|Gabriel García Márquez|
García Márquez at Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara, 2009.
|Born||March 6, 1928
Aracataca, Magdalena, Colombia
|Occupation||novelist, short-story writer, and journalist.|
|Notable award(s)||Nobel Prize in Literature
Gabriel José de la Concordia "Gabo" García Márquez (Spanish pronunciation: [ɡaˈβɾjel ɣarˈsia ˈmarkes]) (born March 6, 1927) is a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist. García Márquez, affectionately known as "Gabo" throughout Latin America, is considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. He pursued a self-directed education that resulted in his leaving law school for a career in journalism. From early on, he showed no inhibitions in his criticism of Colombian and foreign politics. In 1958, he married Mercedes Barcha; they have two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.
He started as a journalist, and has written many acclaimed non-fiction works and short stories, but is best-known for his novels, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). His works have achieved significant critical acclaim and widespread commercial success, most notably for popularizing a literary style labeled as magical realism, which uses magical elements and events in otherwise ordinary and realistic situations. Some of his works are set in a fictional village called Macondo, and most of them express the theme of solitude.
Gabriel García Márquez was born on March 6, 1928 in the town of Aracataca, Colombia, to Gabriel Eligio García and Luisa Santiaga Márquez. Soon after García Márquez was born, his father became a pharmacist. In January 1929, his parents moved to Baranquilla while García Marquez stayed in Aracataca. He was raised by his maternal grandparents, Doña Tranquilina Iguarán and Colonel Nicolás Ricardo Márquez Mejía. When he was eight, his grandfather died, and he moved to his parents' home in Barranquilla where his father owned a pharmacy.
When his parents fell in love, their relationship met with resistance from Luisa Santiaga Marquez's father, the Colonel. Gabriel Eligio García was not the man the Colonel had envisioned winning the heart of his daughter: he (Gabriel Eligio) was a Conservative, and had the reputation of being a womanizer. Gabriel Eligio wooed Luisa with violin serenades, love poems, countless letters, and even telegraph messages after her father sent her away with the intention of separating the young couple. Her parents tried everything to get rid of the man, but he kept coming back, and it was obvious their daughter was committed to him. Her family finally capitulated and gave her permission to marry him. (The tragicomic story of their courtship would later be adapted and recast as Love in the Time of Cholera).
Since García Márquez's parents were more or less strangers to him for the first few years of his life, his grandparents influenced his early development very strongly. His grandfather, whom he called "Papalelo", was a Liberal veteran of the Thousand Days War. The Colonel was considered a hero by Colombian Liberals and was highly respected. He was well-known for his refusal to remain silent about the banana massacres that took place the year García Márquez was born. The Colonel, whom García Márquez has described as his "umbilical cord with history and reality", was also an excellent storyteller. He taught García Márquez lessons from the dictionary, took him to the circus each year, and was the first to introduce his grandson to ice—a "miracle" found at the United Fruit Company store. He would also occasionally tell his young grandson "You can't imagine how much a dead man weighs", reminding him that there was no greater burden than to have killed a man, a lesson that García Márquez would later integrate into his novels.
García Márquez's political and ideological views were shaped by his grandfather's stories. In an interview, García Márquez told his friend Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, "my grandfather the Colonel was a Liberal. My political ideas probably came from him to begin with because, instead of telling me fairy tales when I was young, he would regale me with horrifying accounts of the last civil war that free-thinkers and anti-clerics waged against the Conservative government." This influenced his political views and his literary technique so that "in the same way that his writing career initially took shape in conscious opposition to the Colombian literary status quo, García Márquez's socialist and anti-imperialist views are in principled opposition to the global status quo dominated by the United States".
García Márquez's grandmother, Doña Tranquilina Iguarán Cotes, played an equally influential role in his upbringing. He was inspired by the way she "treated the extraordinary as something perfectly natural." The house was filled with stories of ghosts and premonitions, omens and portents, all of which were studiously ignored by her husband. According to García Márquez she was "the source of the magical, superstitious and supernatural view of reality". He enjoyed his grandmother's unique way of telling stories. No matter how fantastic or improbable her statements, she always delivered them as if they were the irrefutable truth. It was a deadpan style that, some thirty years later, heavily influenced her grandson's most popular novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude.
García Márquez began his career as a journalist while studying law in university. In 1948 and 1949 he wrote for El Universal in Cartagena. Later, from 1950 until 1952, he wrote a "whimsical" column under the name of "Septimus" for the local paper El Heraldo in Barranquilla. García Márquez noted of his time at El Heraldo, "I'd write a piece and they'd pay me three pesos for it, and maybe an editorial for another three." During this time he became an active member of the informal group of writers and journalists known as the Barranquilla Group, an association that provided great motivation and inspiration for his literary career. He worked with inspirational figures such as Ramon Vinyes, who García Márquez depicted as an Old Catalan who owns a bookstore in One Hundred Years of Solitude. At this time, García Márquez was also introduced to the works of writers such as Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. Faulkner's narrative techniques, historical themes and use of provincial locations influenced many Latin American authors. The environment of Barranquilla gave García Márquez a world-class literary education and provided him with a unique perspective on Caribbean culture. From 1954 to 1955, García Márquez spent time in Bogotá and regularly wrote for Bogotá's El Espectador. He was a regular film critic which drove his interest in film.
In 1994, along with his brother Jaime and with lawyer Jaime Abello, he founded the Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (New Iberoamerican Journalism Foundation), which aims to help young journalists learn with teachers such as Alma Guillermoprieto or Jon Lee Anderson, and to stimulate new ways to do journalism. García Márquez is still the foundation's president.
Ending in controversy, his last domestically-written editorial for El Espectador was a series of fourteen news articles in which he revealed the hidden story of how a Colombian Navy vessel's shipwreck "occurred because the boat contained a badly stowed cargo of contraband goods that broke loose on the deck." García Márquez compiled this story through interviews with a young sailor who survived the shipwreck. The publication of the articles resulted in public controversy, as they discredited the official account of the events, which had blamed a storm for the shipwreck and glorified the surviving sailor.
In response to this controversy El Espectador sent García Márquez away to Europe to be a foreign correspondent. He wrote about his experiences for El Independiente, a newspaper which had briefly replaced El Espectador during the military government of General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla and was later shut down by Colombian authorities. García Márquez's background in journalism provided a foundational base for his writing career. Literary critic Bell-Villada noted, "Owing to his hands on experiences in journalism, García Márquez is, of all the great living authors, the one who is closest to everyday reality."
Since García Márquez had met Mercedes Barcha, they had been waiting to finish school in order to get married. When he was sent to Europe as a foreign correspondent, Mercedes waited for him to return to Barranquilla. They were finally wed in 1958. The following year, their first son, Rodrigo García, now a television and film director, was born. In 1961, the family traveled by Greyhound bus throughout the southern United States and eventually settled in Mexico City. García Márquez had wanted to see the Southern United States because it had inspired the writings of William Faulkner. Three years later the couple's second son, Gonzalo, was born in Mexico. Gonzalo is currently a graphic designer in Mexico City.
Leaf Storm (La Hojarasca) is García Márquez's first novella and took seven years to find a publisher, finally being published in 1955. García Márquez notes that "of all that he had written (as of 1973), Leaf Storm was his favorite because he felt that it was the most sincere and spontaneous." All the events of the novel take place in one room, during a half-hour period on Wednesday September 12, 1928. It is the story of an old colonel (similar to García Márquez's own grandfather) who tries to give a proper Christian burial to an unpopular French doctor. The colonel is supported only by his daughter and grandson. The novel explores the child's first experience with death by following his stream of consciousness. As well, the book reveals the perspective of Isabel, the Colonel's daughter, which provides a feminine point of view.
Since García Márquez was eighteen, he had wanted to write a novel based on his grandparents' house where he grew up. However, he struggled with finding an appropriate tone and put off the idea until one day the answer hit him while driving his family to Acapulco. He turned the car around and the family returned home so he could begin writing. He sold his car so his family would have money to live on while he wrote, but writing the novel took far longer than he expected, and he wrote every day for eighteen months. His wife had to ask for food on credit from their butcher and their baker as well as nine months of rent on credit from their landlord. Fortunately, when the book was finally published in 1967 it became his most commercially successful novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad) (1967; English translation by Gregory Rabassa 1970). The story chronicles several generations of the Buendía family from the time they founded the fictional South American village Macondo through their trials and tribulations, instances of incest, births and deaths. The history of Macondo is often generalized by critics to represent rural towns throughout Latin America or at least near García Márquez's native Aracataca.
This novel was widely popular and led to García Márquez's Nobel Prize as well as the Rómulo Gallegos Prize in 1972. William Kennedy has called it "the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race," and hundreds of articles and books of literary critique have been published in response to it. However, García Márquez himself does not completely understand the success of this particular book: "Most critics don't realize that a novel like One Hundred Years of Solitude is a bit of a joke, full of signals to close friends; and so, with some pre-ordained right to pontificate they take on the responsibility of decoding the book and risk making terrible fools of themselves."
After writing One Hundred Years of Solitude García Márquez returned to Europe, this time bringing along his family, to live in Barcelona, Spain for seven years. The international recognition García Márquez earned with the publication of the novel led to his ability to act as a facilitator in several negotiations between the Colombian government and the guerrillas, including the former 19th of April Movement (M-19), and the current FARC and ELN organizations. The popularity of his writing also led to friendships with powerful leaders, including one with former Cuban president Fidel Castro, which has been analyzed in Gabo and Fidel: Portrait of a Friendship. In an interview with Claudia Dreifus in 1982 García Márquez notes his relationship with Castro is mostly based on literature: “Ours is an intellectual friendship. It may not be widely known that Fidel is a very cultured man. When we’re together, we talk a great deal about literature.” Others have criticized García Márquez for the relationship. Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, in his 1992 memoir Antes que anocheza (Before Night Falls), notes that García Márquez accompanied Castro at a 1980 speech in which the latter accused refugees recently gunned-down in the Peruvian embassy of being "riffraff"; Arenas bitterly remembers his fellow writer's "hypocritical applause" for Castro.
Also due to his newfound fame and his outspoken views on U.S. imperialism he was labeled as a subversive and for many years was denied visas by U.S. immigration authorities. However, after Bill Clinton was elected U.S. president, he finally lifted the travel ban and claimed that García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude was his favorite novel. There is a street in East Los Angeles, CA bearing his name.
García Márquez was inspired to write a dictator novel when he witnessed the flight of Venezuelan dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez. He shares, "it was the first time we had seen a dictator fall in Latin America." García Márquez began writing Autumn of the Patriarch (El otoño del patriarca) in 1968 and said it was finished in 1971; however, he continued to embellish the dictator novel until 1975 when it was published in Spain. According to García Márquez, the novel is a "poem on the solitude of power" as it follows the life of an eternal dictator known as the General. The novel is developed through a series of anecdotes related to the life of the General, which do not appear in chronological order. Although the exact location of the story is not pin-pointed in the novel, the imaginary country is situated somewhere in the Caribbean.
García Márquez gave his own explanation of the plot:
My intention was always to make a synthesis of all the Latin American dictators, but especially those from the Caribbean. Nevertheless, the personality of Juan Vicente Gomez [of Venezuela] was so strong, in addition to the fact that he exercised a special fascination over me, that undoubtedly the Patriarch has much more of him than anyone else.
After Autumn of the Patriarch was published the Garcia Marquez family moved from Barcelona to Mexico City. and García Márquez pledged not to publish again until the Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet was deposed. However, he ultimately published Chronicle of a Death Foretold while Pinochet was still in power as he "could not remain silent in the face of injustice and repression."
Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Crónica de una muerte anunciada) recreates a murder that took place in Sucre, Colombia in 1951. The character named Santiago Nasar is based on a good friend from García Márquez's childhood, Cayetano Gentile Chimento. Pelayo classifies this novel as a combination of journalism, realism and detective story.
The plot of the novel revolves around Santiago Nasar's murder. The narrator acts as a detective, uncovering the events of the murder second by second. Literary critic Ruben Pelayo notes that the story "unfolds in an inverted fashion. Instead of moving forward... the plot moves backwards." In the first chapter, the narrator tells the reader exactly who killed Santiago Nasar and the rest of the book is left to unfold why.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold was published in 1981, the year before García Márquez won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature. The novel was also adapted into a film by Italian director Francesco Rosi in 1987.
Love in the Time of Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cólera) was first published in 1985. It is considered a nontraditional love story as "lovers find love in their 'golden years'- in their seventies, when death is all around them".
Love in the Time of Cholera is based on the stories of two couples. The young love of Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza is based on the love affair of García Márquez's parents. However, as García Márquez explains in an interview: “The only difference is [my parents] married. And as soon as they were married, they were no longer interesting as literary figures.” The love of old people is based on a newspaper story about the death of two Americans, who were almost 80 years old, who met every year in Acapulco. They were out in a boat one day and were murdered by the boatman with his oars. García Márquez notes, “Through their death, the story of their secret romance became known. I was fascinated by them. They were each married to other people.”
In 1999, García Márquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. Chemotherapy provided by a hospital in Los Angeles proved to be successful, and the illness went into remission. This event prompted García Márquez to begin writing his memoirs: "I reduced relations with my friends to a minimum, disconnected the telephone, canceled the trips and all sorts of current and future plans", he told El Tiempo, the Colombian newspaper, "...and locked myself in to write every day without interruption." In 2002, three years later, he published Living to Tell the Tale (Vivir para Contarla), the first volume in a trilogy of memoirs.
In 2000, his impending death was incorrectly reported by Peruvian daily newspaper La República. The next day other newspapers republished his alleged farewell poem, "La Marioneta" but shortly afterwards García Márquez denied being the author of the poem, which was determined to be the work of a Mexican ventriloquist.
In 2002, García Márquez published the memoir Vivir para contarla, the first of a projected three-volume autobiography. Edith Grossman's English translation, Living to Tell the Tale, was published in November 2003. As of March 2008 his most recent novel is Memories of My Melancholy Whores (Memoria de mis putas tristes), a love story that follows the romance of a 90-year old man and a pubescent concubine, that was published in October 2004. This book caused controversy in Iran, where it was banned after the initial 5,000 copies were printed and sold.
In May 2008, despite the fact that García Márquez had earlier declared that he "had finished with writing", it was announced that the author was now finishing a new novel, "a novel of love" that had yet to be given a title, to be published by the end of the year. However, in April 2009 his agent, Carmen Balcells, told the Chilean newspaper La Tercera that Marquez was unlikely to write again.
Critics often describe the language that García Márquez's imagination produces as visual or graphic, and he himself explains each of his stories is inspired by "a visual image," so it comes as no surprise that he has a long and involved history with film. He is a film critic, he founded and served as executive director of the Film Institute in Havana, was the Head of the Latin American Film Foundation, and has written several screenplays. For his first script he worked with Carlos Fuentes on Juan Rulfo's El gallo de oro. His other screenplays include the films Tiempo de morir (1966) and Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes (1988), as well as the television series Amores difíciles (1991).
García Márquez also originally wrote his Eréndira as a third screenplay. However, this version was lost and replaced by the novella. Nonetheless, he worked on rewriting the script in collaboration with Ruy Guerra and the film was released in Mexico in 1983.
Several of his stories have inspired other writers and directors. In 1987, the Italian director Francesco Rosi directed the movie Cronaca di una morte annunciata based on Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Several film adaptations have been made in Mexico, including Miguel Littin's La Viuda de Montiel (1979), Jaime Humberto Hermosillo's Maria de mi corazón (1979), and Arturo Ripstein's El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (1998).
British director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) filmed Love in the Time of Cholera in Cartagena, Colombia, with the screenplay written by Ronald Harwood (The Pianist). The film was released in the U.S. on November 16, 2007.
His novel Of Love and Other Demons has been adapted and directed by a Costa Rican filmmaker, Hilda Hidalgo, who is a graduate of the Film Institute at Havana where García Márquez frequently imparts screenplay workshops. Hidalgo's film is slated for a April 2009 release.
While there are certain aspects readers can almost always expect in García Márquez's writing, like instances of humour, he does not stick to any clear and predetermined style template. In an interview with Marlise Simons, García Márquez noted:
In every book I try to make a different path [...]. One doesn't choose the style. You can investigate and try to discover what the best style would be for a theme. But the style is determined by the subject, by the mood of the times. If you try to use something that is not suitable, it just won't work. Then the critics build theories around that and they see things I hadn't seen. I only respond to our way of life, the life of the Caribbean.
García Márquez is also noted for leaving out seemingly important details and events so the reader is forced into a more participatory role in the story development. For example, in No One Writes to the Colonel the main characters are not given names. This practice is influenced by Greek tragedies, such as Antigone and Oedipus Rex, in which important events occur off-stage and are left to the audience's imagination.
Reality is an important theme in all of García Márquez's works. He has said of his early works (with the exception of Leaf Storm), "Nobody Writes to the Colonel, In Evil Hour, and Big Mama's Funeral all reflect the reality of life in Colombia and this theme determines the rational structure of the books. I don't regret having written them, but they belong to a kind of premeditated literature that offers too static and exclusive a vision of reality."
In his other works he has experimented more with less traditional approaches to reality, so that "the most frightful, the most unusual things are told with the deadpan expression". A commonly cited example is the physical and spiritual ascending into heaven of a character while she is hanging the laundry out to dry in One Hundred Years of Solitude. The style of these works fits in the "marvellous realm" described by the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier and has been labeled as magical realism. Literary critic Michael Bell proposes an alternative understanding for García Márquez's style, as the category magic realism is criticized for being dichotimizing and exoticizing, "what is really at stake is a psychological suppleness which is able to inhabit unsentimentally the daytime world while remaining open to the promptings of those domains which modern culture has, by its own inner logic, necessarily marginalised or repressed." García Márquez and his friend Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza discuss his work in a similar way, "'The way you treat reality in your books... has been called magical realism. I have the feeling your European readers are usually aware of the magic of your stories but fail to see the reality behind it...' 'This is surely because their rationalism prevents them seeing that reality isn't limited to the price of tomatoes and eggs.'"
The theme of solitude runs through much of García Márquez's works. As Pelayo notes, "Love in the Time of Cholera, like all of Gabriel García Márquez's work, explores the solitude of the individual and of humankind...portrayed through the solitude of love and of being in love".
In response to Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza's question, "If solitude is the theme of all your books, where should we look for the roots of this over-riding emotion? In your childhood perhaps?" García Márquez replied, "I think it's a problem everybody has. Everyone has his own way and means of expressing it. The feeling pervades the work of so many writers, although some of them may express it unconsciously."
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, "Solitude of Latin America", he relates this theme of solitude to the Latin American experience, "The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary."
Another important theme in many of García Márquez's work is the setting of the village he calls Macondo. He uses his home town of Aracataca, Colombia as a geographical reference to create this imaginary town, but the representation of the village is not limited to this specific area. García Márquez shares, "Macondo is not so much a place as a state of mind." Even when his stories do not take place in Macondo, there is often still a consistent lack of specificity to the location. So while they are often set with "a Caribbean coastline and an Andean hinterland... [the settings are] otherwise unspecified, in accordance with García Márquez's evident attempt to capture a more general regional myth rather than give a specific political analysis." "This fictional town has become well known in the literary world. As Stavans notes of Macondo, "its geography and inhabitants constantly invoked by teachers, politicians, and tourdepictsist agents..." makes it "...hard to believe it is a sheer fabrication." In Leaf Storm García Márquez depicts the realities of the Banana Boom in Macondo, which include a period of great wealth during the presence of the US companies and a period of depression upon the departure of the American banana companies. As well, Hundred Years of Solitude takes place in Macondo and tells the complete history of the fictional town from its founding to its doom.
In his autobiography, García Márquez explains his fascination with the word and concept Macondo. He describes a trip he made with his mother back to Aracataca as a young man:
The train stopped at a station that had no town, and a short while later it passed the only banana plantation along the route that had its name written over the gate: Macondo. 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. I never heard anyone say it and did not even ask myself what it meant...I happened to read in an encyclopedia that it is a tropical tree resembling the Ceiba.
In several of García Márquez's works, including No One Writes to the Colonel, Evil Hour, and Leaf Storm, he references la violencia (the violence), "a brutal civil war between conservatives and liberals that lasted into the 1960s, causing the deaths of several hundred thousand Colombians." Throughout all of his novels there are subtle references to la violencia, for example, characters living under various unjust situations like curfew, press censorship, and underground newspapers. Evil Hour, while not one of García Márquez's most famous novels, is notable for its portrayal of la violencia with its "fragmented portrayal of social disintegration provoked by la violencia". However, although García Márquez does portray the corrupt nature and the injustices of times like la violencia, he refuses to use his work as a platform for political propaganda. "For him, the duty of the revolutionary writer is to write well, and the ideal novel is one that moves its reader by its political and social content, and, at the same time, by its power to penetrate reality and expose its other side.
García Márquez is an important part of the Latin American Boom of literature. His work has challenged critics of Colombian literature to step out of the conservative criticism that had been dominant before the success of One Hundred Years of Solitude. In a review of literary criticism Robert Sims notes,
"García Márquez continues to cast a lengthy shadow in Colombia, Latin America, and the United States. Critical works on the 1982 Nobel laureate have reached industrial proportion and show no signs of abating. Moreover, García Márquez has galvanized Colombian literature in an unprecedented way by giving a tremendous impetus to Colombian literature. Indeed, he has become a touchstone for literature and criticism throughout the Americas as his work has created a certain attraction-repulsion among critics and writers while readers continue to devour new publications. No one can deny that García Márquez has helped rejuvenate, reformulate, and recontextualize literature and criticism in Colombia and the rest of Latin America."
In 1982, García Márquez received the Nobel Prize in Literature "for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts". His acceptance speech was entitled "Solitude of Latin America". García Márquez was the first Colombian and fourth Latin American to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. After becoming a Nobel laureate, García Márquez told a correspondent: "I have the impression that in giving me the prize they have taken into account the literature of the sub-continent and have awarded me as a way of awarding all of this literature."
Cien años de soledad as translated by Gregory Rabassa (1970) Harper Perennial Modern Classics ISBN 0060883286