Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Creator of the Magic Realism Movement in Latin-American Literature

By Vijh, Surekha | The World and I, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Creator of the Magic Realism Movement in Latin-American Literature


Vijh, Surekha, The World and I


Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of the major writers of the 20th century, writes because it is the call he hears and it is the passion he feels. He has gone from a robust passionate writer to an aging melancholic one in a long creative life.

One of the major sophisticated literary artists, Garcia Marquez has attained broad popularity in his lifetime. His masterpiece, "One Hundred Years of Solitude," has sold tens of millions of copies world wide. His later works have enjoyed equally astounding sales. He received the highest official recognition with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982

Gabriel Jose Garcia Marquez was born on March 6, 1928 (although his father contended that it was really 1927)in the small town of Aracataca, situated in a tropical region of northern Colombia, between the mountains and the Caribbean Sea. As the time would have it, 1928 was the last year of the banana boom in Aracataca. The strike and its brutal retaliation hit the town hard: hundreds of strikers were shot one night in Aracataca and dumped into a mass grave. It was a murky start to Gabriel's life, one that would later recur in his later writing.

Garcia Marquez's parents were still poor and were going through a difficult time. His maternal grandparents took the task of raising him, a common practice at the time. His grandfather, a pensioned colonel from the civil war at the turn of the century, was something of a hero to the costenos, for among other things, he refused to stay silent about the banana massacres, delivering a searing enunciation of the murders to Congress in 1929.

A complex and interesting man, the colonel was also a master storyteller. He had led quite an intriguing life. When he was younger he shot and killed a man in a fight, and it said that he fathered over sixteen children from different women. He would relate his wartime exploits as if they were "almost pleasant experiences, sort of youthful adventures with guns." He taught his grandson Gabriel lessons from the dictionary, took him to the circus each year, and was the first one who introduced him to ice, a miracle to be found at the UFC company store. He also told young Gabriel that there was no greater burden than to have killed a man, a lesson that Garcia Marquez would later use in his characters� conversation.

Gabriel's grandmother, Tranquilina Iguaran Cotes, was a homemaker. She influenced the young Garcia Marquez immensely, like her husband. Astoundingly, she believed in superstitions and folk tales. The house was filled with numerous of her sisters who also told stories of ghosts and premonitions, omens and portents. All of these ideas were diligently ignored by her husband, who even told young Gabriel: "Don't listen to that. Those are women's beliefs." But young Gabriel believed in everything his grandmother talked about. She had a simple yet convincing way of telling her stories. No matter how unbelievable or unlikely her statements, she always conveyed them as if they were the unarguable truth. Marquez would later remark that her beliefs had him afraid to leave his chair, half frightened of ghosts. Some thirty years later, her grandson would use all that in his greatest novel.

Nicknamed Gabito, little Gabriel grew a quiet and shy child. All the seeds of his future work were planted in that house; stories of the civil war and the banana massacre, the courtship of his parents, the sturdy practicality of the superstitious matriarch, the comings and goings of aunts, great aunts, and his grandfather's illegitimate daughters. Yet, it was his most treasured time. As Garcia Marquez would put it: "I feel that all my writing has been about the experiences of the time I spent with my grandparents."

The good time did not last long. Garcia Marquez's grandfather passed away when he was only eight years old, and his grandmother was losing her eyesight. In the circumstances, he was sent to his parents in Sucre, where his father worked as a pharmacist. …

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