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Summary Article: García Márquez, Gabriel (1927–)
from World Literature in Spanish: An Encyclopedia

Considered Latin America's most influential writer, this Colombian author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. His intellectual formation was conditioned early on by his work as a journalist and his participation in the Grupo Barranquilla intellectual gathering, through which he was introduced to the novels of William Faulkner. Following the idea of a place like Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, García Márquez created Macondo, an imaginary village in Colombia's tropical jungle where reality and supernatural elements meet to form the world of magical realism.

His most important novel, Cien años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1970), tells the story of Macondo, beginning with its founders José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula Iguarán. All the men in the family are named either Arcadio or Aureliano: the Arcadios are very strong and dominant, in contrast to the quiet, lonely Aurelianos. Civil wars between conservative and liberal politicians and American imperialism, seen through the actions of the powerful banana company nearby, serve as the backdrop for Macondo's history and the Buendía family saga. Most male characters die violently. In a style reminiscent of Miguel de Cervantes's iconic Don Quijote de la Mancha, readers become mesmerized by the novel's rich panoply of characters and situations and by how the most mundane activities become extraordinary and the most extraordinary events turn trivial.

His next novel, El otoño del patriarca (1975; The Autumn of the Patriarch, 1976), forms part of the Latin American dictator novel genre that was typical of the Boom movement; it narrates the life of a Caribbean dictator and explores the loneliness and corruption of power. Crónica de una muerte anunciada (1981; Chronicle of a Death Foretold, 1983) presents a murder story narrated in reverse chronology from the perspectives of five individuals; ultimately, the whole community becomes an accomplice to the murder because no one tries to stop it, even though each of them knows beforehand what is planned.

The complex novel El amor en los tiempos del cólera (1985; Love in the Time of Cholera, 1988) centers on the power of love and the ability of narrative to make an exaggeratedly lecherous character endearing to readers. García Márquez has also published the first volume of his memoirs under the title Vivir para contarla (2002; Living to Tell the Tale, 2003). The most important of his novellas, El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (1961; No One Writes to the Colonel, 1968), offers a story of desperation and poverty in which, after wartime service, a liberal officer does not receive his promised government pension.

García Márquez possesses the uncanny ability to construct texts with dense, baroque language, rich in multiple meanings, that nonetheless remain easily understood by readers and subjects them to a rollercoaster of emotions. This emotional reading impedes a more rational understanding of his writing. For this reason, García Márquez's novels require multiple readings to allow readers to uncover the numerous layers of meaning and rhetorical traps set by the narrator.

See also Colombian Exile Writers; Novel in Spanish America: Boom Literature: 1950–1975.

Work By:
  • Love in the Time of Cholera. Trans. Edith Grossman. Knopf New York, 1988.
  • Memories of My Melancholy Whores. Trans. Edith Grossman. Vintage New York, 2005.
  • Strange Pilgrims. Trans. Edith Grossman. Penguin New York, 1993.
  • Work About:
  • Bell-Villada, Gene H., ed. Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude: A Casebook. Oxford University Press New York, 2002.
  • Van Delden, Maarten, and Yvon Grenier. Gunshots at the Fiesta: Literature and Politics in Latin America. Vanderbilt University Press Nashville, TN, 2009.
  • Oropesa, Salvador A.
    Copyright 2011 by Maureen Ihrie and Salvador A. Oropesa

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