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Gabriel García Márquez

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“He sido capaz de escribir porque Mercedes llevó el mundo sobre sus espaladas”

“El secreto de la felicidad es hacer sólo aquello con lo que uno disfruta”.

Gabriel García Márquez nace el 6 de marzo de 1928, en Aracataca, un pueblo de la costa atlántica, en Colombia

“Gabo”, como se le conoce cariñosamente, fue el mayor de una familia numerosa de doce hermanos, que podríamos considerar de clase media: Gabriel Eligio García, su padre, fue uno de los numerosos inmigrantes que, con la “fiebre del banano”, llegaron  a Aracataca en el primer decenio del siglo XX..  Su madre, Luisa Santiaga Márquez, pertenecía, en cambio a una de las familias eminentes del lugar: era hija del coronel Nicolás Márquez y de Tranquilina Iguarán, que no vieron con buenos ojos los amores de su hija con uno de los “aventureros” de la “hojarasca” (como se llamaba despectivamente a los inmigrantes), que desempeñaba el humilde oficio de telegrafista. Por eso, cuando tras vencer múltiples dificultades, Gabriel Eligio y Luisa Santiaga consiguieron casarse, se alejaron de la familia y se instalaron en Riohacha. Sin embargo, cuando tenía que nacer su primer nieto, sus padres convencieron a Luisa Santiaga de que diera a luz en Aracataca. Poco después Gabriel Eligio y Luisa Santiaga regresaron a Riohacha, pero el niño se quedó con sus abuelos hasta que, cuando tenía ocho años, murió el abuelo, al que García Márquez consideró siempre “la figura más importante de mi vida”.       

    De esos primeros ocho años de  “infancia prodigiosa” surge lo esencial del universo narrativo y mítico de García Márquez, hasta el punto de que, con alguna exageración, ha llegado a decir: “Después todo me resultó bastante plano: crecer, estudiar, viajar... nada de eso me llamó la atención. Desde entonces no me ha pasado nada interesante”. Lo que sí es cierto es que los recuerdos de su familia y de su infancia, el abuelo como prototipo del patriarca familiar, la abuela como modelo de las “mamas grandes” civilizadoras,  la vivacidad del lenguaje campesino, la natural convivencia con lo mágico... aparecerán, transfigurados por la ficción, en muchas de sus obras ( La hojarasca, Cien años de soledad, El amor en los tiempos del cólera ...) y el mundo caribeño, desmesurado y fantasmal de Aracataca se transformará en Macondo, que en realidad era el nombre de una de las muchas fincas bananeras del lugar y que según unos alude “a un árbol que no sirve pa un carajo” y según otros “a una milagrosa planta capaz de cicatrizar heridas”. 

    Como el propio novelista explica: “Quise dejar constancia poética del mundo de mi infancia, que transcurrió en un casa grande, muy triste, con una hermana que comía tierra y una abuela que adivinaba el porvenir, y numerosos parientes de nombres iguales que nunca hicieron mucha distinción entre la felicidad y la demencia”.   

    El paralelismo entre algunas circunstancias biográficas de García Márquez con algunos elementos de Cien años de soledad resulta evidente. Veamos algunos:

· Su abuelo, como José Arcadio Buendía, fue uno de los fundadores de Aracataca. En la

novela se nos cuenta que José Arcadio, abandona su pueblo al verse continuamente hostigado por el fantasma de Prudencio Aguilar, al que se vio obligado a matar por un problema de honor. Con veintiún compañeros, José Arcadio Buendía cruza la cordillera y funda Macondo. La fundación de Aracata, tal como Nicolás Márquez se la contaba a su nieto es muy parecida. También su abuelo había matado de muy joven a un hombre y “cuando no podía soportar la amenaza que existía contra él en ese pueblo, se fue lejos con su familia y fundó un pueblo”. A Gabo le solía decir siempre: “Tú no sabes como pesa un muerto”.

· Nicolás Márquez era un sobreviviente de las dos últimas guerras civiles y, como aquél tenía una larga progenie de “hijos de la guerra”, todos de edades parecidas, que se alojaban en su casa cuando estaban de paso por el pueblo y que doña Tranquilina recibía como propios. Como es evidente, Nicolás Márquez es asimismo el modelo del coronel Aureliano Buendía que “promovió treinta y dos guerras y las perdió todas. Tuvo diecisiete hijos varones de diecisietes mujeres distintas, que fueron exterminados en una sola noche. Escapó a catorce atentados, a setenta y tres emboscadas y a un pelotón de fusilamiento”.            

·       Úrsula Iguarán se inspira en la abuela Tranquilina  – que no sólo presta su apellido a Úrsula, si no que, al igual que el personaje,  murió ciega y loca. Tranquilina Iguarán es, efectivamente, el modelo de muchos de los personajes femeninos de García Márquez que Vargas Llosa define así: “un caso ejemplar de la mater familias, matriarca medieval, emperadora del hogar, hacendosa y enérgica, prolífica, de temible sentido común, insobornable ante la adversidad, que organiza férreamente la vida familiar a la que sirve de aglutinante y vértice”.     

·       La inmensa y asombrosa casa de los abuelos  la reencontraremos en las sólidas y tristes mansiones de su mundo narrativo: la casa de la Mama Grande, de los Asís, de los Nasar y, indudablemente, de los Buendía. García Márquez la recuerda así: “En cada rincón había muertos y memorias, y después de las seis de la tarde la casa era intransitable. Era un mundo prodigioso de terror (...) En esa casa había un cuarto desocupado donde había muerto la tía Petra. Había un cuarto donde había muerto el tío Lázaro. Entonces, de noche no se podía caminar en esa casa porque había más muertos que vivos”.  

    En 1936 tras vivir un breve tiempo con sus padres en Sucre –donde Garbriel Eligio regentaba una farmacia- lo envían a estudiar bachillerato a diferentes internados: primero en Barranquilla y, durante más tiempo, en Zipaquirá, lugar del que guarda recuerdos sombríos y dolorosos y donde, paralizado por la nostalgia de Aracataca, nunca llegó a integrarse. De ese periodo y de ese lugar cuenta García Márquez: “Zipaquirá era una ciudad fría, con techos de teja desgastada, y el colegio, un gran internado donde vivíamos doscientos trescientos niños... Los sábados y los domingos había salida, pero yo no me movía del edificio porque no quería enfrentarme con la tristeza y el frío del pueblo. Durante esos años pasé encerrado la totalidad de las horas libres despachando libros de Julio Verne y Emilio Salgari”. Seguramente, esos años de soledad, reclusión y lectura fueron decisivos para su futura vocación de escritor que, según Mario Vargas Llosa, es como una “solitaria” que  atenaza el espíritu.

    En 1947, García Márquez se instala en Bogotá y  empieza a estudiar derecho. Sus impresiones de Bogotá no son mejores que las de Zipaquirá:  con sus “cachacos” que siempre “andaban de negro, parados ahí con paraguas y sombreros de coco, y bigotes”, la capital le parece “gris y yerta”, “asfixiante”, sinónimo de “aprehensión y tristeza”. Con estros rasgos describirá a Bogotá cuando raramente aparezca en su mundo ficción.

Textos sobre Arte, Plástica, Estética y Cultura

 

 

Aunque estudia los cinco cursos de Derecho –algunos en Bogotá y otros en Cartagena, donde se había trasladado su familia y donde se hace amigo del poeta Álvaro Mutis- no llega a graduarse,  porque, según confiesa, “me aburría a morir esa carrera”. Lo más importante de ese periodo es el encuentro con alguna de las personas más decisivas de sus vida –especialmente, Camilo Torres, el que luego será cura guerrillero cruelmente asesinado y Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, desde entonces uno de sus amigos más íntimos. Otro circunstancia importante es que, en Bogotá, empieza a escribir, para el periódico El Espectador, sus primeras obras: diez cuentos,  de los que abjurará después, que constituyen su “prehistoria” como escritor. También es remarcable  que García Márquez participase, como  otros muchos estudiantes, en las manifestaciones surgidas a raíz del “bogotazo”: el asesinato en 1948 de Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, político progresista aspirante a la presidencia de la república. El asesinato de Gaitán desencadena una escalofriante y larga oleada de violencia (casi trescientos mil muertos entre 1948 y 1962) que tendrá su reflejo en la literatura de García Márquez y de otros escritores, como Fernando Garrido y Álvaro Mutis, hasta el punto de que la narrativa colombiana de estas décadas ha sido designada como “literatura de la violencia”.       

    Pronto, García Márquez abandona los estudios de Derecho: en un viaje a Barranquilla conoce a un grupo de periodistas que le fascinan y decide instalarse allí y orientar totalmente su vida al periodismo, por lo que empieza a trabajar de columnista en “El Heraldo”, y a la literatura: se instala en  un cuartucho ínfimo de un bloque de cuatro pisos llamado “el Rascacielos” y allí empieza a escribir su primera novela, La hojarasca.

    Gabo se integra en el llamado “Grupo de Barranquilla”, que se reúne en el “Café Happy” y el “Café Colombia”. Miembros del “Grupo de Barranquilla” son: Germán Vargas, Álvaro Cepeda y Alfonso Fuenmayor, periodista de “El Heraldo” de gran formación intelectual, al que García Márquez le debe el descubrimiento de los autores que más tarde se convertirán en sus modelos literarios:  Kafka, Joyce y, muy especialmente, Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, y Hemingway. A las tertulias del “Café Colombia” acude también Ramón Vinyes, un viejo catalán republicano, escritor, ex-librero y profesor de un colegio de señoritas, al que García Márquez homenajeará en “el sabio catalán”, junto a sus tres amigos, en las últimas páginas de Cien años de soledad.

    En Barranquilla, García Márquez conocerá a Mercedes Barcha, quien más tarde se convertirá  en su compañera de toda la vida.

    En 1954, convencido por Álvaro Mutis, García Márquez regresa a Bogotá. Allí, de nuevo para El Espectador, trabaja como reportero y crítico de cine. Ese periodo de apasionada dedicación al periodismo, dejará posteriormente huella en su literatura. Como señala Vargas Llosa, de allí proviene en buena medida su fascinación “por los hechos y personajes inusitados, la visión de la realidad como una suma de anécdotas” y “las virtudes de concisión y transparencia de estilo” de sus mejores libros, en los que narra con la precisión de un cirujano. Esta simbiosis de literatura y periodismo es clara en algunas sus obras narrativas publicadas, Relato de un náufrago (1955), Crónica de una muerte anunciada (1981), Noticia de un secuestro (1997).    

    Desde ese momento, García Márquez no abandonará nunca su actividad periodística y   posteriormente será colaborador habitual en periódicos de Colombia, Venezuela, México, España y Estados Unidos.

    En 1955, García Márquez va por primera vez a Europa como corresponsal de El Espectador. El que tenía que ser un breve viaje para alejarlo de las iras gubernamentales  desencadenadas por la publicación de El relato de un náufrago,  se convierte en una estancia de  más de cuatro años: Ginebra,  Roma –donde, además de cubrir la información de la enfermedad de Pío XII, se matricula en el “Centro Sperimentale de Cinematografía”- y finalmente  París. Al poco de llegar a Francia, recibe la noticia de que El Espectador había sido clausurado y un cheque para el pasaje de regreso. Pero García Márquez, que había decidido seriamente ser escritor, decide quedarse en París. Afrontando grandes penalidades económicas (“Estuve viviendo durante cuatro años de milagros cotidianos”) y trabajando, como explica Vargas Llosa, “a diario, con verdadera furia, desde que oscurecía hasta el amanecer”, escribe La mala hora  (1961) y paralelamente, a partir de un episodio que se le desprendió de esa obra, una de sus mejores novelas: El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (1958).        

    Con su amigo Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza hace un viaje a los países del Este (Alemania Oriental, Checoslovaquia, Polonia, Rusia...) y luego escribe diez reportajes (al más célebre lo tituló “90 días en la Cortina de Hierro”)  que quieren ser fundamentalmente objetivos, pero que contienen una serie de valoraciones contradictorias de adhesión y crítica, lo que demuestra la sinceridad e independencia de su opinión.

    En 1958, tras una estancia de dos meses en Londres, decide regresar a América, entre otras cosas porque sentía que se le “enfriaban los mitos”.  Primero se instala en Venezuela, donde su amigo Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza le había conseguido trabajo de redactor en la revista Momentos. Al poco de llegar a Caracas, es testigo del bombardeo aéreo y del asalto al Palacio presidencial, hechos que concluirán días después con el derrocamiento del dictador Pérez Jiménez.

    Estos hechos, especialmente la imagen, según cuenta Vargas Llosa, de la huida de “un oficial con una ametralladora bajo el brazo y con las botas embarradas” y la entrevista que le hizo al que, durante 50 años, había sido mayodormo de Palacio,  sirviendo a varios presidentes y dictadores, serán decisivos en la gestación de un proyecto literario que empieza a obsesionarle: escribir una novela de tiranos, que reflexione sobre “el misterio del poder” y la capacidad de fascinación hipnótica de los tiranos. Otras experiencias recientes se imbrican con las que está viviendo en Venezuela y le ayudan a entender los mecanismos de la dictadura: el poder supremo del sumo pontífice en Roma, la fanática pervivencia del culto a Stalin que, cuatro años después de la muerte del dictador, había palpado en Moscú... Tardará  17 años en hacer realidad ese proyecto en la quinta de sus novelas: El otoño del patriarca (1975).           

    En un viaje relámpago a Barranquilla, se casa con su novia Mercedes Barcha, con la que pronto tiene dos hijos, Rodrigo (que nació en Bogotá en 1959) y Gonzalo (que nacería en México tres años más tarde). 

    Aunque su actividad periodística en Venezuela es muy intensa, García Márquez no abandona el quehacer literario: escribiendo sólo los domingos, redacta casi todos los cuentos de Los funerales de la Mama Grande (1961).      

    En 1960, tras el triunfo de la Revolución Cubana, vive seis meses en la Habana, trabajando para  Prensa Latina, agencia de noticias que dirige el periodista argentino, amigo del Ché Guevara,  Jorge Ricardo Massetti. Prensa Latina  fue creada por el gobierno cubano para contrarrestar la propaganda contra Cuba. Meses antes, García Marquez había creado la sede de Prensa Latina en Bogotá. En Prensa Latina participan, además de su inseparable amigo Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, otros destacados intelectuales como el argentino Roberto Walsh y el novelista uruguayo Juan Carlos Onetti. Uno de los grandes éxitos de Prensa Latina es interceptar y descifrar un informe donde se daban detalles del desembarco armado americano en Playa Girón. Llegaron a averiguar el lugar exacto donde la CIA preparaba la operación: una hacienda de Retahulheu (Guatemala).

    En 1961 se instala en  Nueva York como corresponsal de Prensa Latina. Se trata de un trabajo apasionante –por fin García Márquez dispone de un sueldo fijo y puede ejercer el periodismo con plena independencia, lejos de los monopolios capitalistas de opinión-  pero es también un trabajo agotador y de mucho riesgo: es el momento más álgido de la campaña anticastrista y las continuas amenazas de la CIA y de los exiliados cubanos  le hacen temer por la seguridad de su familia. No será por esto, sin embargo, por lo que García Márquez renunciará a Prensa Latina: dimitirá en solidaridad a Massetti, a quien, tras el ascenso del sector más sectario y burocrático, es alejado de la dirección de Prensa Latina.

    García Márquez decide establecerse en México, y probar suerte con la tercera de sus aficiones: el cine. Pero antes de abandonar Estados Unidos, recorre el sur de su admirado William Faulkner. De ese viaje, que emprende sin apenas dinero,  escribirá: “Son veinte días de ruta infernal por carreteras marginales, ardientes y tristes...Son veinte días  de carretera, alimentándonos con leche malteada, con hamburguesas, conociendo en Atlanta un áspero rostro de los Estados Unidos (no querían recibirnos en los hoteles porque creían que éramos mexicanos) y leyendo, en otro pueblo del Sur, un letrero que decía: <Prohibida la entrada de perros mexicanos>”.         

    Cuando descubre que es muy difícil abrirse camino en el mundo del cine, se encarga, aunque sin escribir una sola línea, de la organización de dos revistas de gran tiraje: una revista de señoras, La Familia y otra de crímenes sensacionalistas, Sucesos. Más tarde, trabaja en el mundo de la Publicidad.

    A partir de 1963, García Márquez  consigue por fin trabajar como guionista. Su primer guión, El gallo de oro, lo  escribe en colaboración con Carlos Fuentes a partir de un cuento de Juan Rulfo. (Dos años después, García Márquez y Fuentes volverán a trabajar juntos en la adaptación cinematográfica de Pedro Páramo, lo que demuestra la admiración que ambos sienten por la escueta e intensísima obra del silencioso escritor mexicano).

    Otros trabajos de guionista de García Márquez son: Tiempo de morir de Arturo Ripstein (aparentemente una esquemática película de “charros”, pero que contiene ya algunas de las obsesiones de García Márquez: la venganza, la muerte, el destino trágico, la soledad...), H.O. también con Ripstein; Patsy, mi amor y una adaptación de su cuento “En este pueblo no hay ladrones”. Aunque García Márquez dice no estar satisfecho de  ninguno de sus trabajos cinematográficos, considera que su decepcionante experiencia en el mundo del celuloide le fue de gran utilidad, pues paradójicamente le ayudó a  tomar conciencia de las limitaciones del cine (que hasta este momento consideraba “el medio de expresión perfecto”) y a entender por fin “que las posibilidades de la novela son ilimitadas”.

    Sin esa convicción, tal vez García Márquez no hubiera superado nunca ese periodo de sequía literaria (de 1961 a 1965 no escribió ni una sola línea de creación), consecuencia de un íntimo “sentimiento de fracaso” respecto a la obra que había escrito hasta ese momento.   Así lo describe el crítico Emir Rodríguez Monegal en 1964: “Entonces García Márquez era un hombre torturado, un habitante del infierno más exquisito: el de la esterilidad literaria”.

    Gabo escapa de ese “infierno” con la escritura de la que, seguramente, es la más importante de sus obras: Cien años de soledad (1967), lo cual sólo fue posible cuando, casi como en  en un “milagro”, sabe de repente con qué técnica y con qué procedimientos ha de escribir la historia de ese Macondo y de ese universo mítico de su infancia que le obsesionan desde sus inicios como escritor.      

    La “revelación” tuvo lugar un día de enero de 1965 mientras conducía su Opel por la carretera de México a Acapulco. Inesperadamente para el coche y le dice a Mercedes: “¡Encontré el tono! ¡Voy a narrar la historia con la misma cara de palo con que mi abuela me contaba sus historias fantásticas, partiendo de aquella tarde en que el niño es llevado por su padre a conocer el hielo!.

    García Márquez decide encerrarse a escribir su novela de Macondo y los Buendía. Logra reunir cinco mil dólares (los ahorros de la familia, las ayudas de sus amigos, especialmente de Álvaro Mutis) y le dice a Mercedes que mientras tarde en escribir su novela se ocupe de todo y no lo moleste bajo ningún concepto. Cuando después de 18 meses de duro trabajo concluye Cien años de soledad, Mercedes le espera con una deuda doméstica que sobrepasa los 10.000 dólares. Para enviar el manuscrito de Cien años de soledad a Buenos Aires, concretamente a la  Editorial Sudamericana de Francisco Porrua, deben empeñar los tres últimos objetos de un cierto valor que les quedan: una batidora, un secador de pelo y la estufa.          

   Cien años de soledad aparece en junio de 1967. El éxito es fulminante: en pocos días se agota la primera edición y en tres años se venden más de medio millón de ejemplares. Según Vargas Llosa, “el éxito resonante deja a García Márquez mareado y algo incrédulo”, aunque feliz porque por fin puede dedicarse exclusivamente a escribir.

    De 1968 a 1974 vive en Barcelona: quiere alejarse –aunque inútilmente- de la persecución cada vez más agobiante de la fama y palpar el ritmo de la vida cotidiana en una dictadura (aquí se viven los últimos años del franquismo),  pues se ha decidido por fin a convertir en novela esa imagen que le persigue desde hace diecisiete años: un déspota viejísimo se queda sólo en un palacio lleno de vacas.

    En 1975 aparece por fin El otoño del patriarca, que, escrita según la técnica del monólogo múltiple (voces diferentes que cuentan, desde perspectivas diferentes, la misma historia) es para García Márquez  “mi libro más experimental y el que más me interesa como aventura poética. También el que me ha hecho más feliz” .

    Entre Cien años de soledad (1967) y El otoño del patriarca (1975) escribe algunos cuentos  y un guión de cine, a partir de un episodio desgajado de Cien años de soledad, que finalmente se convierte en una novela breve: La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndida y de su abuela desalmada (1972).      

    Desde 1974, García Márquez alterna su residencia entre  México, Cartagena de Indias, La Habana y París. Desde esos años, tan difíciles para América Latina, García Márquez es consciente de su responsabilidad como intelectual de prestigio: estrecha lazos de amistad con mandatarios de tendencia progresista (Fidel Castro, Torrijos, Carlos Andrés Pérez, los sandinistas, últimamente, Hugo Chávez...), se  convierte en embajador extraoficial del continente, lucha activamente en defensa de los derechos humanos...  

    En 1981 escribe Crónica de una muerte anunciada, novelando unos hechos reales acaecidos en Sucre durante su juventud y asumiendo por primera vez el papel de narrador. Al escribir Crónica de una muerte anunciada, García Márquez contraria a su madre que le había pedido que  no escribiera una historia en la que intervenían tantos parientes, al menos  mientras la madre del  hombre que inspiró a Santiago Nasar siguiera viva.

    Ese mismo año, en pleno lanzamiento de Crónica de una muerte anunciada, el gobierno conservador lo acusa de financiar al grupo guerrillero M-19. García Márquez se ve obligado a pedir asilo político en la embajada mexicana y abandona Bogotá en medio de un gran escándalo. Meses después, ya en 1982, le conceden el Premio Nobel de literatura.

    En la ceremonia del Nobel, viste con una guayabera caribeña blanca y lleva en la mano un rosa amarilla, símbolo de Colombia y su amuleto personal (Mercedes coloca cada día una en su mesa de trabajo). Elige como tema musical el Intermezzo interrotto de Bela Bartok. Su discurso de agradecimiento es un canto de amor a América Latina. Entre otras cosas dijo:

 “Me atrevo a pensar que es esta realidad descomunal, y no sólo su expresión literaria, la que este año ha merecido la atención de la Academia Sueca de la Letras. Todas las criaturas de aquella realidad desaforada hemos tenido que pedirle muy poco a la imaginación porque el desafío mayor para nosotros ha sido la insuficiencia de los recursos convencionales para hacer creíbles nuestra vida. Éste es el nudo de nuestra soledad”.

    Concluyó formulando un deseo: el de “una nueva y arrasadora utopía de la vida, donde nadie pueda decidir por otros hasta la forma de morir, donde de veras sea cierto el amor y sea posible la felicidad, y donde las estirpes condenadas a cien años de soledad tengan por fin y para siempre una segunda oportunidad sobre la tierra”.

    Con parte de los 157 mil dólares que gana con el Nobel, decide “fundar un diario en Colombia con periodistas menores de treinta años, para que adquieran el oficio como se debe. Un diario destinado a exaltar los valores fundamentales del hombre, sin banderías”. En homenaje a un cuento de Borges decide llamar al periódico El otro, aludiendo con ello a su “otra” vocación y personalidad.

    Involucra en el proyecto a dos de sus grandes amigos: a Rodolfo Terragno, fundador de El diario de Caracas y el novelista argentino Tomás Eloy Martínez. El proyecto, sin embargo, morirá antes de nacer, como dice García Márquez, “asfixiado por la literatura”. Una noche inquieta (a García Márquez le preocupa encontrar el tono adecuado para El otro: ¿un realismo mágico sembrado de adjetivos restallantes? ¿la precisión de cirujano de sus crónicas políticas?) sueña con “una novela en la que un viejo de 80 vive una historia de frenesí sexual con una vieja de 70”. El demonio de la literatura le ha entrado otra vez en el cuerpo y sabe que ya no puede escapar de él.

    Cuando todo está preparado para la aparición de El otro, les dice a sus amigos: “Instálense en Bogotá y empiecen a trabajar. Yo tengo que encerrarme a escribir la novela sobre los viejos”. Sus amigos, obviamente, se niegan  (¿cómo El otro de García Márquez se va a escribir sin García Márquez?) y el  García Márquez novelista se instala en la mágica Cartagena de Indias, donde, en “un periodo de felicidad casi completa” escribe la historia de Florentino Ariza y Fermina Daza, en la que recrea el difícil noviazgo de sus padres: El amor en los tiempos de cólera (1985).

    En 1986 cumple una vieja deuda con la  tercera de sus pasiones: promueve la Fundación  del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano y funda -con la ayuda del director argentino Fernando Birri, al que conocía desde sus años en Italia- la Escuela de cine de San Antonio de los Baños, en Cuba. Allí cada año, García Márquez dirige un taller de guión, donde diez jóvenes inventan conjuntamente una historia. A los mejores alumnos se los lleva a México para trabajar en otro taller de guiones, éste profesional: realizan guiones para la televisión y, con parte de los beneficios, consiguen fondos para financiar la Fundación y la Escuela.

    En Cómo se cuenta un cuento (1995) relata una de las experiencias del taller de guión: inventar una historia que pueda ser contada en formato de media hora. El guión “Me alquilo para soñar” -que primero fue uno de los doce Cuentos peregrinos (1992)- es uno de los frutos de ese taller de guión, que fruto del trabajo conjunto de García Márquez, el cineasta brasileño Doc Comparato y diez jóvenes enamorados del cine y de la literatura.                          

    En 1989 escribe El general en su laberinto, una nueva novela histórica donde cuenta el camino hacia la muerte de Simón Bolívar a los 47 años,  por el río Magdalena de su infancia. El origen de esta novela es una frase de su manual escolar de historia, que guardaba en su memoria: “Al cabo de un largo y penoso viaje por el río Magdalena, murió en Santa Marta abandonado por sus amigos”.

    Aunque ya no lo necesita económicamente, García Márquez se ha impuesto la disciplina, “para mantener el brazo caliente”, de escribir, entre novela y novela, un artículo semanal que publica en diferentes periódicos. Una selección de estos artículos que, hablan de sus impresiones y recuerdos de las diferentes ciudades europeas en las que vivió, las recoge en Notas de prensa (1991), obra que se convierte así en una especie de memorias noveladas de sus años en Europa. Antes de editarlo en forma de libro vuelve a las ciudades emblemáticas de su juventud (Ginebra, Roma, París, Barcelona...) y escribe: “Ninguna tenía ya nada que ver con mis recuerdos. Todas estaban enrarecidas por una inversión asombrosa: los recuerdos reales parecían fantasmas de la memoria, mientras que los recuerdos falsos eran tan convincentes que habían suplantado a la realidad (...) En esos ocho meses febriles no necesité preguntarme dónde terminaba la vida y dónde empezaba la imaginación, porque me ayudaba la sospecha de que quizás no fuera cierto nada de lo vivido veinte años antes en Europa”. Tras ese viaje hacia su propia memoria, vuelve a reescribir todos los artículos.      

    En 1992 escribe Doce cuentos peregrinos. Según el propio autor se trata de : “una colección de cuentos cortos, basados en hechos periodísticos, pero redimidos de su condición mortal por las astucias de la poesía”. Muchos de ellos, antes de ser finalmente cuentos, fueron historias escritas con otros fines: cinco fueron notas periodísticas; otros cinco, guiones de cine y uno, un serial de televisión.

    En 1994 publica su última novela,  Del amor y otros demonios , una novela ambientada en la  Cartagena de Indias del siglo XVIII, que cuenta los amores imposibles entre un cura de treinta años y una marquesita criolla de doce, a la que debía exorcizar.

    Aunque desde hace años lucha incansablemente contra un cáncer, García Márquez continúa lleno de proyectos y sigue demostrando una admirable energía. Consciente de que “nunca ni un solo minuto he dejado de ser periodista”, convence a su amigo el novelista argentino Tomás Eloy Martínez para que funden juntos un taller de periodismo, la Fundación para el Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano. Se trata de una escuela sin muros, donde –a través de seminarios, conferencias y cursos-se convoca a estudiantes de periodismo de todo el mundo para profundizar sobre temas que las escuelas de periodismo y las redacciones de periódicos suelen omitir. La Fundación es su personal homenaje al que sigue considerando  “el mejor oficio del mundo”.

    En 1996 publica Noticia de un secuestro, un reportaje novelado de un secuestro colectivo, de diez personas (ocho de ellas periodistas), a manos de la banda de narcotraficantes de  Pablo Escobar.  García Márquez, que trabajó duramente en este libro tres años, definió “esta tarea otoñal como la más difícil y triste de mi vida” y como “una experiencia humana desgarradora e inolvidable”.  A finales de 1995, cuando acaba de concluir Noticia de un secuestro y el país vive pendiente de otro secuestro –el de Juan Carlos Gaviria, hermano del ex presidente- lee un insólito comunicado en la prensa: los secuestradores ofrecen la liberación de Juan Carlos Gaviria si García Márquez asume la presidencia del gobierno en lugar del actual mandatario, Ernesto Samper. La respuesta de García Márquez es contundente: “Nadie puede esperar que asuma la irresponsabilidad de ser el peor presidente de la República (...) Liberen a Gaviria, quiténse las máscaras y salgan a promover sus ideas de renovación al amparo del orden constitucional.”

    Actualmente se dice que trabaja en sus memorias (que posiblemente se llamarán Vivir para contarlo) y en tres novelas. Una de ellas cuenta la historia de un hombre que morirá al escribir la última frase. García Márquez tiene la extraña sensación de que puede ocurrirle lo mismo que a su personaje. Tal vez por ello, la novela avanza lentamente...


Gabriel García Márquez Biography - Biographical Sketch - A. Ruch - 22 December 1999

Here is a biographical sketch and a simple timeline for Gabriel García Márquez, who is currently 71 years old and living in Mexico City. While the biography is fairly complete, the timeline focuses more on his early life, and the publishing dates of his works. All quotes in the biography are the direct words of García Márquez.

Gabriel José García Márquez was born on March 6, 1928 in Aracataca, a town in Northern Colombia, where he was raised by his maternal grandparents in a house filled with countless aunts and the rumors of ghosts. But in order to get a better grasp on García Márquez's life, it helps to understand something first about both the history of Colombia and the unusual background of his family.

Colombia

Colombia won its independence from Spain in 1810, technically making it one of Latin America's oldest democracies, but the sad fact is that this "democracy" has rarely known peace and justice.

In the beginning, there was of course Spain and the Indians, happily hating each other as the Spaniards tore the land up in quest for gold, El Dorado, religious converts, and political power. The English, too, played their part, with Drake attacking Riohachi in 1568 and the countless colonial squabbles of the next few centuries. Declaring itself independent from Spain when Napoleon ousted the Spanish King in 1810, the new country experienced a brief period of freedom and then was quickly reconquered in 1815 by the unpleasant and bloody campaigns of General Murillo. So much did their internal bickering allow their fledgling country to fall to the sword of Murillo, the period is immortalized in Colombia's history with the colorful name of la Patria Boba, or "The Booby Fatherland." Round two, however, fell to the Colombians, when Simón Bolívar reliberated the country in 1820 and became its very first president. In 1849, the country was sufficiently advanced enough to concretize their squabbling in the form of two political parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, who exist to this day. These two parties form the political framework for much of García Márquez's fiction, and understanding their true natures is both a key to his writing and, unfortunately, an important insight to Latin American politics in general.

Although initially forming around the nucleus of two distinct and different ideologies, long years of bloody conflict have served to significantly erode the distinctions between the parties. The Conservatives and the Liberals are more like warring factions or clans than any parties with firmly established and radically different ideologies. Both tend to be repressive, both are corrupt, and both terribly abuse power when it falls into their hands; and throughout the sad history of Colombia, both parties have been more or less at war. It has often been said of Colombia's parties that you do not join them, you are born into them; and indeed they act more as territorial and familial units than as peacefully functioning parties with distinct political platforms. In addition, the country is split into two main regional groups -- the costeños of the coastal Caribbean, and the cachacos of the central highland. Both groups use those terms as pejorative of the other, and both view the other with disdain. The costeños tend to be more racially mixed, verbally outgoing, and superstitious. They are primarily the "descendants of pirates and smugglers, with a mixture of black slaves," and as a whole are "dancers, adventurers, people full of gaiety." The cachacos, on the other hand, are more formal, aristocratic, and racially pure, who pride themselves on their advanced cities such as Bogotá and on their ability to speak excellent Spanish. Traditionally, the tropical Caribbean coast has been a Liberal bastion, and the cool mountains and valleys of the interior tend to the Conservative side. García Márquez has often remarked that he views himself as a mestizo and a costeño, both characteristics enabling his formation and development as a writer.

Throughout the nineteenth century, Colombia was wracked by rebellions, civil wars of both the local and national variety, and several coups d'etat.This century of bloodshed had its culmination in 1899, when the War of a Thousand Days began -- Colombia's most devastating civil war, a conflict that ended in late 1902 with the defeat of the Liberals. The war claimed the lives of over 100,000 people, primarily peasants and their sons. García Márquez's grandfather fought in that war, and many of its veterans would eventually find their way into immortalization as fictional characters in his work.

Another event that would influence his work was the prevalence banana industry and the massacre of 1928. Although coffee is generally considered Colombia's main export, for the first few decades of the twentieth century, bananas were also of crucial importance to the economy. The banana trade had its principle manifestation in the United Fruit Company, an American outfit that had a virtual monopoly on the banana industry, which at the time was the only source of income for many of the costeño areas, including Aracataca. The UFC had unlimited economic power and tremendous political clout, but it was a corrupt and amoral company that abused its Colombian workers terribly. In October of 1928, over 32,000 native workers went on strike, demanding, among other such unreasonable things, toilets and payment in cash rather than company scrip. One night a huge crowd of them gathered to hold a demonstration. In order to quell the incident, the Conservative government sent in the troops, which fired on the unarmed workers, killing hundreds. Over the next few months, more people simply vanished, and finally the whole incident was official denied and struck from the history books. García Márquez would later incorporate the incident in One Hundred Years of Solitude.

The next significant event that would eventually affect his writing was a period of time that he himself would live through, a horrible period of time called la violencia, or "the Violence." The Violence has its roots in the banana massacre. At that time, one of the only politicians courageous enough to take a stand against government corruption was a man named Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a young Liberal member of congress who convened meetings to investigate the incident. Gaitán began to rise in prominence, a champion of the peasants and the poor, but an annoyance to the powerful members of both parties, who viewed him with something akin to fear and loathing. Using radio as his medium, he heralded a time of change, a time when the people would take part in a true democracy and corporations would be forced to act responsibly. By 1946, Gaitán was powerful enough to cause a split in his own party, who had been in power since 1930. The split caused a Conservative return to power, and fearing a reprisal, they began organizing paramilitary groups whose ultimate purpose was to terrorize Liberal voters; which they did admirably, killing thousands of them by the end of the year. In 1947 the Liberals gained control of the Congress, putting Gaitán in charge as party leader. (Despite the Conservative's efforts, the voter turnout was at a record high.) Tensions rose, and on April 9, 1948, Gaitán was assassinated in Bogotá.

The city was convulsed by lethal riots for three days, a period called el Bogotázo and responsible for 2500 deaths. La violencia entered a more deadly phase. Guerrilla armies were organized by both parties, and terror swept through the land. Towns and villages were burned, thousands -- including women and children -- were brutally murdered, farms were confiscated, and over a million peasants emigrated to Venezuela. In 1949, Conservatives even gunned down a Liberal politician, in the middle of giving a speech in the very halls of Congress! The Conservatives finally dissolved Congress, declared the country to be in a state of siege, and Liberals (now conveniently branded "communists") were hunted, persecuted, and murdered. The country was ripped apart; la violenciawould claim the lives of some 150,000 Colombians by 1953. The Violence would later become the backdrop to several of García Márquez's novellas and stories, most notably In Evil Hour.

His Family

The most important relatives of García Márquez were undoubtedly his maternal grandfather and grandmother. His grandfather was Colonel Nicolás Ricardo Márquez Mejía, a Liberal veteran of the War of a Thousand Days. He lived in Aracataca, a banana town by the Caribbean, a village which he helped found. The Colonel was something of a hero to the costeños, for among other things, he refused to stay silent about the banana massacres, delivering a searing denunciation of the murders to Congress in 1929. A very complex and interesting man, the Colonel was also an excellent story teller who had lead quite an intriguing life -- when he was younger he shot and killed a man in a duel, and it is said that he had fathered over sixteen children! He would speak of his wartime experiences as if they were "almost pleasant experiences -- sort of youthful adventures with guns." The old Colonel taught the young Gabriel lessons from the dictionary, took him to the circus each year, and was the first one who introduced his grandson to ice -- a miracle to be found at the UFC company store. He also told his young nephew that there was no greater burden than to have killed a man, a lesson that García Márquez would later put into the mouths of his characters.

His grandmother was Tranquilina Iguarán Cotes, and would be no less an influence on the young García Márquez than her husband. She was terribly filled with superstitions and folk beliefs, as were her numerous sisters, and they filled the house with stories of ghosts and premonitions, omens and portents -- all of which were studiously ignored by her husband, who once said to young Gabriel, "Don't listen to that. Those are women's beliefs." And yet listen he did, for his grandmother had a unique way of telling stories. No matter how fantastic or improbable her statements, she always delivered them as if they were the implacable truth. It was a deadpan style that, some thirty years later, her grandson would adopt for his greatest novel.

García Márquez's parents were more or less strangers to him for the first few years of his life, and the reason behind this is quite interesting. His mother, Luisa Santiaga Márquez Iguarán, was one of the two children born to the Colonel and his wife. A spirited girl, she unfortunately fell in love with a man named Gabriel Eligio García. Unfortunately, for García was something of an anethma to her parents. For one thing, he was a Conservative as well as la hojarasca, a derogatory term applied to the recent residents of the town, drawn by the banana trade. (La hojarasca means "dead leaf," as in something that descends in useless flurries and is best swept away.) Garcia also had a reputation as a philanderer, the father of four illegitimate children. He was not exactly the man the Colonel had envisioned winning the heart of his daughter -- and yet he did, wooing her with violin serenades, love poems, countless letters -- and even telegraph messages. They tried all they could to get rid of the man, but he kept coming back, and it was obvious that their daughter was committed to him. Finally they surrendered to his Latino tenacity, and the Colonel gave her hand in marriage to the former medical student. In order to ease relations, the newlyweds settled in the Colonel's old home town of Riohacha. (The tragicomic story of their courtship would later be adapted and recast as Love in the Time of Cholera.)

Early Life

Gabriel José García Márquez was born on March 6, 1928 in Aracataca, although his father contends that it was really 1927. Because his parents were still poor and struggling, his grandparents accepted the task of raising him, a common practice at the time. Unfortunately, 1928 was the last year of the banana boom in Aracataca. The strike and its brutal reprisal hit the town hard; over one hundred strikers were shot one night in Aracataca and dumped into a common grave. It was a sad start to his life, one that would later resurface in his writing.

Nicknamed Gabito, little Gabriel grew up as a quiet and shy lad, entranced by his grandfather's stories and his grandmother's superstitions. Aside from the Colonel and himself, it was a house of women, and later García Márquez would later remark that their beliefs had him afraid to leave his chair, half terrified of ghosts. And yet all the seeds of his future work were planted in that house -- stories of the civil war and the banana massacre, the courtship of his parents, the sturdy practicality of the superstitious matriarch, the comings and goings of aunts, great aunts, and his grandfather's illegitimate daughters -- later García Márquez would write: "I feel that all my writing has been about the experiences of the time I spent with my grandparents."

His grandfather died when he was eight years old, and due to his grandmother's increasing blindness, he went to live with his parents in Sucre, where his father was working as a pharmacist. Soon after he arrived in Sucre, it was decided that he should begin his formal schooling. He was sent to a boarding school in Barranquilla, a port city at the mouth of the Magdalena River. There, he acquired a reputation as being a shy boy who wrote humorous poems and drew cartoons. So serious and non-athletic was he that he was nicknamed "the Old Man" by his classmates.

In 1940, when he was twelve, he was awarded a scholarship to a secondary school for gifted students, run by Jesuits. The school -- the Liceo Nacional -- was in Zipaquirá, a city 30 miles to the north of Bogotá. The journey would take a week, and in that time he came to the conclusion that he did not like Bogotá. Exposed to the capital for the first time, he found it dismal and oppressive, and his experience helped confirm his identity as a costeño.

In school, he found himself growing quite stimulated by his studies, and in the evening, he often read books aloud to his companions in the dormitory. And much to his amusement, even though he had yet to write anything significant, his great love of literature and his cartoons and stories helped him acquire a reputation as a writer. Perhaps this reputation provided him with a star by which to steer the ship of his imagination; and he would need it, for after graduation in 1946, the eighteen year old "writer" followed his parents wishes and enrolled in the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá as a law student rather than as a journalist.

It was during this time that García Márquez met his future wife. While visiting his parents, he was introduced to a 13 year old girl named Mercedes Barcha Pardo. Dark and silent, of Egyptian decent, she was "the most interesting person" he had ever met. After he graduated from the Liceo Nacional, he took a small vacation with his parents before leaving for the University. During that time, he proposed to her. Agreeing, but first wishing to finish primary school, she put off the engagement. Although they wouldn't be married for another fourteen years, Mercedes promised to stay true to him.

The Hungry Years

Like many great writers attending college for a subject they despised, García Márquez found that he had absolutely no interest in his studies, and he became something of a consummate slacker. He began to skip classes and neglect both his studies and himself, electing to wander around Bogotá and ride the streetcars, reading poetry instead of law. He ate in cheap cafés, smoked cigarettes, and associated with all the usual suspects -- literate socialists, starving artists, and budding journalists. One day, however, his life changed -- all from reading just a simple book. As if all the lines of fate suddenly converged in his hands, he was given a copy of Kafka's The Metamorphosis, translated by none other than Jorge Luis Borges. The book had a profound affect on García Márquez; making him aware that literature did not have to follow a straight narrative and unfold a traditional plot. The effect was liberating: "I thought to myself that I didn't know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago." He also remarked that Kafka's "voice" had the same echoes if his grandmother's -- ". . . That's how my grandmother used to tell stories, the wildest things with a completely natural tone of voice."

One of the first things he set out to do was "catch up" on all the literature he had been missing. He began reading voraciously, devouring everything he could get his hands on. He also began writing, and to his surprise, his first story, "The Third Resignation," was published in 1946 by the Liberal Bogotá newspaper El Espectador, and the editor even hailed him as "the new genius of Colombian letters!" García Márquez entered a period of creativity, penning ten more stories for the newspaper over the next few years.

As a humanist from a Liberal family, the 1948 assassination of Gaitán had profound effect on García Márquez, and he even participated in the rioting of el Bogotázo, having his own quarters partially burned down. The Universidad Nacional was closed, precipitating his move to the more peaceful North, where he transferred to the Universidad de Cartagena. There he half-heartedly pursued law while writing a daily column for El Universal, a Cartagena newspaper. Deciding to abandon his attempts at law in 1950, he devoted himself to writing, moving to Barranquilla. Over the next few years, he began associating with a literary circle called el grupo de Barranquilla, and under their influence he began to read the work of Hemingway, Joyce, Woolf, and most importantly, Faulkner. He also embarked on a study of the classics, finding tremendous inspiration in the Oedipus Rex cycle by Sophocles.

Faulkner and Sophocles would become his two biggest influences throughout the late forties and early fifties. Faulkner amazed him with his ability to reformulate his childhood into a mythical past, inventing a town and a county in which to house his prose. In Faulkner's mythical Yoknapatawpha, García Márquez found the seeds for Macondo; and from Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Antigone he found the ideas of a plot revolving around society and the abuses of power. García Márquez began to grow dissatisfied with his earlier stories, believing them to be too abstracted from his true experiences. They "were simply intellectual elaborations, nothing to do with my reality." Faulkner taught him that a writer should write about what is close to him; and for years García Márquez had been struggling with his muse -- what did he really want to say?

These thoughts would find form when he returned with his mother to his grandfather's house in Aracataca. Preparing it for sale, they found the house in quite ill repair, and yet the "haunted house" evoked such a swirl of memories in his head that he was overwhelmed. Indeed, the whole town seemed dead, frozen in time. He had already been sketching out a story based on his experiences there, a tentative novel to be called La casa, and although he felt that he was not yet ready to perfect it, he had found part of what he was after -- the sense of place. Inspired by his visit, upon returning to Barranquilla he wrote his first novella, Leaf Storm. With a plot device adapted from Antigone and set in a mythical town, the book was completed in a rapid rush of energy. The town was called "Macondo," which was the name of a banana plantation near Aracataca that he used to explore as a child. (Macondo means "banana" in the Bantu language.) Unfortunately in 1952 it was rejected by the first publisher he sent it to, and seized by self-doubt and self-criticism, he tossed it in a drawer. (In 1955, while García Márquez was in Eastern Europe, it was rescued it from its hiding place in Bogotá by his friends and sent to a publisher. This time, it was published.)

Despite his rejection and his near poverty, however, he was essentially happy. Living in a brothel, he was surrounded by friends, and he had a steady job writing columns for El Heraldo. In the evening he worked on his fiction and talked with his companions over cigarettes and coffee. Then in 1953, he was seized by a sudden restlessness. Packing up and quitting his job, he set out to sell encyclopedias in La Guajira with a friend. He travelled around a bit, worked on some story ideas, and finally became formally engaged to Mercedes Barcha. In 1954, he moved back to Bogotá and accepted a job on the staff of El Espectador as a writer of stories and film reviews. There, he flirted with socialism, avoided the notice of the current dictator -- Gustavo Rojas Pinilla -- and pondered about his duty as a writer in the time of la violencia.

In 1955, an event occurred which would place him back on the path of literature and eventually lead to his temporary exile from Colombia. That year, the Caldas, a small Colombian destroyer, was swamped in high seas on its return to Cartagena. Several sailors were swept overboard and lost, and all died except one remarkable man, Luis Alejandro Velasco, who managed to survive for ten days at sea clinging to a life raft. When he was eventually washed ashore, he quickly became a national hero. Used as propaganda by the government, Velasco did everything from make speeches to advertise watches and shoes. Finally he decided to tell the truth -- the Caldas was carrying illegal cargo, and they were swept overboard by negligence and incompetence, not by a storm at all! Visiting the offices of El Espectador, Velasco offered them his story. After some hesitation, they accepted. Velasco told his story to García Márquez, who acted as a ghostwriter and recast it into his prose. The story was serialized over two full weeks as "The Truth About My Adventure," by Luis Alejandro Velasco, and it created quite a sensation. Extremely unhappy, the Government tossed Velasco out of the Navy. Worried that Pinilla might persecute García Márquez directly, his editors sent him on assignment to Italy to cover the imminent death of Pope Pius XII. When the pontiff's untimely survival made this assignment useless, García Márquez arranged to wander around Europe as a correspondent. After studying film for awhile in Rome, he embarked on a tour of the communist bloc; and later that year his friends managed to get Leaf Storm finally published in Bogotá.

García Márquez travelled through Geneva, Rome, Poland and Hungary, finally settling in Paris where he found that he was out of a job -- the Pinilla government shut down the presses of El Espectador. Settling in the Latin Quarter, he lived off of credit, the kindness of his landlady, and money scraped up returning bottles for their deposits. There, influenced by the writings of Hemingway, he typed out eleven drafts of No One Writes to the Colonel and part of Este pueblo de mierda, the book that would later become In Evil Hour. After finishing Colonel, he travelled to London and finally returned to his home continent -- not to Colombia, but to Venezuela, the destination of most Colombian refugees. There he finished Este pueblo de mierda, his work which most directly addresses la violencia. Even though it was obvious that he was developing his own unique voice, he was still unsatisfied. His early stories were too unemotional and abstract. Leaf Storm was too indebted to Faulkner, and No One Writes to the Colonel and In Evil Hour were too far away from his imagined goal, the picture he had been developing for years. He knew his ultimate work would take place in that mythical town of Macondo, but he had yet to find the right tone in which to tell his tale; he had yet to discover his true voice.

In Venezuela he teamed up with an old friend, Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, who was now an editor with Elite, a Caracas newsweekly. Throughout the year of 1957, the two toured the communist countries of Europe, searching for an answer to Colombia's ills, contributing articles to various Latin American publications. And while they saw something useful in socialism, García Márquez realized with a sense of depression that communism could be just as terrible as la violencia. After a brief stay in London again, García Márquez returned to Venezuela, where Mendoza was now working for Momento, and offered his old friend another job. Then, in 1958, he risked a visit back to Colombia. Keeping a low profile, he slipped into his native country and married Mercedes Bacha, who had been awaiting him in Barranquilla for four long years. He and his new bride then slipped back to Caracas, which was having its own share of problems. After publishing pieces aimed at American perfidy and the abuses of tyrants, Momento succumbed to political pressure and took an apologist pro-USA stance after Nixon's disastrous visit in May. Angered by their paper's capitulation, García Márquez and Mendoza resigned. Soon after leaving his position at Momento, García Márquez and his wife ended up in Havana, covering the Castro revolution. Inspired by the revolution, he helped form a Bogotá branch of Castro's news agency, Prensa Latina, and began a friendship with Castro that has lasted until this day.

In 1959 García Márquez's first son, Rodrigo, was born, and the family moved to New York City, where he supervised the North American branch of Prensa Latina, where he labored under death threats from angry Americans and an increasing sense of disillusionment at the ideological rifts occurring in Cuba's communist party. He resigned his position later that year and moved his family to Mexico City, travelling through the South on a Faulknerian pilgrimage; he would be denied entrance into the USA again until 1971.

In Mexico City he wrote subtitles for films and worked on screenplays, and managed to publish some of his work. Rescued from moth-eaten oblivion by his friends, No One Writes to the Colonel was published in 1961, and then Big Mama's Funeral in 1962, the same year with saw the birth of his second son, Gonzalo. Finally his friends convinced him to enter the Colombian Esso literary contest in Bogotá; he revised Este pueblo de mierda, and changed the title from "This Town of Shit" to La mala hora, or In Evil Hour. He submitted it, and it won. The sponsors of the prize sent the book to Madrid to be published, and it greeted the world in 1962 -- to his immense disappointment. The publication was a travesty; the Spanish publisher purged it of all Latin American slang and objectionable material, bowdlerizing it beyond recognition and making the characters speak precise, dictionary Spanish. Heartbroken, García Márquez was forced to repudiate it -- it would take nearly half a decade until the book would be published, restored to his satisfaction.

The next few years were years of profound disappointment, producing nothing of much worth except a film script cowritten with Carlos Fuentes. His friends tried to cheer him up in whatever ways they could, but nevertheless, he began to feel like a failure. None of his works had sold over 700 copies. He had never received any royalties. And still, and still, the story of Macondo eluded his grasp.

Success

And then it happened: his epiphany. On January 1965 he and his family were driving to the Acapulco for a vacation, when the inspiration struck him: he had found his tone. For the first time in twenty years, a stroke of lightning clearly illuminated Macondo. He would later write:

"All of a sudden -- I don't know why -- I had this illumination on how to write the book. . . . I had it so completely formed, that right there I could have dictated the first chapter word by word to a typist."

And later, regarding that illumination:

"The tone that I eventually used in One Hundred Years of Solitude was based on the way my grandmother used to tell stories. She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness. . . . What was most important was the expression she had on her face. She did not change her expression at all when telling her stories and everyone was surprised. In previous attempts to write, I tried to tell the story without believing in it. I discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself and write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face."

He turned the car immediately around and headed home. There, he put Mercedes in charge of the family, and he retired to his room to write.

And write he did. He wrote every day for eighteen months, consuming up to six packs of cigarettes a day. To provide for the family, the car was sold, and almost every household appliance was pawned so Mercedes could feed the family and keep him supplied with a constant river of paper and cigarettes. His friends started to call his smoke-filled room "the Cave of the Mafia," and after awhile the whole community began helping out, as if they collectively understood that he was creating a masterpiece. Credit was extended, appliances loaned, debts forgiven. After nearly a year of work, García Márquez sent the first three chapters to Carlos Fuentes, who publicly declared: "I have just read eighty pages from a master." Towards the end of the novel, as yet unnamed, anticipation grew, and the buzz of success was in the air. As finishing touches, he placed himself, his wife, and his friends in the novel, and then discovered a name on the last page: Cien años de soledad. Finally he emerged from the Cave, grasping thirteen hundred pages in his hands, exhausted and almost poisoned from nicotine, over ten thousand dollars in debt, and perhaps only a few pages shy of a mental and physical breakdown. And yet, he was happy -- euphoric. In need of postage, he pawned a few more household implements and sent it off to the publisher in Buenos Aires.

One Hundred Years of Solitude was published in June 1967, and within a week all 8000 copies were gone. From that point on, success was assured, and the novel sold out a new printing each week, going on to sell half a million copies within three years. It was translated into over two dozen languages, and it won four international prizes. Success had come at last. Gabriel García Márquez was 39 years old when the world learned his name.

Suddenly he was beset by fame. Fan mail, awards, interviews, appearances -- it was obvious that his life had changed. In 1969, the novel won the Chianchiano Prize in Italy and was named the Best Foreign Book in France. In 1970, it was published in English and was chosen as one of the best twelve books of the year in the United States. Two years later he was awarded the Rómulo Gallegos Prize and the Neustadt Prize, and in 1971, a Peruvian writer named Mario Vargas Llosa even published a book about his life and work. To counter all this exposure, García Márquez simply returned to writing. Deciding that he would write about a dictator, he moved his family to Barcelona, Spain, which was spending its last years under the boot of Francisco Franco. There he labored on his next work, a work that would pin down a composite dictator, a Caribbean dictator with Stalin's smooth hands and the solipsistic will of an archetypical Latin American tyrant. In the meantime, Innocent Eréndira and Other Stories was published in 1972, and in 1973 he put out a collection of his journalistic work from the late fifties, Cuando era feliz e indocumentado, or "When I Was Happy and Uninformed."

Autumn of the Patriarch was published in 1975, and it was a drastic departure from the prose style of One Hundred Years of Solitude. A winding book with labyrinthine sentences, it was initially considered a disappointment by the critics, who were most likely expecting another Macondo. Opinion has changed over the years, however, and many now consider this novel of shifting realities to be a minor masterpiece of prose.

Later Life

Living in a dictatorship and writing a novel about a tyrant took their emotional toll over the years. By the end of the novel, García Márquez had decided that he would write no more fiction until the American-supported Pinochet stepped down from his dictatorship of Chile, a decision he later discarded. He was becoming more aware of his own political power as a well-known writer, and his increased clout and financial security enabled him to pursue his interests in political activism. Returning to Mexico City, he purchased a new house and stepped up his personal campaign to affect the politics of the world around him. Continuing his actions of the last few years, he continued to funnel some of his money into political and social causes. Through his writings and donations, he supported leftist causes in Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Argentina, and Angola. He helped found and strongly supported HABEAS, an organization dedicated to correcting the abuses of Latin American power and freeing political prisoners, and he struck up friendships with such leaders as Omar Torrijos of Panama and continued his relationship with Fidel Castro of Cuba. Needless to say, these activities did not endear him to the hearts of politicians in either the US or in Colombia; all his visits to the US were on a limited visa and had to be approved by the State Department. In 1977 he published Operación Carlota, a series of essays on Cuba's role in Africa. Ironically, although he claims to be quite good friends with Castro -- who even helped him edit Chronicle of a Death Foretold -- he spent the late seventies writing a "very harsh, very frank" book about the shortcomings of the Cuban Revolution and of life under Castro's regime. This book has not yet been published, and García Márquez has claimed that he is holding it until relations between Cuba and the United States are somewhat normalized.

In 1981, the year in which he was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal, he returned to Colombia from a visit with Castro, and there he found out that he was in trouble. The Conservative Government was accusing him of financing the M-19, a Liberal group of guerrillas. Fleeing Colombia, he asked for and received political asylum in Mexico, where he lives to this day. Colombia would soon regret their anger at their famous son, however: in 1982 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Embarrassed, and having just elected a new President, Colombia invited him back, and President Betancur personally saw him off to Stockholm.

In 1982 he assisted a friend in publishing El odor de la guayaba, or "The Fragrance of Guava," a book of conversations with his long time friend and colleague Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, and in the same year he wrote Viva Sandino, a screenplay about the Sandanistas and the Nicaraguan Revolution. Politics, however, would be far from his mind for his next work of fiction, which would be a love story. Turning again to his rich past for inspiration and material, he reworked his parent's strange courtship into the form of a decade-spanning narrative. The story would be about two frustrated lovers and the long tome between their second courtship, and in 1986 Love in the Time of Cholera was unveiled to the anxious world. It was highly received, and there was no question that García Márquez had become a writer with universal appeal.

By now one of the most famous writers in the world, he eased into a lifestyle of writing, teaching, and political activism. With residences in Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Paris, Barcelona, and Barranquilla, he finished the decade by publishing The General in his Labyrinth in 1990, and two years later Strange Pilgrims was born. In 1994 he published his most recent work of fiction, Love and Other Demons. Today, García Márquez lives with Mercedes in Mexico City, where he has quit smoking and is in the perpetual state of "writing a novel."

Bibliography

Bell-Villada, Gene. García Márquez: The Man and his Work. Chapel Hill: University of Noth Carolina Press, 1990.

Bloom, Harold (Editor). Gabriel García Márquez. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

Dolan, Sean. Gabriel García Márquez. New York: Chelsea House, 1994

Dryfus, Claudia. "Playboy Interview: Gabriel García Márquez." Playboy 30, No. 3, February 1983. pp. 65-77, 172-78.

Hamill, Pete. "Love and Solitude." (Interview with GGM). Vanity Fair, March 1988. Pp. 124-131, 191-192.

Williams, Raymond L. Gabriel García Márquez. New York: Twayne, 1984.

Additional Information

Timeline -- A brief timeline for García Márquez's life and works

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