Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Notes on Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez spent his early childhood in Aracataca, a village near the Caribbean coast of Colombia. He began to write fiction when he was nineteen. He worked as a journalist in Colombia until, in 1955, a story he wrote exposing government corruption prompted Colombia’s dictator to close down the paper. After living in various cities in Europe and the Americas, he chose Mexico City as his home.

García Márquez became famous in 1967 with the publication of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which is considered a master piece of magic realism. In more recent novels, he continued to use innovative techniques to explore myths, history, and politics. He was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature in 1982.

Gabriel García Márquez has usually taken the life and customs—and the legends—of Colombia’s coastal region as his subject. Many of his novels and stories are set in Macondo, a fictional version of the village where he grew up. His native region provided him with materials for his writings as well as a distinct way of viewing the world. “In the Caribbean, we are capable of believing anything, “García Márquez once said. “I think that gives us an open-mindedness to look beyond apparent reality.”

According to García Márquez, he modeled many of his characters on his grandparents “because I knew how they talked, how they behaved.” His grandfather, a retired colonel, told the boy stories of his own experiences in the fierce civil war Colombian call “the War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902). His grandmother, on the other hand, told the boy stories, based on the region’s folklore, of ghosts and omens and mysterious happenings. From his grandmother, García Márquez learned the art of “saying incredible things with a completely unperturbed face.”

García Márquez’s literary reputation is inseparable from the term magical realism, a phrase that literary critics coined to describe the distinctive blend of fantasy and realism in his and many other Latin American authors’ work. Magical-realist fiction consists of mostly true-to-life narrative punctuated by moments of whimsical, often symbolic, fantasy described in the same matter-of-fact tone. Magical realism has become such an established form in Latin America partly because the style is strongly connected to the folkloric storytelling that’s still popular in rural communities. The genre, therefore, attempts to connect two traditions—the “low” folkloric and the “high” literary—into a seamless whole that embraces the extremes of Latin American culture. As the worldwide popularity of García Márquez’s writing testifies, it is a formula that resonates well with readers around the world.

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