After his death in April 2014, the President of Colombia called this author “the greatest Colombian that ever lived.” Let’s find out why!
Author Gabriel García Márquez was born on March 6th, 1927 in the small Colombian town of Aracataca. His father, a pharmacist, and his mother left him to be raised by his maternal grandparents, before coming back to Aracataca for Gabriel and his brother when he was almost 10 years old. His maternal grandparents, his grandfather in terms of his liberal political beliefs and his grandmother’s belief in the supernatural, were very influential in Márquez’s upbringing, and so was, surprisingly, his parents romance before marriage. His father was not the ideal choice in his mother’s list of suitors, and yet he spent quite a bit of energy romancing her (window violinists, love letters, the whole nine yards) and eventually won both her and her family over. This story Gabriel would eventually, much later, adopt for his novel Love in the Time of Cholera.
But, I get ahead of myself. First things first! After being reconciled with his parents at age 10 and moving to Sucre, Márquez became a shy and serious teenager, often found writing humorous poetry, to the delight of his family and friends! Though he was not very athletic as a child, after attending high school at Colegio jesuita San José he was awarded a scholarship to study in Bogotá. After graduating in 1947, Márquez stayed living in Bogotá to study law.
However, Márquez’s passion lay in writing, despite continuing his law studies in order to please his father. That did not stop him from publishing his work, however. Having published poems throughout high school in his school journals and papers, La tercera resignación was his first published work as an adult, which appeared in the 13th of September, 1947 edition of the newspaper El Espectador. Coincidentally and luckily for Márquez,the assassination of Gaitán, in 1948 led his school to be closed indefinitely. Márquez began working as a reporter at El Universal and eventually moved on to write for El Heraldo.
Márquez’s literary skills were honed in the 1950s, when he became part of a group of journalists and authors known as the Barranquilla Group – the Bloomsbury group of Bogotá, if you will. He became enthralled by the works of contemporary authors like Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner – and authors who mixed the every day with the extraordinary, like Franz Kafka. Throughout this time, Márquez continued working as a journalist, honing his literary skills.
In 1955, Márquez’s first novella Leaf Storm, was published after seven years of trying to find a publisher – somewhat shocking, considering the group he was a part of in Barranquilla. Later on, Márquez would remember Leaf Storm as his favorite of his works – insisting that it was his most spontaneous and most sincere work. It follows both a child and woman’s point of view of death in stream of consciousness style.
In 1967 Márquez finished 18 months of daily writing to publish his most critically successful work, and the one he would win the Nobel Prize for years later – One Hundred Years of Solitude. After achieving international fame for said work, Márquez spent the following years traveling the globe with his family, acting as a negotiation liaison for several political situations, and writing other works such as Autumn of the Patriarch, The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother, Chronicle of a Death Foretold (see our holding, a 1st Italian edition, here) and Love in the Time of Cholera. All of his works held a kind of “magical realism” – origins that one can trace back to his upbringing with his realistic grandfather and supernatural-believing grandmother.
By 2005, Márquez was publishing significantly less, though still admitting to writing all the time. After suffering from lymphatic cancer (but going into remission), a few years later it was announced that he was suffering from dementia. In April 2014 he passed away from pneumonia in Mexico City – and his loss was felt by the entire world.