Gabriel García Márquez 1928–
Colombian novelist, short story writer, journalist, and screenwriter.
Nobel laureate García Márquez is among the Latin American writers who rose to prominence during the 1960s, a flowering referred to as "El Boom." Like Julio Cortázar and Ernesto Sábato, García Márquez had been writing fiction for a number of years before gaining international attention. The almost simultaneous publication of major works by these three authors, along with the appearance of skillful first novels by Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa and the established importance of Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda, led to a recognition of Latin American letters as a potent force in modern literature. The enthusiastic popular and critical reception of García Márquez is based on the social realism and the political implications of his works along with his narrative technique of "magic realism." While setting his stories within a socially realistic framework, García Márquez embellishes them with surreal events and fantastic imagery, blurring the distinction between fantasy and reality.
García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Columbia, and lived there the first eight years of his life with his grandparents. The storytelling of his grandmother, the long decline and subsequent decay of Aracataca, and the myths and superstitions of its citizens all played roles in shaping García Márquez's imagination. While in college he became a journalist, which led to travels throughout South America, Europe, and the United States. During these years he composed short shories in which he laid the foundations of Macondo, a mythical village based on Aracataca. Macondo, with its richness of local color and characters, is comparable to William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. Years later, in his acceptance speech for the 1982 Nobel Prize in literature, García Márquez acknowledged Faulkner as his master. García Márquez's early short stories, considered his least successful work, are experiments of a Kafkaesque nature that fail, according to Vargas Llosa, simply because they do not tell a story. But with "Los funerales de la Mamá Grande" (1962; "Big Mama's Funeral"), he successfully fused realism with myth and fantasy, lending a social and political dimension to fantastic events.
García Márquez first won critical recognition with El coronel no tiene quién le escriba (1968; No One Writes to the Colonel). This novella was especially praised for its insight into the condition of solitude as depicted in the character of a retired colonel who waits in vain but with unflagging determination for his pension, sustained by dreams which eventually become illusions. La mala hora (1962; In Evil Hour), García Márquez's first novel, was a major event in Colombian literature. Its montage-like presentation of a backwater town torn both by political oppression and moral corruption was an artistic success, while also documenting la violencia, a state of violence that raged through Colombia in the 1950s.
With the publication of Cien años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude), García Márquez won immediate international acclaim. The novel depicts the history of Macondo, from its founding by José Arcadia Buendía to its decline through six generations of his descendants. Solitude presents Macondo as a microcosm of the country of Colombia, the continent of South America, and, by symbolic extension, as representative of the history of the world "from Eden to Apocalypse." As well as reflecting the political, social, and economic ills of South America, replete with fantastic events like the birth of a baby that has a pig's tail, the novel's labyrinthine structure, achieved in part by nonlinear development, long, free-flowing sentences, and epic scope, helped make Solitude a stylistic tour de force. El otoño del patriarca (1975; The Autumn of the Patriarch), his next novel, depicts the evils of despotism as embodied in a commanding and unloved dictator, with solitude again emerging as the theme. Patriarch proved to be a powerful political statement on totalitarianism. In addition, it was another stylistic triumph for García Márquez, presenting a phantasmagoric narrative through frequent shifts of viewpoint and extensive use of hyperbole to further enhance both comedic and horrific effects.
Following the publication of Patriarch, García Márquez vowed not to publish any new fiction until the Pinochet regime of Chile was either disbanded or overthrown. After six years, he published Crónica de una muerte anunciada (1982; Chronicle of a Death Foretold), a journalistic investigation of a murder twenty-seven years in the past that involved people with whom García Márquez was acquainted. With its constant juxtaposing of eyewitness accounts that ultimately prove unreliable, its shifting time sequences, and the surreal quality of its setting, Chronicle recounts the dreary presentiment of a tragedy that is fostered rather than averted by the inhabitants of a backwater community. Critics believe the novella reveals a people trapped in their own myths, unable to overcome the outmoded customs of their forebears or, perhaps, unable to triumph over fate. Chronicle provides another example of García Márquez's successful innovations in style and structure combined with the presentation of social realities.
With his successful fusion of social issues and magic realism, the universal implications he draws from events that occur in Macondo, and his successful experiments, García Márquez helped to reinvigorate the novel at a time when its death had been foretold.
(See also CLC, Vols. 2, 3, 8, 10, 15; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 33-36, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 10; and Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1982.)