction), and Volumes 2, 3, 8, 15, 27.
Nobel laureate García Márquez is included among the group of South American writers who rose to prominence during the 1960s, a period often referred to as the “boom” of Latin American literature. Like several of his peers, including authors Julio Cortázar and Ernesto Sabato, García Márquez wrote fiction for many years before gaining international recognition. The almost simultaneous publication of major works by these three authors—Cortázar's Hopscotch (1963), Sabato's On Heroes and Tombs (1961), and García Márquez's Cien años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude)—together with the appearance of first novels by Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa and the newly acknowledged importance of such writers as Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda, led to a renewed recognition of Latin American letters as a potent force in contemporary literature. The enthusiastic critical reception of García Márquez's works is usually attributed to his imaginative blending of history, politics, social realism, and fantasy. He frequently makes use of the literary style known as “magic realism,” embellishing his works with surreal events and fantastic imagery to obscure the distinctions between illusion and reality which, he implies, define human existence.
García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia, where he lived with his grandparents for the first eight years of his life. His grandmother's storytelling and the myths and superstitions of the townspeople all played major roles in shaping his imagination. He enrolled in the University of Bogotá in 1947 to study law, but when civil warfare in Colombia caused the school to close in 1948, he transferred to the University of Cartagena, simultaneously working as a journalist for the periodical El universal. Devoting himself to journalistic and literary endeavors, he discontinued his law studies in 1950 and moved to Barranquilla to work for the daily paper El heraldo. During this period, he began writing short stories that were published in regional periodicals, and through a circle of local writers, he became acquainted with the works of such authors as Franz Kafka, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce. García Márquez returned to Bogotá in 1954, serving as a film critic and reporter for El espectador, and the next year his novella La hojarasca (1955; Leaf Storm) was published. He worked as a foreign correspondent for the Espectador in 1955. A year later, however, the military government of Colombia headed by Gustavo Rojas Pinilla shut down the periodical and García Márquez subsequently traveled as a freelance journalist in London, Caracas, and Paris. In May 1959 he was instrumental in launching a branch of Prensa Latina, a news-wire service started by Cuban President Fidel Castro, in Bogotá, Columbia. In 1961 he moved to New York City with his family, finally settling in Mexico City in 1963. In 1982 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. García Márquez has received numerous awards and accolades throughout his career, including the Prix de Meilleur Livre Etranger in 1969 and the Romulo Gallegos prize in 1971 for One Hundred Years of Solitude, the Books Abroad/Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1972, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize nomination for fiction for Crónica de una muerte anunciada (1981; Chronicle of a Death Foretold), and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction for El amor en los tiempos de cólera (1985; Love in the Time of Cholera).
García Márquez's early short stories were written in the late 1940s and early 1950s and are collected in such retrospective volumes as Leaf Storm and Other Stories (1972), Ojos de Perro Azul (1972; Eyes of a Blue Dog), La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y de su abuela desalmada (1972), and Innocent Eréndira and Other Stories (1978). In his novella Leaf Storm García Márquez introduces Macondo, the fictional village based on García Márquez's hometown of Aracataca that would become the setting for several of his subsequent works. Leaf Storm recounts the story of a colonel and the inhabitants of a small town, dominated by a banana company, who come into conflict over the death of a solitary and unpopular doctor. The story's multiple narrative perspectives contribute to its theme of solitude and reflect the influence of author William Faulkner. In El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (1961; No One Writes to the Colonel) García Márquez presents a retired military officer who waits in a rural village for the mail to arrive with his government pension check. With its depiction of stifling social and political institutions, the novella has been taken to represent Columbia in general, and in particular, the state of the country during la violencia, a period of violent social and political crises that culminated during the 1950s. In his first novel La mala hora (1961; In Evil Hour) García Márquez uses a montage-like narrative style to depict a backwater town torn by political oppression and moral corruption.
García Márquez won immediate international acclaim and popularity with the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude. The novel chronicles the history of Macondo, from its harmonious beginnings under founder José Arcadio Buendia to its increasingly chaotic decline through six generations of descendants. The novel presents Macondo as a microcosm of Colombia and, by extension, of South America and the world. In addition to reflecting the political, social, and economic ills of South America, the novel is replete with fantastic events—for example, a baby is born with a pig's tail. Characterized by nonlinear narration and long, free-flowing sentences, critics have hailed One Hundred Years of Solitude as a masterpiece for its labyrinthine structure, epic scope, and stylistic complexity. García Márquez's next novel, El otoño del patriarca (1975; The Autumn of the Patriarch), depicts the evils of despotism as embodied in an unloved dictator. Blending aspects of journalism and literature, the novel represents a powerful political statement against totalitarianism and a poignant evocation of loneliness. The novel is written as a phantasmagorical narrative in which shifting viewpoints and extensive use of hyperbole enhance comedic and horrific effects.
Following a six-year hiatus, García Márquez published Chronicle of a Death Foretold, a fictionalized journalistic investigation embellished with the stylistic devices typical of his fiction. The story centers upon a murder that occurred twenty-seven years earlier and reportedly involved people with whom García Márquez was acquainted. Presenting eyewitness accounts that ultimately prove unreliable within shifting time sequences and a surreal atmosphere, Chronicle of a Death Foretold examines a tragedy that is fostered rather than averted by the inhabitants of rural community. In Love in the Time of Cholera, García Márquez explores various manifestations of love and examines themes relating to aging, death, and decay. Set in a South American community plagued by recurring civil wars and cholera epidemics from the late nineteenth century to the 1930s, the novel vividly details the emotional states of the three principal characters. The nonlinear narrative depicts poignant events in ordinary life and the history of the region, blending social realism with elements of sentimental literature and soap opera. The narrative is replete with witty epigrams and playful associations between the physical symptoms of cholera and the intense emotions of anger and love, as well as García Márquez's exploration of the motivation and interpretation of human behavior. In El general en su laberinto (1989; The General in His Labyrinth), García Márquez fictionalizes the last days in the life of Simón Bolívar, who led revolutionary armies to oust the Spaniards from the former South American colonies between 1811 and 1824. Despite his dreams of a unified South America, Bolívar sees his hopes for unification destroyed as alliances crumble due to intrigues, secessions, and military coups.
Del amor y otros demonios (1994; Of Love and Other Demons) was inspired by an event García Márquez witnessed as a reporter in 1949. Assigned to watch the transfer of burial remains from a convent in Cartagena, García Márquez was intrigued by the remains of a young girl with twenty-two meters of human hair attached to the skull. In the novella, he reconstructs the life and death of the girl, whom he names Sierva Maria. His interest in journalism and events in his native Colombia led to Noticia de un secuestro (1996; News of a Kidnapping), a nonfiction account of a series of abductions engineered by the Medellin drug cartel in 1990. The work explores the political situation in Colombia and the repercussions of the drug trade on its citizens. In 2002 García Márquez published his first volume of autobiography, Vivir para contarla (Living to Tell the Tale), which follows his life from his early years to the publication of Leaf Storm in 1972.
García Márquez has developed a reputation as one of the most influential living world authors. Although his recent works have not garnered the near-universal acclaim of his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, his prose has still attracted an eager popular and critical audience. John Bayley has commented that, despite the success of One Hundred Years of Solitude, García Márquez's subsequent works “have broken fresh ground in their outlook and technique, and all have been received with praise and attention. Márquez has never repeated his own formula, no matter how much it may have been taken up and exploited by later novelists.” A number of scholars have debated the merits of García Márquez's continuing fusion of social issues and magic realism. While some have argued that García Márquez's unique perspective on political issues allows him to create imaginative and insightful metaphors, others have asserted that his elements of fantasy distort his social commentary, turning his subjects into grotesque caricatures. García Márquez's richly imagined locales, particularly that of the fictional village Macondo, have frequently drawn critical comparisons to Yoknapatawpha county, the mythical setting of William Faulkner's novels. His short stories and novels have also been favorably compared to the works of Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce.