'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
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Friday, April 18, 2014
Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel laureate writer, dies aged 87
The Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, who unleashed the worldwide boom in Spanish language literature and magical realism with his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, died at the age of 87. He had been admitted to hospital in Mexico City on 3 April with pneumonia.
Matching commercial success with critical acclaim, García Márquez became a standard-bearer for Latin American letters, establishing a route for negotiations between guerillas and the Colombian government, building a friendship with Fidel Castro and maintaining a feud with fellow literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa that lasted more than 30 years.
Barack Obama said the world had lost "one of its greatest visionary writers", adding that he cherished an inscribed copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, presented to him by the author on a visit to Mexico. "I offer my thoughts to his family and friends, whom I hope take solace in the fact that Gabo's work will live on for generations to come."
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said yesterday via Twitter: "A thousand years of solitude and sadness at the death of the greatest Colombian of all time. Solidarity and condolences to his wife and family ... Such giants never die."
Journalists gathered outside García Márquez's house in Mexico City in the hope that one of the family members who was reportedly at his side would emerge.
Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto expressed sadness at the death of "one of the greatest writers of our time," in the name of Mexico, the novelist's adopted home. Chilean writer Luis Sepúlveda was quoted by the Mexican newspaper Reforma as saying that he was "the most important writer in Spanish of the 20th century", central to the Latin American literary boom that "revolutionised everything: the imagination, the way of telling a story, and the literary universe".
The Colombian singer Shakira wrote: "We will remember your life, dear Gabo, like a unique and unrepeatable gift, and the most original of stories."
Born in a small town near the northern coast ofColombia on 6 March 1927, García Márquez was raised by his grandparents for the first nine years of his life and began working as a journalist while studying law in Bogotá.
A series of articles relating the ordeal of a Colombian sailor sparked controversy and saw him travel to Europe as a foreign correspondent in 1955, the year in which he published his first work of fiction, the short novel Leaf Storm. Short stories and novellas with the realism of Hemingway as their inspiration followed, but after the publication of The Evil Hour in 1962 García Márquez found himself at an impasse.
Speaking to the Paris Review in 1981 he explained how he decided his writings about his childhood were "more political" than the "journalistic literature" he had been engaged with. He wanted to return to his childhood and the imaginary village of Macondo he had created in Leaf Storm, but there was "always something missing". After five years he hit upon the "right tone", a style "based on the way my grandmother used to tell her stories".
"She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness," García Márquez said. "When I finally discovered the tone I had to use, I sat down for 18 months and worked every day."
Right from the elliptical opening sentence – which finds Colonel Aureliano Buendía facing a firing squad and remembering the "distant afternoon" many years before when "his father took him to discover ice" – One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves together the misfortunes of a family over seven generations. García Márquez tells the story of a doomed city of mirrors founded in the depths of the Colombian jungle with the "brick face" his grandmother used to tell ghost stories, folk tales and supernatural legends.
The novel was an instant bestseller, with the first edition of 8,000 copies selling out within a week of its publication in 1967. Hailed by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda as "perhaps the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since Don Quixote of Cervantes", One Hundred Years of Solitude went on to win literary prizes in Italy, France, Venezuela and beyond, appearing in more than 30 languages and selling more than 30m copies around the world. García Márquez forged friendships with writers such as Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortazar and Vargas Llosa – a friendship that ended in the 1970s after Vargas Llosa floored the Colombian with a punch outside a Mexico City cinema.