Master of magic realism, Marquez, breathes last in Mexico
Gabriel Garcia ‘Gabo’ Marquez, Nobel laureate and often hailed as the ‘most important writer in Spanish since Miguel Cervantes’, is no more. He died on 17 April in Mexico City. He was 87.
Born in 1927 in a remote Columbian town called Aracataca, the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and other widely celebrated novels was one of the most prolific and uniquely talented writers of the 20th century.
His appeal crossed over from enormous critical acclaim to staggering mass appeal. Putting Latin American literature firmly on the global literary map, Marquez achieved, within a decade of penning One Hundred Years, a literary fame that was unmatched by any of his peers.
Stylistically, he perfected the art of ‘magic realism’, the literary genre that he inherited from the likes of Jorge Luis Borges, Mario Vargas Llosa, building on the distinctive Euro-American voices, including those of Franz Kafka, William Faulkner, among others.
One Hundred Years remains one of the best-loved books of all time, selling over 30 million copies since its publication in 1967. Literary critics and readers still marvel at how Marquez managed to completely revolutionise writing, injecting a fecundity into global literature unprecedented since 19th century Europe discovered the novel, in form and content.
His later works dealt more overtly with narratives of Latin America, which Marquez distilled into a pristine yet polyphonous mix of mythology and folklore, history and human stories. The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), which Marquez said was a ‘poem on the solitude of power’, depicted a Caribbean tyrant, whose portrait was really a collage of the dictators then in power in various Latin American countries.
The Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981), his most brilliantly plotted novella, dealt with the trope of authenticity of narratives, and how a story can be told from several conflicting perspectives. His most ‘romantic’ novel Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) was an ode not only to the ideal of love, but also a fusion of Platonic and material, bodily love that survived years of separation and distance with ease.
In 1989, came Marquez’ account of the last days of Simon Bolivar – The General in his Labyrinth, a meditation on politics of the past to illuminate the politics of the present.
His memoir, Living to Tell the Tale (2002) enchanted many, with several revelations on his relations, some soured, some sustained, with fellow writers. The most famous literary friendship-turned-enmity from Latin American soil happened to be that between Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, as the latter supported the military juntas masquerading as regime in South American countries. The public fallout notwithstanding, the duo is still read and compared, remaining inseparable as far as the LatAm literary canon is concerned.
Salman Rushdie, in his 1982 essay on Marquez, called him the ‘Angel Gabriel.’ As Marquez succumbed to multiple illness – he was suffering from lymphatic cancer, Alzheimer’s and developed pneumonia in his last days – Mexico became Macondo, and the earth shook, literally. Yet, the ghost of much-loved Gabo will never leave his readers, from now, from the future.