The Passing of A Literary Giant

Cover for the Marquez novel, One Hundred Tears of Solitude, from Wikipedia

One of Those Rare Reads

Even though I read One Hundred Years of Solitude over 30 years ago, the vivid images and spicy storytelling  still sticks in my mind. Even today, this tragic-comedy from the Caribbean coast of Columbia, counts as one of the most impressive novels that I have ever read. For the English-reading audience, this is a tale that introduced “Magic Realism” to the world, as well as a whole flurry of capitivating Latin American authors. For years, writers like Pablo Neruda, Carlos Fuentes and Jorge Luis Borges had been presenting their slightly skewed version of Hispanic reality to the world; but now with the stories of Marquez came a new label. Loosely defined, magic realism combines the advent of magical happenings with the mundane reality of day-to-day life. Its roots are distinctly Central and South American with authors like Alejo Carpentier, José Ortega y Gasset and Arturo Uslar-Pietri paving the way for a modern group of practitioners that stretches around the globe.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez wearing a “sombrero vueltiao”, a head garment that is popular along the Caribbean coast of Columbia.

Marquez the Writer

Gabriel (or “Gabo, as he is affectionately known by many) was born in a coastal city of Columbia, called Aracataca. Aracataca is a small, isolated city on the Caribbean, where many of Marquez’s stories are set. The special uniqueness of this  hot tropical land permeates Gabriel’s writing.

The Gabriel Garcia Marquez Wall in Aracatac, Columbia
The Gabriel Garcia Marquez Wall in Aracatac, Columbia

About the Region

Aracataca is a river town located on a South American river of the same name. The coastal lowlands here are hot and humid year round. As a result the area supports an active agricultural commerce that includes bananas, palm oil, sugar cane, cotton and rice. Thanks to the success of the United Fruit Company in cultivating large plantations, the coastal lands  have sometimes fallen under the label of “Banana Republic“. It is from this  isolated birthplace and childhood home that Gabo has fashioned most of his stories.

Marquez and Castro

Marquez and Castro

In early 1959, Gabriel Garcia Marquez went to Cuba as a journalist, covering the revolution that eventually replaced Juan Batista with Fidel Castro. Though not always in complete agreement with the bearded guerilla fighter, the two men became close friends. This alliance on occasion brought criticism from other Latin American writers, who felt that Marquez was ignoring dissidents imprisioned by the Castro regime. Nonetheless, Castro definitely admired the Columbian author and  is quoted as referring to Marquez as having “the goodness of a child and a cosmic talent.”