A prolific writer who started out as a newspaper reporter, Garcia
Marquez's masterpiece was "One Hundred Years of Solitude," a
dream-like, dynastic epic that helped him win the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1982.
Garcia Marquez died at his home in Mexico City, where he had
returned from hospital last week after a bout of pneumonia.
Known affectionately to friends and fans as "Gabo," Garcia Marquez
was Latin America's best-known and most beloved author and his books
have sold in the tens of millions.
Although he produced stories, essays and several short novels such
as "Leaf Storm" and "No One Writes to the Colonel" early in his
career, he struggled for years to find his voice as a novelist.
He then found it in dramatic fashion with "One Hundred Years of
Solitude," an instant success on publication in 1967. Mexican author
Carlos Fuentes dubbed it "Latin America's Don Quixote" and Chilean
poet Pablo Neruda also compared it to Miguel de Cervantes' 17th
century tour de force.
Garcia Marquez's novel tells the story of seven generations of the
Buendia family in the fictional village of Macondo, based on the
languid town of Aracataca close to Colombia's Caribbean coast where
he was born on March 6, 1927, and raised by his maternal
In it, Garcia Marquez combines miraculous and supernatural events
with the details of everyday life and the political realities of
Latin America. The characters are visited by ghosts, a plague of
insomnia envelops Macondo, swarms of yellow butterflies mark the
arrival of a woman's lover, a child is born with a pig's tail and a
priest levitates above the ground.
At times comical and bawdy, and at others tragic, it sold over 30
million copies, was published in dozens of languages and helped fuel
a boom in Latin American fiction.
A stocky man with a quick smile, thick mustache and curly hair,
Garcia Marquez said he found inspiration for the novel by drawing on
childhood memories of his grandmother's stories — laced with
folklore and superstition but delivered with the straightest of
"She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she
told them with complete naturalness," he said in a 1981 interview.
"I discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself, and
write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told
them: with a brick face."
Although "One Hundred Years of Solitude" was his most popular
creation, other classics from Garcia Marquez included "Autumn of the
Patriarch", "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "Chronicle of a Death
Tributes poured in following his death.
"The world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers — and one
of my favorites from the time I was young," said U.S. President
"Your life, dear Gabo, will be remembered by all of us as a unique
and singular gift, and as the most original story of all," Colombian
pop star Shakira wrote on her website alongside a photograph of her
hugging Garcia Marquez.
In Aracataca, a lone trumpet played on Thursday night as residents
held a candlelight vigil for the man who made the town famous.
MAGIC AND REALITY
Garcia Marquez was one of the prime exponents of magical realism, a
genre he described as embodying "myth, magic and other extraordinary
His most prolific years coincided with a turbulent period in much of
Latin America, where right-wing dictators and Marxist
revolutionaries fought for power.
Chaos was often the norm, political violence ripped some countries
to shreds and life verged on the surreal. Magical realism struck a
"In his novels and short stories we are led into this peculiar place
where the miraculous and the real converge. The extravagant flight
of his own fantasy combines with traditional folk tales and facts,
literary allusions and tangible — at times obtrusively graphic — descriptions approaching the matter-of-factness of reportage," the
Swedish Academy said when it awarded Garcia Marquez the Nobel Prize
Garcia Marquez admired Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" and was also
influenced by esteemed Latin American writers Juan Rulfo of Mexico
and Argentina's Jorge Luis Borges.
U.S. author William Faulkner inspired Garcia Marquez to create "the
atmosphere, the decadence, the heat" of Macondo, named after a
banana plantation on the outskirts of Aracataca.
"This word had attracted my attention ever since the first trips I
had made with my grandfather, but I discovered only as an adult that
I liked its poetic resonance," he wrote in his memoirs, "Living to
Tell the Tale."
Fans will pay their last respects to him in the Palace of Fine Arts
in Mexico City on Monday and he will be cremated in a private
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POLITICS, LITERARY FEUD
Like many of his Latin American literary contemporaries, Garcia
Marquez became increasingly involved in politics and flirted with
He spent time in post-revolution Cuba and developed a close
friendship with communist leader Fidel Castro, to whom he sent
drafts of his books.
"A man of cosmic talent with the generosity
of a child, a man for tomorrow," Castro once wrote of his friend.
"His literature is authentic proof of his sensibility and the fact
that he will never give up his origins, his Latin American
inspiration and loyalty to the truth."
The United States banned Garcia Marquez from visiting for years
after he set up the New York branch of communist Cuba's official
news agency and was accused of funding leftist guerrillas at home.
He once condemned the U.S. war on drugs as "nothing more than an
instrument of intervention in Latin America" but he became friends
with former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
"He captured the pain and joy of our common humanity in settings
both real and magical. I was honored to be his friend and to know
his great heart and brilliant mind for more than 20 years," Clinton
said on Thursday.
Despite his reputation as a left-leaning intellectual, critics say
Garcia Marquez didn't do as much as he could have done to help
negotiate an end to Colombia's long conflict, which has killed tens
of thousands of people.
Instead, he left his homeland and went to live in Mexico. The
damning criticism he leveled at his homeland still rings heavily in
the ears of some Colombians.
He was also a protagonist in one of literature's most talked-about
feuds with fellow Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru.
The writers, who were once friends, stopped speaking to each other
after a day in 1976 when Vargas Llosa gave Garcia Marquez a black
eye in a dispute — depending on who one believes — over politics or
Vargas Llosa's wife.
But Vargas Llosa paid tribute to Garcia Marquez on Thursday, calling
him a "great writer" whose novels would live on.
Politics and literary spats aside, Garcia Marquez's writing pace
slowed down in the late 1990s.
A heavy smoker for most of his life, he was diagnosed with lymphatic
cancer in 1999, although the disease went into remission after
None of his latest works achieved the success of his earlier novels.
One of those, "Love in the Time of Cholera," told the story of a
50-year love affair inspired by his parents' courtship.
It was made into a movie starring Spanish actor Javier Bardem in
2007, but many critics were disappointed and said capturing the
sensuous romance of Garcia Marquez's novel had proved too tough a
Garcia Marquez's most recent work of fiction, "Memories of My
Melancholy Whores," got mixed reviews when it was released in 2004.
The short novel is about a 90-year-old man's obsession with a
14-year-old virgin, a theme some readers found disturbing.
Garcia Marquez is survived by Mercedes Barcha, his wife of more than
55 years, and by two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.
When he was working, Garcia Marquez would wake up before dawn every
day, read a book, skim through the newspapers and then write for
four hours. His wife would put a yellow rose on his desk.
His last public appearance was on his 87th birthday in March when he
came out from his Mexico City home to smile and wave at
well-wishers, a yellow rose in the lapel of his gray suit.
(Additional reporting by David Alire Garcia in Mexico City, Helen
Murphy in Aracataca and Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota; editing by
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