For several decades in different corners of our planet readers get acquainted with new Latin American prose with great enthusiasm. Recently it became a part of world literature and is appreciated by people of different nationalities. In Mexico Garcia Marquez is known as Gabo.
Huge and a bit odd world, created by this writer came from his childhood. It was also influenced by “1000day war” (1899-1902) between liberals and conservatives, who destroyed Columbia. But troubles never come singly. At this time family of colonel Nicolas Marquez settled down in a remote provincial town of Arakataka. Few years later there appeared so-called “banana fever” originated from North-American monopoly “United fruit company”.
Colonel’s grandson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was born on the 6th of March 1928. He spent his childhood in the deserted town which seemed extinct. Not numerous dwellers lived by memories about past time events, mixed with fantastic stories. The boy lived in an old house, inhabited with cranks and ghosts. Gabriel was brought up by his self-denying granny, keeping in mind lots of fairy-tales and legends. Later Marquez created Ursula Buendia (“100 years of Solitude) on the basis of his granny’s character. But some researchers still admit that Ursula’s prototype was his mother. In real life she didn’t differ much from her literary image. Luisa Marquez had 11 children, 67 grandchildren, 73 great-grandsons and 5 great-great-grandsons. She died at the age of 97, in 2002. She was buried as a national heroine. But the most important person in Gabriel Garcia’s life was his grandfather Nicolas. He always told Gabriel stories about battles and campaigns, read books with him, developing his mind in every way.
Grandpa died when Gabriel was 8 years old. Together with parents Gabriel left native town for Sipakira. There he studied and lived in the boarding school and tried to escape from solitude by reading many adventure stories. Later in the senior school he started writing poems. In 1946 he entered department of law in Bogota, capital of Columbia. In 1948 he became a witness of important events — murder of Gaitana, leader of liberal party; street fights, which grew into a longstanding struggle. As a result the university was closed, and the boy had to move to province, where he worked as a newspaper reporter — first in Kartahen, later in Barrankil. By this time he had already published several stories.
In Barrankil he made an attempt to write about his childhood. He created Macondo, a small town similar to Arakataka with old houses and exhausted people.
In 1954 Garcia Marques returned to Bogota. Working for capital newspapers he was deeply interested in the political life of his country, which was occupied by terror at that time. Dark atmosphere in Columbia, where bloody fights became an everyday event, was later described in his further writings. In the middle of 1955 newspaper “El Expectador” sent him as a correspondent to Europe. He spent several months in Rome, and then went to Paris. But at this time “El Espectador” was closed by Columbian dictator. As a result Marquez lost his job. He decided to write. Gradually he created a literary image of his grandpa, old colonel who was waiting for his veteran pension up to death. Having no job Gabriel starved but didn’t stop writing until he finished his first narrative “No one writes to the Colonel”. It seems to be influenced by Hemingway. Marquez himself mentioned it once. But his experience as a reporter also played a considerable role. The style amazed with laconicism. It is quite short but rich and convincing. This narrative is about solitude and steady confrontation with life calamities, such as famine, poverty, infirmity, indifference. It tells readers about person’s deep-seated belief in justice.
Before publishing it Marquez rewrote it eleven times. He achieved what he wanted: his narrative became an exclusive example in world literature. Author himself considered it to be his best work. He describes some nameless town where lives colonel in December, 1956. In every work Marques creates a unique mixture of reality and fantasy.
Once in 1979 Marquez was interviewed by the magazine “Latin America”. He was asked whether he believed in magic realism or literary magic. During the conversation Marquez told that he believed in the magic of real life. Interviews were embarrassed by such an answer. Though this statement later became his aim in literature, he began his career from pure magic, used in his story “Eyes of a blue dog”. Later he depicted real life without literary tricks (“No one writes to the Colonel”).
During later years Marquez saw a lot and experienced much. As a correspondent of Latin American newspapers he traveled through European countries and settled down in Venezuela for some time, where he became a witness of dictative regulations. He welcomed the victory in Cuban revolution, came to Cuba and worked as an informational agent for a while.
From 1951 the writer’s been living in Mexico. Here he issues collected stories “Big Mama’s Funeral” and some other novels. But for a long time he’s been thinking about writing a great novel. Once Marquez admitted that at the age of 17 when he visited native Arakataka he already had rough image of a boy coming to the circus at the beginning of the novel. But final idea came to his mind in January of 1955. According to him, it was a real irradiation — he saw it so clearly that he could possible type it at that very moment. He immediately decided to refuse all agreements and sell his car. Leaving all cares to his wife, he locked in his study.
Free-will “imprisonment” lasted for 18 months. Later he mentioned that the main difficulty during that period was language of the novel: “I had to write in the way grandfathers narrate, with absolute calmness, which couldn’t be disturbed, even if the world turned inside-down”. The novel “100 years of Solitude” was issued in 1967 and in few years managed to become world-famous.
In this book Marquez depicted traditions of national culture through literary images. As the author himself said he tried to “turn reality inside out to examine its underside”.
Compositional idea of the novel is the history of 6 generation in Buendia family and Macondo settlement, which is founded by the first member of Buendia and is destroyed together with the last one. Critics consider this novel to be in the same range with such literary works as “Sage of Forsaits” (Golsuorsy), “Buddenbroks” (Thomas Mann), “Tubo Family” (Marten du Gara). But the novel of Marquez is wider and consists of several dimensions. One of them describes provincional Columbia — those areas which were at first cut from outer world, then experienced bloody fights, “banana fever” and once again fell into a stupor.
The second dimension depicts Macondo fate which reflects historical features of Latin America on the whole. It describes Latin America being a slave of European civilization and later a sacrifice to North-American monopolies.
Finally the third dimension is the history of Buendia family itself which contains the whole epoch of human development. But only cooperation of all three dimensions creates the general idea of the story.
But what actually caused this book being so successful? Author’s deep interest to human individuality of any kind defines its plot. People of different generations read this book and find something interesting for themselves. The fate of generations described in it may resemble the fate of mankind to some extent, its existence and disappearance.
In 1982 Gabriel Garcia Marques was awarded with Nobel Prize in literature. From that time he published several more books, which gained world recognition. Marquez being 78 years of age is now at the height of his fame.
Gabriel Garcia’s novels in 70-80s caused real madness among young and old people. It can be compared with nowadays deep interest in works of Paulo Coelho. Everybody read and appreciate his stories. Somebody may ask why it happens. The answer is quite simple. Marquez is a writer who depicted real world without exaggerations. He created a world as it is. That’s why he still remains one of the most outstanding and well-known writers in the world. His stories were translated into many languages. His biography and works are learned at schools. In the 70-80s years Marquez’s books were read by nearly everybody: adults, students and even pupils. Readers of “100 years of Solitude” sometimes compare it with Bulgakov’s “Master and Margaret”. When Marquez once came to Soviet Union for press-conference he was asked if he read Bulgakov’s masterpiece. Marquez sincerely answered that he read it in Italian translation after finishing “100 years of Solitude”, but admitted it being a great novel.
When in 1982 Marquez got Nobel Prize his house was occupied as everybody tended to congratulate him. Recently he didn’t seem to write with great enthusiasm. He made readers wait for his latest and probably last novel for nearly 10 years. Finally it was issued in 2004. Now being 78 years old, Marquez declared that he wouldn’t write any more. He finished his literary work, saying that during last year for the first time in his life he didn’t write a line. He says that having such great life experience he could have written a new novel, but people would understand that he didn’t put much effort into it. Actually Marquez rarely gives interviews. His literary pause postponed publication of the second part of his memoirs. The first part “To live, to tell about life” was issued in 2002. After that readers were looking forward to the second one, but Marquez obviously broke their hopes. One of the reasons is considered to be his disease which he’s been curing for a year already. But it seems to be in vain to struggle with lymph cancer.
There are also other assumptions such as his loosing of inspiration. Nowadays Marquez rarely appears in among public. He explains that though it’s useful for a writer, it’s better to hold a distance. He enjoys his quiet life together with wife Mercedes Bachra, proudly shows family photos. Except living in Mexico he also owns a house in Barcelona.
Marquez tends to avoid public learning too much about him, his family and private life on the whole. He tried to hide the fact that Bill Clinton and Philippe Gonzales (former Spanish Prime-Minister) once visited him. He is also being friends with Fidel Castro and often visited Cuban leader in Havana. Up to 1960s Marquez used to live in Spain but left it after death of Commander Franco and never returned there again.
It’s necessary to mention that Marquez is not the only writer to stop literary career at its height. Some writers such as Jerome Salinger never wrote a line after publishing great novels. Marquez quickly made a name and I dare say that his stories will be still read and reread long time to pass.
1. Gabriel Garcia Marquez book reviews http://www.allreaders.com/Topics/Topic_9660.asp
2. Dana Gioia Online – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1998 http://www.danagioia.net/essays/emarquez.htm
3. Grolier Incorporated, 1995 http://www.levity.com/corduroy/marquez.htm
4. Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Biography, News, Links http://www.themodernword.com/gabo/