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The life and times of a legendary novelist
Colombian Cultural Minister Paula Moreno and the Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez were responsible for delivering the Silver Mayahuel award to Victor Gaviria. (Photo courtesy: Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara)

By Bertha Velasquez

Farewell to Gabo

The world lost a literary giant when Gabriel García Márquez died on April 17 at 87 years old.

He is fondly remembered for his many novels and short stories including “No One Writes to the Colonel,” “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” and “Love in the Time of Cholera.” But his masterpiece is “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which follows several generations of the Buendía family and captivated audiences with his use of magical realism. The novel garnered international attention and has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Thanks to the success of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” García Márquez became known as one of the most influential writers of recent time. In 1982, his work was recognized with the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In accepting his award, he said: “On a day like today, my master William Faulkner [whom he admired] said, “I decline to accept the end of man”. I would fall unworthy of standing in this place that was his, if I were not fully aware that the colossal tragedy he refused to recognize thirty-two years ago is now, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, nothing more than a simple scientific possibility. Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.”

Prior to gaining any international acclaim, García Márquez was but a mere soul born in Aracataca, Colombia. He spent a portion of his childhood in the care of his maternal grandparents whose lives and quirks — as well as those of his parents’ courtship — would later influence his novels’ themes and storylines. In 1958, he married Mercedes Barcha and had two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.

García Márquez is recognized as a novelist, but he would begin his literary career as journalist. His work would be published in a variety of newspapers in Colombia and Venezuela during his journalistic career.

As admired as he was, García Márquez was also a source of controversy. His close friendship with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and support of the Cuban revolution, though not without his own criticism, were points of contention in the United States. In fact, he was banned from the U.S. for about 30 years until President Clinton’s administration. Clinton is a noted fan of his. García Márquez was also vocal about his left leanings and his anti-imperialist inclinations — most notably directed at the U.S.

In 1999, he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer and was successfully treated. This incident led him to being writing his memoirs. His health’s frailty would later take the spotlight again in 2012 when it was revealed that he was diagnosed with dementia. He was hospitalized most recently with a lung and urinary tract infection. García Márquez, or Gabo as he was so affectionately called, died of pneumonia in his adopted city, Mexico City where he lived for over 30 years.

After his death was announced, a plethora of celebrities and former and current world leaders voiced their sadness at the news. “A thousand years of loneliness and sadness for the death of the greatest Colombian of all time!” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

“With the passing of Gabriel García Márquez, the world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers — and one of my favorites from the time I was young,” read a statement from President Barack Obama.

Among other notables is Noble Prize in Literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, who had a fallout with García Márquez. He said, “A great man has died, one whose works gave the literature of our language great reach and prestige.”





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