One of the greatest novelists and writers of the 20th century has died. Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away on April 17 in Mexico at the age of 87.
Commemorating the author, US-based progressive TV and radio show Democracy Now! said on April 18: “It has been reported that only the Bible has sold more copies in the Spanish language than the works of Garcia Marquez, who was affectionately known at 'Gabo' throughout Latin America.”
Democracy Now! noted that his book One Hundred Years of Solitude, is considered one of the masterful examples of the literary genre known as magical realism. It won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. The Swedish Academy described it as a book “in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts”.
Other of his best-known books include Love in the Time of Cholera<.em>, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Autumn of the Patriarch and The General in His Labyrinth ― a fictionalised account of the last days of South American liberator Simon Bolivar.
Democracy Now! said: “Garcia Marquez was born in Colombia in 1927. In the 1950s, he began working as a journalist in the capital city of Bogota. He wrote a series of articles about a Colombian sailor that drew the ire of the conservative government, so he left to report from Europe, where he began writing fiction.
“He eventually returned to Colombia and in 1967 published what would become his most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. It weaves together the misfortunes of a family over seven generations and is based in a town called Macondo, which many take to represent the town where Garcia Marquez was born and raised by his grandparents until he was nine years old.”
Accepting the Nobel award for the book in 1982, Garcia Marquez said: “The country that could be formed of all the exiles and forced emigrants of Latin America would have a population larger than that of Norway.
“I dare to think that it is this outsized reality, and not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of the Swedish Academy of Letters. A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily deaths, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune.
“Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.”
One of his biographers, Gerald Martin, described One Hundred Years of Solitude as, “the first novel in which Latin Americans recognized themselves, that defined them, celebrated their passion, their intensity, their spirituality and superstition, their grand propensity for failure”.
Democracy Now! noted that Garcia Marquez’s writing was shaped by his political outlook, informed in part by a 1928 military massacre of banana workers striking against United Fruit Company, later known as Chiquita. He was an early supporter of the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro and strong opponent of the US-backed military coup in Chile against Salvador Allende's left-wing government.
For decades, Democracy Now! said, Garcia Marquez was denied a visa to travel to the US, until then-president Bill Clinton lifted the ban in 1995.
In 1998, when he was in his 70s, Garcia Marquez used the money from his Nobel award to buy a controlling interest in the Colombian news magazine Cambio. He told reporters at the time: “My books couldn’t have been written if I weren’t a journalist because all the material was taken from reality.”
Chilean novelist Isabel Allende told Demomcracy Now!: “He’s the master of masters ... every novel that he wrote afterward was not only acclaimed by the critics and translated, and he had innumerable awards, but they were popular novels …
“So, in a way, he conquered readers and conquered the world and told the world about us, Latin Americans, and told us who we are. In his pages, we saw ourselves in a mirror, in a way.”
Allende said: “He was always a leftist. And he became friends with Fidel Castro very early on during the Cuban revolution. He was adored in Cuba, and he lived there and visited Cuba many times. He formed the film institute in Havana.
“And his views, his leftist views, brought him a lot of trouble in Colombia. He couldn’t live in Colombia for a while because his life was threatened … he’s not the only one, because many of our writers of that time lived in exile and wrote in exile ... A wave of Chilean writers left after the military coup, and they wrote in exile.”
Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro joined other political and literary figures in paying tribute to Garcia Marquez, Venezuela Analysis said on April 18. Maduro wrote on Twitter: “[Garcia Marquez] left his spiritual footprint stamped on the new era of our America. One hundred years of love for his eternal spirit.
Venezuela Analysis noted that Garcia Marquez also expressed his support for the thought of the Venezuelan-born Bolivar; the same ideas which influenced former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution.
Marquez told Newsweek>em> in 1986: “For me, the ideal of Bolivar is fundamental: the unity of Latin America. It’s the only cause that I’d be willing to die for.”
Maduro said the writer was a “sincere and loyal friend of the revolutionary leaders that raised the dignity of Bolivar and [Cuban revolutionary Jose] Marti’s America”.
“He belonged to the founding generation of creative journalism committed to the people’s right to happiness,” Maduro said.
Colombian writer Ana Maria Jaramillo, a friend of Garcia Marquez, told Democracy Now! about his legacy: “His work … helped us relax in a world that is so difficult and cruel. He gave us the license to dare and taught us that anybody could arrive to be the person most important in the world, which is what he did.”