52 Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014)

Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014)


Contemporary Literature

Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges are the best known Latin American writers in history. Márquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, arguably mostly for his best known novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). Later novels that were also critically acclaimed include Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) and The General in his Labyrinth (1989).
Márquez was born in Colombia and raised by his maternal grandparents. His grandfather, a liberal war veteran, was an enthusiastic storyteller, and his grandmother was fond of telling fantastic stories that included ghosts, premonitions, omen, and other fantastical and gothic elements. Márquez was particularly influenced by her matter of fact treatment of the supernatural, which he later imitated in his writings through the use of “magical realism,” the incorporation of supernatural or “magical” elements into fiction that is predominately realistic.

In 1948, Márquez began his writing career as a journalist in Colombia while studying law at the National University of Colombia. In the mid-fifties, he moved to Caracas, Venezuela, and continued working as a columnist there. He later worked as a correspondent in Europe and traveled widely in the Southern United States (he was a devoted Faulkner fan) before settling in Mexico City. He later moved his family to Spain, where they were living when he became famous.
A committed leftist, Márquez eventually was critical of U.S. imperialism and for many years denied entrance to the U.S. until the ban was removed in 1991 by President Bill Clinton. In later life, Márquez moved to Cuba, where he supported the Castro regime.

In the short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” (1955), which Márquez claimed was written for children, includes elements typical of Márquez’s writing, particularly magical realism and folk elements. The elements of magical realism are characterized by the matter of fact inclusion of supernatural intrusions into everyday life. The folk characteristics here are directly traceable to Márquez’s upbringing in rural Colombia, where he regularly heard folktales from the region as part of his early education.

Consider while reading:

  1. How does Márquez use magical realism in “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”?
  2. Is Márquez conveying a religious message, or is this story simply folklore?
  3. What impressions do you take away from the story about the townspeople? The angel?

Written by Anita Turlington


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