Saturday, February 24, 2018
Books

Nobel winner, literary giant Gabriel García Márquez dies

Gabriel García Márquez, an international literary giant who brought a tiny Colombian village to enchanting life for tens of millions of readers and won the Nobel Prize for literature, has died.

Mr. García Márquez, who had been hospitalized recently for infections, died Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87.

Often called the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, Mr. García Márquez is credited with introducing modern Latin American literature to the wider world, creating a wave of success for himself and other writers that was dubbed el Boom. An accomplished journalist and author of literary nonfiction, Mr. García Márquez was best known for his fiction, particularly his masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Published in 1967, the novel made an indelible mark on readers and writers everywhere. Its epic tale of a mysterious and enduring family in the remote Colombian village of Macondo is told in a style called magical realism, a distillation of realism and fabulism that would influence generations of writers, including such major figures as Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie. American novelist William Kennedy called the novel "the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race." One Hundred Years of Solitude has sold 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 25 languages.

Mr. García Márquez drew upon his own early life for that novel and other works. Born March 6, 1927, in Aracataca, Colombia, which was the model for Macondo, he was the oldest of 11 children. Raised for several years by his grandparents before being sent to boarding school, he was a voracious reader who later cited Sophocles, James Joyce, Franz Kafka and especially William Faulkner as influences; he began writing while still a schoolboy.

Despite his father's wish that he be a lawyer, Mr. García Márquez became a cosmopolitan and sometimes controversial journalist, working and living in Europe and the United States as well as several Latin American countries. In 1958, he married Mercedes Barcha, a childhood friend. She survives him, as do their sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.

Mr. García Márquez struggled at first as a writer of fiction, but the rapid and enormous success of One Hundred Years of Solitude allowed him to devote himself largely to writing short stories and novels, although he continued to write nonfiction as well.

He received the 1982 Nobel Prize for, as the citation said, "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."

A popular figure in Latin America known affectionately as "Gabo," he was also an outspoken public intellectual. His relationships with other public figures ranged from a feud with Peruvian author and politician (and fellow Nobel winner) Mario Vargas Llosa that devolved into a fist fight at one point, to a long and, according to the author, literature-based friendship with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

For many years, Mr. García Márquez was refused visas to enter the United States because of his political views — he was a lifelong leftist and a vocal critic of U.S. imperialism. That changed when President Bill Clinton, a longtime fan, took office. In 1994, they dined together at the home of author William Styron on Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

"I was saddened to learn of the passing of Gabriel García Márquez," Clinton said in a statement Thursday. "From the time I read One Hundred Years of Solitude more than 40 years ago, I was always amazed by his unique gifts of imagination, clarity of thought, and emotional honesty. He captured the pain and joy of our common humanity in settings both real and magical."

Many of the books that Mr. García Márquez wrote after One Hundred Years of Solitude became bestsellers as well, and several of his short stories and novels were made into films, including the 2007 movie of his novel Love in the Time of Cholera, which starred Javier Bardem.

After publishing a memoir, Living to Tell the Tale, in 2002, Mr. García Márquez was less often seen in public. He was treated for lymphatic cancer in 1999 and was more recently reported to be suffering from dementia — an ironic twist worthy of one of his novels for a man whose work always revolved around the persistence and mutability of memory.

Mr. García Márquez sometimes protested the magical realism label given to his work, instead crediting its intensity to his experience of the world. As he said in a 1981 interview, "The truth is that there's not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination."

Times wires were used in this report.

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