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Gabriel García Márquez (1928-)

      Latin-American journalist, novelist and short story writer, a central figure in the so-called Magic Realism movement. The term was first used in the 1920s Germany to describe some contemporary painters, whose works expressed surrealistic visions. In the late 1940s the term was applied to literature by Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier, who used the concept "lo real maravilloso" (marvelous reality). He recognized the tendency of Latin-American writers to combine fantasy elements and mythology with otherwise realistic fiction. However, García Márquez has considered himself fundamentally a realist who writes about Columbian and Latin American reality exactly as he has observed it.

"There is a short but telling portrait of the novelist Gabriel García Márquez, who every morning reads a couple of pages of a dictionary (any dictionary except the pompous Diccionario de la Real Academia Española) - a habit our author compares to that of Stendhal, who perused the Napoleonic Code so as to learn to write in a terse and exact style." (from A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel, 1996)

Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, in the "banana zone" of Columbia. His parents left him to be reared by his grandparents, and he learned the oral tradition from his grandmother during his childhood. García Márquez studied law and journalism at the National University in Bogóta and at the University of Cartagena. His first story, 'The Third Resignation', appeared in 1947. Next year he started his career as a journalist and worked for the next 10 years in different towns in Latin America and Europe. García Márquez was an European correspond in Rome and Paris for the newspaper El Espectador in 1955, but lost his post when the newspaper was closed down by the dictator Rojas Pinilla. He was founder of Prensa Latina, a Cuban press agency, and worked in Prensa Latina office in Havanna and New York.

In the 1960s García Márquez worked as a screenwriter, journalist, and publicist in Mexico City. He moved in the 1970s for some years to Barcelona and returned to Mexico in the later 1970s. In 1979 he founded Fundación Habeas, he also was a founder of a film school near Havanna. In 1982 García Márquez went to Columbia.

--There were a lot of people in the dining room. The cage was on display on the table; with its enormous dome of wire, three stories inside, with passageways and compartments especially for eating and sleeping and swings in the space set aside for the birds' recreation, it seemed like a small-scale model for a gigantic ice factory. The doctor inspected it carefully, without touching it, thinking that in effect the cage was better than its reputation, and much more beautiful than any he had ever dreamed of for his wife.
--"This is a flight of the imagination, he said. He sought out Balthazar among the group of people and, fixing his maternal eyes on him, added, "You would have been an extraordinary architect.
(from 'Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon' in No One Writes to the Colonel, 1957)

García Márquez published his first short stories in the 1940s. In 1955 appeared the novella LA HOJARASCA (Leaf Storm), which introduced to the public the fictional Columbian village of Macondo, an equivalent of William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha. Since then it has been the setting in many of his later books. Márquez's early works, starting from Leaf Storm, went unnoticed by scholars and critics, despite their literary merits. From Alejo Carpentier Márquez learned to work with concurrent historical epochs and gradually influences from Faulkner gave way to his more objective manner of depiction, partly derived from his experiences in journalism.

In the short story 'Death Constant Beyond Love' (1970) Márquez combined sharp observations of a political reporter with a spectacle of poverty and corruption. The protagonist, Senator Onésimo Sánches, is no hero - his electoral campaing is a circus, he takes bribes and helps the local property owners to avoid reform. "His measured, deep voice had the quality of calm water, but the speech that had been memorized and ground out so many times had not occurred to him in the nature of telling the truth, but, rather, as the opposite of a fatalistic pronouncement by Marcus Aurelius in the fourth book of his Meditations." (from 'Death Constant Beyond Love' in Innocent Erendira and Other Stories, 1972). But Stoic understanding of the emptiness of his career doesn't help the senator, and he dies weeping with rage, without the love of Laura Farina, a village girl.

In 1982 García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His best known book is CIEN ANOS DE SOLEDAD (1967, One Hundred Years of Solitude). It is the history of Macondo, depicted on a epic level, from its mythic foundation to its final disappearance. Combining the world of the bourgeois family chronicle and Latin American history it explores the limits of narrative fiction and became one of the most popular works of Magic Realism. As fantastic as the events seem in the novel, they have much real basis, among them the massacre of hundreds, possibly thousands, of workers, which occurred after the banana workers struck against the United Fruit Company in 1928. The lost historical consciousness of the villagers is exemplified in the chapter, in which the insomnia epidemic threatens to wipe out all layers of identity and culture.

"It was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forevermore, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth." (from One Hundred Years of Solitude)

Márquez's other major novels and novellas include EL OTOÑO DEL PATRIARCA (1977), an analysis of dictatorship on mythical and historical level. In the story a false death of the patriarch is followed by a second, apparently real, which leads to a new struggle of power. CRÓNICA DE UNA MUERTE ANUNCIADA (1981) recounted the murder of a man for allegedly violating the law of honour. Against these dramatic events Márquez sets a small town where everyday life continues in spite everyone knows a murder will happen. EL GENERAL EN SU LABERINTO (1989) traced Simón Bolívar's final journey down the Magdalena river, and DEL AMOR Y OTROS DEMONIOS (1992, Love in the Time of Cholera) was a historical novel set in the 18th century Colombia. Although One Hundred years of Solitude is among the most famous modern classics in the world, many consider Love in the Time of Cholera his most enduring book.

"That idea of "realism is literature and every other form of fiction is not literature" didn't get really badly shaken until the magical realists popped up in South America. When you've got García Márquez around, you just can't go on that way." (Ursula K. Le Guin in an interview with Amazon.com, 2000)
For further reading: Tras las claves de Melquiades: Historia de Cien años de soledad by Eligio García Márquez (2001); The Modern Epic: The World-System from Goethe to Garcia Marquez by Franco Moretti (1996); García Márquez, ed. by Robin Fiddian (1995); Intertextuality in García Márquez by Arnold M. Penuel (1994); Circularity and Visions of the New World in William Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Osman Lins by Rosa Simas (1993); Gabriel García Márquez: a Study of the Short Fiction by Harley D. Oberhelman (1991) Gabriel García Márquez: the Man and His Work by Gene H. Bell-Villas (1990); Gabriel García Márquez and the Invention of America by Carlos Fuentes (1987); Gabriel García Márquez by Raymond L. Williams (1984); Gabriel García Márquez: An Annotated Bibliography, 1947-1979 by Margaret Eustella Fau (1980); Gabriel García Márquez by George McMurrayu (1977) - See also: the Finnish writer Juhani Peltonen and the Swedish writer Göran Tunström; English-language magic realists: Salman Rushdie, Brian Aldiss, James P. Blaylock, Peter Carey, Angela Carter, E.L. Doctorow, John Fowles, Mark Helprin, Emma Tennant. - Among acclaimed Latin American magic realists are Jorge Amado, Jorge Luis Borges, Isabel Allende, and Julio Cortázar.

Selected works:

  • LA HOJARASCA, 1955 - Leaf Storm and Other Stories
  • EL COLONEL NO TIENE QUIEN LE ESCRIBA, 1957 - No One Writes to the Colonel andf Other Stories - Kukapa everstille kirjoittaisi
  • LA MALA HORA, 1961 - In Evil Hour - Pelon hetki
  • CIEN ANOS DE SOLEDAD, 1967 - One Hundred Years of Solitude - Sadan vuoden yksinäisyys
  • LOS FUNERALES MDE LA MAMÁ GRANDE, 1962 - Big Mama's Funeral - Mama Granden hautajaiset
  • LA NOVELA EN AMÉRICA LATINA, 1968 (with Mario Vargas Llosa)
  • RELATO DE UN NÁUFRAGO, 1970 - The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor - Haaksirikkoisen tarina
  • LA INCREÍBLE Y TRISTE HISTORIA DE LA CÁNDIDA ERENDIRA Y DE SU ABUELA, 1972 - Innocent Erendira and Other Stories - Surullinen ja uskomaton tarina
  • CUANDO ERA FELIZ E INDOCUMENTADO, 1973
  • EL OTONO DEL PATRIARCA, 1975 - The Autumn of the Patriarch - Patriarkan syksy
  • DE VIAJE POR LOS PAISES SOCIALISTAS, 1978
  • CRÓNICAS Y REPORTAJES, 1978
  • PERIODISMO MILITANTE, 1978
  • LA BATALLA DE NICARAQUA, 1979 (with Gregoria Selser and DanielWaksman Schinca)
  • GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ HABLA DE GARCÁ MÁRQUEZ, 1979
  • CRONICA DE UNA MUERTE ANUNCIADA, 1981 - Chronicle of a Death Foretold - Kuulutetun kuoleman kronikka
  • EL OLOR DE LA GUAYABA, 1982 - The Fragrance of Guava - Ihmisen ääni
  • LA SOLEDAD SE AMÉRICA LATINA, 1983
  • EL SECUESTRO, 1982
  • VIVA SANDINO, 1982
  • ERÉNDIRA, 1983 (screenplay)
  • MARÍA DE MI CORAZÓN, 1983 - Mary My Dearest (screenplay, with J.H. Hermosillo)
  • PERSECUTION Y MUERTE DE MINORÍAS, 1984 (with Guillermo Nolasco-Juárez)
  • EL AMOR EN LOS TIEMPOS DEL CÓLERA, 1985 - Love in the Time of Cholera - Rakkautta koleran aikaan
  • EL CATACLISMO DE DAMOCLES, 1986 - The Doom of Damocles
  • LA AVENTURA DE MIGUEL LITTIN. CLADESTINO EN CHILE, 1986 - Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín - Miguel Littinin maanalainen seikkailu
  • TEXTOS COSTEÑOS, 1987
  • EL GENERAL EN SU LABERINTO, 1989 - The General in His Labyrinth -Kenraali omassa labyrintissään
  • DOCE CENTOS PEREGRINOS, 1992 - Strange Pilgrims
  • DEL AMOR Y OTROS DEMONIOS, 1994 - Of Love and Other Demons
  • NOTICIA DE UN SECUESTRO, 1996 - Uutinen ihmisryöstöstä

 

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