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Gabriel Marquez

Gabriel Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Márquez (1927-2014) was a Nobel Prize-winning Colombian writer, part of the Latin American Boom and magic realism literary movement.

The Latin American Boom was a literary movement in which the works of Latin American novelists gained popularity and acclaim throughout the world. The works of this movement are characterised by their experimental style and political tone, which challenged the conventions of traditional Latin American literature. Notable writers from this movement include Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012) and Mario Vargas Llosa (1936).

Magic realism is a literary and art style which adds elements of magic to depictions of the real world.

Gabriel Garcia Márquez biography

Márquez was born on March 6th 1927, in Colombia. Between 1927 and 1936, Márquez was raised by his mother's parents, Doña Tranquilina Iguarán and Colonel Nicolás Ricardo Márquez Mejía. In 1936, Márquez and his brother returned to the care of their parents.

Early inspiration for Márquez's later works came from his grandfather and grandmother, who both told him fantastical stories based on real-life and historical events.

Márquez's grandfather fought on the Liberal side of the Thousand Days War and remained politically active until his death. The Thousand Days' War (1899-1902) was fought in Colombia between the liberals and the conservative government. Initially, this conflict was between the Liberal Party and the National Party, and it was later fought between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party.

In an interview, Márquez highlighted how his grandfather influenced his socialist political ideas, stating;

'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.'1

Márquez began his formal education after returning to the care of his parents. At first, Márquez undertook an internship in Barranquilla before studying at the Colegio Jesuita San José, where he published his first poems. Márquez later received a government scholarship and attended the Bogotá study house and the Liceo Nacional de Zipaquirá, from where he graduated in 1947.

Following his secondary studies, Márquez continued to pursue education, studying law at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. In 1948, Márquez's University closed following the Bogotazo riots and Márquez continued his studies at the Universidad de Cartagena.

The Bogotazo riots (April 9th, 1948) occurred in Bogotá, Colombia, following the assassination of presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. The riots lasted for ten hours and destroyed a large part of downtown Bogotá.

During this time, Márquez also developed his interest in writing and fiction. Márquez published his first work in the newspaper El Espectador on September 13th 1947. The work was a short story titled 'La tercera resignancion' ('The third resignation'). This short story was later published in Márquez's 1947 book Eyes of a Blue Dog (Ojos de perro azul).

Márquez stopped studying law in 1950 and instead went to pursue a career as a journalist, starting a career at the newspaper El Heraldo. Before this, Márquez wrote for the paper El Universal. In 1957, Márquez took on a permanent writer position at Momento, a magazine based in Caracas, Venezuela. Márquez worked for the paper for a year before resigning and becoming editor of the Venezuela Gráfica.

Whilst working as a journalist, Márquez published his first novel titled Leaf Storm (La Hojarasca) in 1955. Seven years later, in 1962, Márquez published In Evil Hour (La mala hora) before publishing his most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad), in 1967.

Despite Márquez's fame, he was denied a visa to the United States of America due to him speaking out against US intervention and imperialism. It was only after Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992 that Márquez was granted entry to the U.S.A.

In 1999, fifteen years before his death, Márquez began writing his memoirs after being diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. Before his death, Márquez wrote his memoir Living to Tell the Tale (2002).

Gabriel Garcia Márquez books

Márquez published twenty-five novels and collections of short stories during his lifetime. He was renowned for his ability to produce work which was appealing and accessible for everyday readers and popular among literary critics.

Notable works by Márquez include;

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
  • Love in the Time of Cholera (1985)
  • The General and His Labyrinth (1989)
  • Living to Tell the Tale (2002)

Did you know? One Hundred Years of Solitude brought Márquez international recognition, contributing to him winning a Nobel Prize in literature in 1982!

Bell-Villada noted in her 1990 book Garcia Márquez: The Man and His Work that Márquez often left out important information from his works to encourage the reader to be more involved in the novel's story. For instance, in Márquez's 1961 novel No One Writes to the Colonel, the characters are unnamed.

Commenting on his literary style in a 1998 New York Times article, Márquez stated;

You can investigate and try to discover what the best style would be for a theme. But the style is determined by the subject, by the mood of the times. If you try to use something that is not suitable, it just won't work.2

Márquez often used the fictional village of Macondo as a setting in his work. This village was based loosely on his hometown Aracataca in Colombia, and acted as a geographically and culturally ambiguous Latin American setting for his stories.

As we noted earlier, much of Márquez's work was inspired by his own family history. A notable example of this is his 1985 work Love in the Time of Cholera. Márquez based this novel on the courtship of his own parents!

When Márquez's parents first fell in love, his maternal grandfather did not approve of the match and tried to separate the two by sending Márquez's mother away. However, Márquez's father persevered and continued to come back until Márquez's maternal grandparents granted permission for his mother and father to be married.

Gabriel García Márquez criticism

Márquez's work was a combination of fantasy and reality, known as magic realism, through which he provided criticism of international and Latin American politics. Through maintaining a level of geographical, cultural, and political ambiguity in his work, Márquez presented both the Latin American experience and a universally understood human experience.

For instance, in his 1962 short story 'Big Mama's Funeral' ('Los funerales de la Mamá Grande'), Márquez satirically portrays organised public displays such as weddings and funerals to critique how power is manipulated to create imbalance. The story follows the death and funeral of Big Mama, opening with the statement;

This is, for all the world’s unbelievers, the true account of Big Mama, absolute sovereign of the Kingdom of Macondo, who lived for ninety-two years, and died in the odor of sanctity one Tuesday last September, and whose funeral was attended by the Pope.

This opening sets out the theme of power and how it is created and maintained. The Pope is an internationally powerful figure of religious prominence, suggesting to the reader that Big Mama must be a powerful person to have the Pope at her funeral.

However, the power which the legendary Big Mama appeared to have held seems more self-created by pompous displays and grand words. After her funeral, the garbage men come to sweep up the remnants of the village's display, marking an end to the story. This ending encourages the reader to consider power and its structures in a critical light, questioning whether Big Mama was as important as her funeral presented her to be.

Gabriel García Márquez quotes

Now that we know a bit about Gabriel García Márquez's life and literary works let's take a look at some notable quotes from his novels!

One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), Chapter One

At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.

Here, Márquez sets out the history of his fictional town, Macondo. The town appeared in two of Márquez's short stories before being used as the setting of One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is in this novel that we see the development of the town from a small, isolated settlement, to a thriving area of commerce, to a struggling and almost non-existent area destroyed by a banana plantation.

By introducing Macondo and its origins at the novel's opening, Márquez highlights how although the story of One Hundred Years of Solitude is inspired by real occurrences, he is creating his own fantastical mythology around it.

Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), Chapter One

"Fermina," he said, "I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love."

This moment sets up Love in the Time of Cholera's love story of Florentino and Fermina, as they fall in and out of love over the course of the novel. Florentino declares his love for Fermina at her husband's wake, just over fifty-one years since he first made such a vow of love to her. Although it is revealed that Fermina initially rejected Florentino, the character is determined to win her over, having spent the last fifty years trying to be worthy of her love.

'Gabriel García Márquez, The Art of Fiction', The Paris Review (1981)

It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there's not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality.

In this quote, Márquez highlights the cross-over of fantasy and reality in his work. Although Márquez utilised ambiguous locations and geo-political markers in his works, the contents of his stories were heavily rooted in real instances and issues. By not setting his work in a specific country or region, Márquez allowed it to be relatable to a wider audience, as the themes covered, such as love, power, and solitude, affect all of our lives.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Key takeaways

  • Gabriel Garcia Márquez was a Colombian writer who lived from 1927 to 2014.
  • Márquez was part of the Latin American Boom, a literary movement during which the works of Latin American novelists gained popularity and acclaim throughout the world.
  • Márquez's work was heavily inspired by the stories told to him by his grandmother and grandfather during his childhood, alongside real-life issues and events.
  • Although Márquez originally studied to become a lawyer, he never completed his degree and instead began working as a journalist, eventually going on to publish novels and short stories.
  • Notable works by Márquez include; One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), and The General and his Labyrinth (1989).

References

  1. Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, The Fragrance of Guava, 1983.
  2. Marlise Simons, 'Gabriel Marquez on love, plagues and politics', The New York Times, nytimes.com, 1988.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gabriel Marquez

Alongside becoming an internationally renowned author, Márquez was awarded a Nobel Prize for literature in 1982.

Márquez was born and raised in Colombia. He lived in Europe whilst working as a foreign correspondent for El Espectador, and later moved to Mexico City with his wife Mercedes and their children.

Márquez died in 2014.

Márquez published twenty-five novels and collections of short stories during his lifetime.  

Márquez obtained international recognition and fame for his 1967 work One Hundred Years of Solitude. 

Final Gabriel Marquez Quiz

Question

What year was Love in the Time of Cholera published?

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1985.

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What genre is Love in the Time of Cholera?

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Answer

Magical realism.

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What is the definition of magical realism?

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Magical realism is when a story with otherwise realistic plots and characters has magical or supernatural elements.

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What are two key themes in Love in the Time of Cholera?

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Answer

Ageing and sex.

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Why does Jeremiah Saint-Amour commit suicide?

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Because he fears ageing.

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How does Urbino die?

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Answer

Trying to retrieve his pet parrot from a tree.

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Why does Lorenzo disapprove of Fermina and Florentino's relationship?

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Because Florentino is of a lower class than the Dazas.

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Where do Florentino and Fermina consummate their relationship?

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On a boat on the River Magdalena.

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What are Florentino and Fermina judged for by society due to ageism?

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Wanting to begin a relationship.

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How does García Márquez represent sex in his novel?

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As liberating and natural.

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How does Florentino distract himself from his heartbreak over Fermina?

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By having a multitude of sexual relationships.

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What is ageism?

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Discrimination against someone based on age.

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Why did García Márquez use magical realism in his work?

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Because he felt it represented best growing up in Latin America.

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What do some critics think Urbino's parrot really is?

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A spirit.

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How does Love in the Time of Cholera go against societal norms regarding age?

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By allowing Florentino and Fermina to have a happy ending to their romantic relationship.

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What two genres does Love in the Time of Cholera fit under?

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Magical realism and romance.

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What are two key themes in Love in the Time of Cholera?

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Mortality and social barriers.

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What are two relevant elements of historical context for Love in the Time of Cholera?

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The political background of the novel and cholera.

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What did García Márquez's grandmother do that fascinated him?

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She told many supernatural folk stories.

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Which modernist particularly inspired García Márquez?

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Answer

Franz Kafka.

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Which novel of García Márquez's made him internationally famous?

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Answer

One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967).

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Which animals are shown to be supernatural in Love in the Time of Cholera?

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Birds.

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What is the definition of romance?

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A love story between two characters that may contain love triangles and difficulties.

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What event makes Urbino more aware of his mortality?

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The suicide of his friend, Jeremiah Saint-Amour.

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Which character represents Colombian society's strict social norms?

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Lorenzo Daza.

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Why does Fermina think Urbino is unmanly?

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Because he is becoming weak and frail with age.

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How did cholera reach Colombia?

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On European ships.

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Why does Lorenzo disapprove of Florentino and Fermina's relationship?

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Because Florentino is of a lower class than the Dazas.

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What positive view on mortality does García Márquez provide?

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Florentino gains more of an appreciation for the love he has for Fermina as he ages.

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What is cholera?

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A viral disease spread by infected water that impacts the intestines.

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Who was Gabriel Garcia Márquez?

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A Colombian writer and journalist.

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Which literary movement was Gabriel Garcia Márquez part of?

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Answer

The Latin American Boom.

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What was the Latin American Boom?

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A literary movement in which the works of Latin American novelists gained popularity and acclaim throughout the world. 

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When was Gabriel Garcia Márquez born?

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1927.

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When did Gabriel Garcia Márquez die?

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2014.

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Who provided early inspiration for Gabriel Garcia Márquez's work?

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His grandfather and grandmother.

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Question

Who is Gabriel Garcia Márquez referring to in this quote?


'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...'

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Answer

His grandfather.

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True or false: Márquez initially studied to be a lawyer.

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True! Although Márquez is best known for his literary achievements, he initially studied law.

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What was Márquez's first short story titled?

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'La tercera resignancion' (1947)

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True or false: Márquez began writing his memoirs fifteen years before his death.

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True. In 1999, fifteen years before his death, Márquez began writing his memoirs after being diagnosed with lymphatic cancer.

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True or false: Márquez grew up in a village called Macondo. He set the majority of his works in this location.

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Answer

False! Macondo was a fictional village created by Marquez. This village was based loosely on his hometown Aracataca in Colombia.

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Which of Márquez's novels was inspired by the love story of his parents?

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Answer

Love in the Time of Cholera (1985).

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In which work does Márquez open with a description of Macondo's history?

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Answer

One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967).

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Which of these is not a work by Márquez?

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Answer

The Feast of the Goat (2000)

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True or false: Márquez won a Nobel Prize in literature.

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Answer

True! Márquez won a Nobel Prize in literature in 1982.

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