R.I.P. Gabriel García Márquez

Several outlets are reporting the death of Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author of 100 Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, at the age of 87. Following a decade and a half of declining health, including a successful fight with lymphatic cancer (diagnosed in 1999) and the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease (made public in 2012), a dehydrated Márquez was hospitalised earlier this month with infections of the lungs and urinary tract, ultimately succumbing to pneumonia.

Born in the Colombian municipality of Aracataca in 1927, Márquez’s career as a writer began in journalism, working as a reporter for El Espectador and acting as the paper’s foreign correspondent, stationed variously in Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Caracas and New York. The 1962 publication of his first novel, La mala hora (In Evil Hour), was preceded by the novellas La Hojarasca (Leaf Storm, 1955) and El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (No One Writes to the Colonel, 1961), and a handful of short stories. It was, however, Márquez’s second novel that would bring him his most lasting fame – 1967’s Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude), the story of seven generations of a single family in the fictional town of Macondo, would become one of the most lauded novels written in the 20th century, selling more than 30 million copies worldwide and forever associating its author with magic realism.

Márquez continued to work to great acclaim into the 00s, though it is perhaps startling to realise, given the scope of his influence, that after Solitude he would only write another four novels: El otoño del patriarca (The Autumn of the Patriarch, 1975), El amor en los tiempos del cólera (Love in the Time of Cholera, 1985), El general en su laberinto (The General in his Labyrinth, 1989) and Del amor y otros demonios (Of Love and Other Demons, 1994). He did, however, continue to write novellas, short stories, screenplays and non-fiction, with his two final publications 2002’s volume of autobiography Vivir para contarla (Living to Tell the Tale) and the 2004 novella Memoria de mis putas tristes (Memories of My Melancholy Whores).

Márquez was awarded the University of Oklahoma’s biennial Neustadt International Prize for Literature – often considered the American equivalent of the Nobel Prize – in 1972 (only the second recipient), and the Nobel itself in 1982. His influence on world literature in the second half of the 20th century is incalculable.

ADDENDUM: given the nature of social media, you’re bound to see a lot of links to something called “La Marioneta” (“The Puppet”), reputedly a farewell poem to friends and family written by Márquez in 2000 following his cancer diagnosis. This is, in fact, a hoax, penned by Mexican ventriloquist Johnny Welch, who wrote the sentimental poem to be recited by his puppet, Mofles, yet found it falsely attributed to Márquez. Rather than retweeting it endlessly, quoting a favourite line from One Hundred Years of Solitude might be a more fitting tribute.

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