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Obituary: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Obituary: Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or ‘Gabo’ as he was affectionately known, has died, age 87.

This footage, above, shows him waving to admirers on what was to be his last birthday. He emerges prompting well-wishers to break into song.

“Wake up Gabo,” go the words. “It’s daytime already.”

The writer was born on 6 March, 1927, in Aracataca, an inland river town of tropical Colombia near the Caribbean.

When he was five, his parents left him there, an only child in the care of his grandparents, Colonel Nicolas Marquez and Dona Tranquilina Iquaran. They both influenced the boy’s future vision of magical realism.

Gabo’s grandfather was a liberal hero of the Thousand Days’ War, a civil conflict on the eve of the 20th century, in newly-created Colombia.

His grandfather told him tales of Colombia’s history, filled with realism, while his grandmother talked to him about seeing the supernatural, the superstitious and the magical.

At a local Montessori School, with the pretty Rosa Elena Fergusson teaching him, he learned to write young, and she was his first love. He later won a bursary to attend the national Zipaquira High School.

Biographer Gerald Martin underlines what that did for him.

He said: “There’s no doubt Garcia Marquez is a genius, but without that scholarship One Hundred Years of Solitude would still be just a sparkle in the eyes of an unknown Melquiades.”

Garcia Marquez studied journalism and law, inconclusively, but then made his way as a columnist and correspondent travelling in Europe, including behind the Iron Curtain. Once established in Mexico, and after 18 months of intense work, he published his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Chilean poet Pablo Neruda called the 1967 work the best novel written in Spanish since Don Quixote.

Garcia Marquez would say: “The writing of fiction is a hypnotic act, hypnotising the reader to think only of the story you are telling him.”

Garcia Marquez was both a lifelong supporter of the Cuban revolution and a great admirer of literature from the United States. When he won the Nobel prize in 1982, in his acceptance speech he said he owed a lot to William Faulker.

In Love In the Time of Cholera, with its romance of later years, he wrote: “The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.”

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