|Gabriel García Márquez, 1927-2014|
Born in the Colombian village of Aracataca on March 6, 1927, Márquez was the oldest of 11 children, seven boys and four girls. In 1944, at age 16, his parents sent him to school in Zipaquirá, near Bogotá, where he discovered the writings of Kafka, Woolf, and Faulkner. Although he went on to study law, the 1948 assassination of Colombian presidential candidate Jorge Gaitan turned him toward journalism.On a personal note, let me say that I’ll never forget reading One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1974, in a damp, dark basement apartment near the University of British Columbia campus, where I was studying Creative Writing. (This was in the early days of MFAs: there were a total of 19 students in the entire program.) I read it obsessively in a little over a day and half, and the last 50 or 60 pages struck me like some kind of whirlwind. As I read the last few pages I could barely breathe, the small hairs on my arms seemed to prickle and lift as they do when charged with static electricity, and my whole body felt flooded with strange light. I read the book again almost immediately, but the second time through I was actually leery of reading the ending. It took me 10 years to work up to rereading the whole book. I should add that I had a similarly intense reaction to Chronicle of a Death Foretold, which for my money is Márquez’s greatest, certainly his most perfect, novel—a densely realized spur to catharsis on the order of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.
Márquez wrote first for the newspaper El Heraldo, in Barranquilla, often as a film critic under the pseudonym “Septimus”; after a period with the Cartagena de Indias newspaper El Universal, he returned to Bogotá in 1954 to write for El Espectador, the newspaper that seven years earlier had published his first short story, “The Third Resignation.” There he wrote articles and editorials focused especially on the violence that was then wracking Colombia. His 1955 series of articles, later published in book form as The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, cemented his reputation as an impassioned but clear-eyed journalist.
While Márquez never abandoned journalism, he continued to write fiction, publishing, in rapid succession, the groundbreaking collections Leaf Storm (1955), No One Writes to the Colonel (1957), and The Evil Hour (1971; published in English as In Evil Hour—only the translator Gregory Rabassa knows why). In 1967, Márquez’s first novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, created a worldwide sensation and was followed by the masterful Autumn of the Patriarch (1975) and Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981). The publication of Chronicle provided the occasion for the Swedish Academy to award Márquez the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
Márquez went on to write other brilliant novels, including Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), The General in His Labyrinth (1989), Of Love and Other Demons (1994), and Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004); two collections of stories, The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother (1972) and Strange Pilgrims (1992); the journalistic works Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littin (1986) and News of a Kidnapping (1996); and a volume of memoirs, Living to Tell the Tale (2002). He was perhaps the most admired and widely translated writer of his generation, with over 40 million books sold in 36 languages.
In 1999, Gabriel García Márquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, which brought his life to an end today, Thursday, April 17, 2014.
There are a few Márquez books I haven’t read yet, which places me in a dilemma. Do I “finish” Márquez, or do I reserve some of his work to read down the road?