Isabel Vergara is an associate professor of Spanish. Her main research areas include the life, work and influence of Gabriel García Márquez.
Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian novelist whose “One Hundred Years of Solitude” made him a titan of 20th-century literature, died last Thursday. García Márquez, who received the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote novels, novellas, short stories and journalistic pieces.
Much of his work focused on the daily life and struggles of common people, often told through the voice of a sympathetic narrator. For this reason, García Márquez is widely read throughout the world and celebrated for his strong and enduring influence.
García Márquez was a master of the literary genre known as magical realism, in which the miraculous and the real unite. For him, magical realism was intrinsic to Latin America’s reality and history of colonialism and violence.
His literary work was a marriage of the artistic and the political. García Márquez was politically active throughout his entire life, and was considered a socialist and anti-imperialist. Though he supported Fidel Castro in Cuba, he also used his influence to help release political prisoners on the island.
In a New York Times essay responding to García Márquez’s passing, Salman Rushdie wrote the following: “No writer in the world has had a comparable impact in the last half-century.”
García Márquez also deeply explored the power of the dictator, especially through his later novels. In “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” considered his most difficult novel, and “The General in His Labyrinth,” he combined imagination with historical fact to probe the causes and effects of political power in Latin America.
In 1967 he published “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” a complex novel that chronicles at once the history of a family, a town and a country, as a metaphor for the history of Latin America. It is crafted with masterful sophistication.
The work, which earned him the Nobel Prize, helped disseminate the magical realism genre and provided inspiration for authors such as Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker.
“I dare to think that it is this outsized reality, and not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of the Swedish Academy of Letters,” García Márquez said at the time. “A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily deaths.”
Latin America and the world have learned a great deal from García Márquez. Both his literary and political work will continue to be influential for many years to come.