This Day In Literary History
On March 6th, 1927, the legendary Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia. He was born Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez. His parents left him in the care of his maternal grandparents and moved away to seek their fortune.
Gabriel adored his grandparents. His grandfather, Colonel Nicolás Ricardo Márquez Mejía, was a hero of the Thousand Days War, Colombia's civil war of 1899-1902, where the Liberal Party revolted against the country's thoroughly corrupt Conservative government:
My grandfather the Colonel was a Liberal. My political ideas probably came from him to begin with because, instead of telling me fairy tales when I was young, he would regale me with horrifying accounts of the last civil war that free-thinkers and anti-clerics waged against the Conservative government.
Gabriel's grandmother, Doña Tranquilina, was a storyteller, and she would regale him with tales of ghosts, premonitions, omens, curses, magic, and such. She was "the source of the magical, superstitious and supernatural view of reality."
It was she who inspired his literary style of magical realism, in which magical elements and events are injected into ordinary, realistic situations.
While studying law at the University of Cartagena, Gabriel García Márquez switched gears and began a career in journalism, during which he would serve as a reporter, columnist, and editorial writer. In 1955, Márquez was working as a writer for the newspaper El Espectador when he uncovered a major scandal.
A Colombian Navy vessel had been shipwrecked in a storm in the Caribbean. The entire crew was washed overboard by heavy waves. After four days, the search was called off and all the men were declared dead.
However, several days later, the sole survivor of the shipwreck, Seaman Luis Alejandro Velasco Rodríguez, was found off the coast of Colombia. He had been drifting on the sea in a raft for ten days - without food. Rodríguez was given a hero's welcome, military honors, and tons of publicity.
When Gabriel García Márquez interviewed Seaman Rodríguez, a much different story came out than the one trumpeted by Colombia's conservative government and the media outlets that served it.
The Colombian Navy vessel had been shipwrecked not by a storm, but by its poorly secured secret cargo - illegal contraband goods - which had broken loose on the deck.
Márquez published a series of 14 news articles on the shipwreck story. These articles would be published in book form as a non-fiction work called The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.
The result was a huge public outcry over the fact that the government had lied about the shipwreck. Feeling the heat, Márquez's employers exiled him to Europe to serve as a foreign correspondent.
Around the same time he wrote The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, Gabriel García Márquez had published his first novella, Leaf Storm, a work of experimental fiction that takes place in one room during a period of thirty minutes.
The story tells of an aging Colonel - modeled after the author's grandfather - who tries to give a proper Christian burial to a hated French doctor.
Márquez would go on write more great novels, including One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). Steeped deep in magical realism and Latin American history, his novels also featured experimental narrative structures and non-linear plots. In 1982, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The awarding of the Nobel Prize to Márquez was considered highly controversial. Although he had become the most famous and celebrated writer in Latin America, he was denounced by right wing critics around the world, especially in the United States.
Márquez was a vocal opponent of U.S. imperialism and the suffering it caused in Latin America. This earned him the friendship of many Latin leaders, including Fidel Castro. For years, Márquez was deemed a subversive and denied entrance visas by the U.S. Department of Immigration.
However, when Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992, he overturned the ban and allowed Márquez to visit America. Clinton boldly declared that the author's classic work One Hundred Years of Solitude was his favorite novel.
In 1999, Márquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. He received chemotherapy at a hospital in Los Angeles. It proved to be successful, as he went into remission. His most recent work, a novella called Memories of My Melancholy Whores, was published in 2004.
Five years later, in 2009, Márquez's literary agent, Carmen Balcells, told a Chilean newspaper that the then 82-year-old author would never write another novel. Márquez vehemently died this, saying "Not only is it not true, but the only thing I do is write."
The following year, an editor at Random House revealed that Márquez was about to complete a new novel called We'll Meet in August. Conceived as a sequence of short stories, the book would go unfinished, as the author's health was deteriorating.
In addition to his other novels and novellas, Gabriel García Márquez also wrote short story collections, works of nonfiction, and movie screenplays. He died in April of 2014 at the age of 87.
A couple of the short stories from We'll Meet in August would be published on their own. Publishers are hoping to reach an agreement with the author's heirs to release all of the completed stories in book form.
Quote Of The Day
"Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood." - Gabriel García Márquez
Today's video features a clip from a documentary on Gabriel García Márquez. Enjoy!