Obit of the Day: Gabriel García Márquez, Literary Pioneer, Dies At His Home in Mexico At Age 87
Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian novelist whose “One Hundred Years of Solitude” established him as a giant of 20th-century literature, died on Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87.
His death was confirmed by Cristobal Pera, his former editor at Random House.
Mr. García Márquez, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, wrote fiction rooted in a mythical Latin American landscape of his own creation, but his appeal was universal. His books were translated into dozens of languages. He was among a select roster of canonical writers — Dickens, Tolstoy and Hemingway among them — who were embraced both by critics and by a mass audience.
“Each new work of his is received by expectant critics and readers as an event of world importance,” the Swedish Academy of Letters said in awarding him the Nobel.
Mr. García Márquez was considered the supreme exponent, if not the creator, of the literary genre known as magic realism, in which the miraculous and the real converge. In his novels and stories, storms rage for years, flowers drift from the skies, tyrants survive for centuries, priests levitate, and corpses fail to decompose. And, more plausibly, lovers rekindle their passion after a half century apart.
Magic realism, he said, sprang from Latin America’s history of vicious dictators and romantic revolutionaries, of long years of hunger, illness and violence. In accepting his Nobel, Mr. García Márquez said: “Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination. For our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” would sell more than 20 million copies. The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda called it “the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since ‘Don Quixote.’ ” The novelist William Kennedy hailed it as “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”
Mr. García Márquez made no claim to have invented magic realism; he pointed out that elements of it had appeared before in Latin American literature. But no one before him had used the style with such artistry, exuberance and power. Magic realism would soon inspire writers on both sides of the Atlantic, most notably Isabel Allende in Chile and Salman Rushdie in Britain.
Suffering from lymphatic cancer, which was diagnosed in 1999, Mr. García Márquez devoted most of his subsequent writing to his memoirs. One exception was the novel “Memories of My Melancholy Whores,” about the love affair between a 90-year-old man and a 14-year-old prostitute, published in 2004.
In July 2012, his brother, Jaime, was quoted as saying that Mr. García Márquez had senile dementia and had stopped writing. But Jaime Abello, director of the Gabriel García Márquez New Journalism Foundation in Cartagena, said that the condition had not been clinically diagnosed.
Mr. Pera, the author’s editor at Random House Mondadori, said at the time that Mr. García Márquez had been working on a novel, “We’ll See Each Other in August,” but that no publication date had been scheduled. The author seemed disinclined to have it published, Mr. Pera said: “He told me, ‘This far along I don’t need to publish more.’ ”
Besides his wife, Mercedes, he is survived by two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.