Colombia’s literary giant, Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, died Thursday April 17th at his home in Mexico City at age 87. Considered the most important Latin American writer of the 20th century, Gabriel García Márquez is best known for his magical realist novels and short stories.
The Nobel Prize winner was born in the town of Aracataca in 1927, nestled in the department of Magdalena, a region whose distinct way of life inspired much of his writing, including the fictional town of Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude. This novel, published in 1967, catapulted García Márquez to literary stardom, selling over 50 million copies and translated into almost every language in the world.
García Márquez was among the vanguard of the ‘Latin American Boom,’ a literary movement to which Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa also belonged. García Márquez’s use of magical realism, a style in which events are so extraordinary and unbelievable they seem fantastical, inspired a generation of writers and drew readers into an unforgettable world filled with poetry and imagination.
García Márquez traveled extensively throughout his life, living and working in Europe and Mexico, but his best known novels take place in Colombia. Literary gems like Love in the Time of Cholera evoke the Colombian coast in all of its enchantment and complexity, giving the world a window into this captivating region.
Although he is best known as a novelist, García Márquez began his career as a journalist and wrote for the newspapers El Espectador and El Universal. He was an early proponent of literary nonfiction and captivated readers with his account of a man lost at sea, Story of A Shipwrecked Sailor, and later with the heart-wrenching chronicle of Colombians held hostage by Pablo Escobar’s henchmen in News of a Kidnapping.
García Márquez counted presidents and world leaders among his fans, including former U.S. president Bill Clinton and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The writer sustained a close friendship with Clinton and visited the former president several times at the White House.
And although the words of the “greatest Colombian” have departed, tributes have been pouring in from the four corners of the world. President Clinton stated Thursday: “I was always amazed by his unique gifts of the imagination, clarity of thought, and emotional honesty. US President Obama also responded to the news of García Márquez claiming the world had” lost one of its great visionary writers.”
Despite extended periods of time away from Colombia, García Márquez maintained a home in colonial city of Cartagena and was often seen wandering the cobble stone streets in company of his wife, Mercedes Barcha. The announcement of his death was made from the family’s spokesperson, Fernanda Familiar.
García Márquez’s life had its share of controversy at home and abroad. Many of the inhabitants of coastal Aracataca begrudged the writer for putting their sleepy hamlet on the world’s literary map, yet only on a few occasions, returning to his birthplace, the town at the heart of his imaginary “Macondo.”
García Márquez suffered from health problems in the last years of his life and was hospitalized for pneumonia at the beginning of April. He died at home in the company of his wife, Mercedes Barcha, and sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo. “Gabo,” as he was affectionately known in Colombia, will be sorely missed in Colombia and abroad. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has declared 3 days of mourning for the passing of this native son of letters.