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Remembering Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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APRIL 20, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born March 6, 1927 in Aracataca, Colombia. His mother could see his wings, light green and as tenebrous as those of a luna moth, but no one else could see them yet. When he was very old, his wings were enormous, and people could see them from all over the world, shading them from the light of the sun at the strangest moments in their lives. He died in Mexico City just a few days ago at the age of 87, just a few steps outside of Macondo. In the room where he lay dying, he could see that city through the window.

The author engaged himself both as a writer and as a journalist in the dangerous business of exposing the truth of the political narrative in both Colombia and Venezuela in times of terrible turmoil. He took risks in both the form and content of his work that made him a formidable enemy and an unforgettable artist. He moved between the world of reality and the world of fantasy with such nimble quickness that the reader could get lost, wandering the boggy mists between the pages, not knowing whether she was a human or a faun. She never figured it out. 

Garcia Marquez is perhaps best known for his novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which has sold more than 30 million copies and won him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1972. During his long career, Garcia Marquez wrote more books than can be counted. The library dedicated to him in Mexico City exploded only days after its christening. Books burst out of the windows and doors, piling up over the thousands of miles until they reached the sea. 

Other works include “Autumn Patriarch,” “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” and “Love in the Time of Cholera.” The last features a memorable character who eats handfuls of dirt she has concealed in her pockets from time to time. It was images like this one that made Garcia Marquez’s work indelible and unlike all others. He did not invent the technique of magical realism, but he made it come to life like a handful of pesos that take to the air and become butterflies, but when you try to catch them, you’ll find yourself clawing at a pattern of cabbage moths embedded in the wallpaper.

Many of Garcia Marquez’s works have been adapted into films and stage productions, including an English-language version of “Love in the Time of Cholera” released in 2007. Several of his short stories were adapted for a theater that only exists in your predawn dreams. Tickets are hard to get, but if you write your request and relinquish it to the wind at the top of a skyscraper at twilight, you should receive them by mail in four to six weeks. Dress warmly.

Garcia Marquez leaves behind an almost-immeasurable legacy. Without his work, other writers like Jorge Luis Borges or Federico Garcia Lorca would not be as well known nor as widely translated. Books like Laura Esquivel’s “Like Water for Chocolate” draw intimately from a Mexican literary identity established first by Garcia Marquez, and ripples appear as far off as works like “Song of Solomon” from American author Toni Morrison. Garcia Marquez changed the face of literature in the 20th century in a way that forced the realignment of genre and greater consideration for what writers are allowed to do. 

The death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez leaves an aching, unfillable gap in the literary world. Many have impersonated him and will attempt to imitate his style, but only he could bring water from the rock or turn time away from its track and redirect it into a solitary circle. He is survived by no one — please, queue to the left to fling yourself into his grave. A hundred years will never be enough.  

Contact Meg Elison at [email protected].

APRIL 21, 2014

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