Best known as the author of the prizewinning One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez began life in Aracataca, Colombia, on March 6, 1928. The son of poor parents, Gabriel Eligio Garcia and Luisa Santiaga Marquez Iguaran, Garcia Marquez lived with his grandparents for the first eight years of his life. According to Marquez, this is a common practice in the Caribbean. In his case, though, his grandparents offered to raise him as a reconciliatory gesture towards their daughter after opposing her marriage to Garcia Marquez’s father. As a result, Garcia Marquez grew up in a house with his grandparents, aunts, and uncles and hardly knew his mother. His extended family regaled him with stories: the women told tales of superstition and fantasy, while the men-especially his grandfather-kept him grounded in reality.
In 1947 Garcia Marquez entered the National University of Colombia, in Bogota, to study law. He had to transfer to the University of Cartagena when civil war erupted and closed the university in Bogota. There he began his work as a journalist. He dropped out of college to work as a reporter for the daily paper, El Heraldo, in Barranquilla and began writing short stories. He had published his first short story, “The Third Resignation,” in 1946. The editor of the Bogota newspaper that had published it, El Espectador, hailed Garcia Marquez as the “new genius of Colombian letters.” Garcia Marquez himself, however, was not satisfied with his writing, until a visit back to Aracataca, which was, according to Garcia Marquez, a crucial turning point in his writing. He said in a 1983 Playboy interview with Claudia Dreifus, “That day, I realized that all the short stories I had written to that point were simply intellectual elaborations, nothing to do with my reality.” Garcia Marquez’s writing from that point on reflects the influences of his grandmother’s storytelling as well as the myths, superstitions, and lifestyle of the people in Aracataca. Leaf Storm introduced the fictional setting of Macondo (named for a banana plantation he saw on his trip back to Aracataca) and its inhabitants. Reviewers think the setting resembles William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.
Even though Garcia Marquez started his most celebrated novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, when he was only twenty, he did not feel that he knew what he really wanted to say in it until about thirteen years later. Garcia Marquez says in the Playboy interview that he was driving to Acapulco when he suddenly had an “illumination” of the tone and everything in the story. Upon his return home, he began writing for six hours a day over the next eighteen months. His wife, Mercedes-whom he married in 1958-cared for their two young sons and supported him.
The resulting book established Garcia Marquez as “one of the greatest living storytellers,” according to Time magazine correspondent R. Z. Sheppard. He has written several critically acclaimed novels and short stories since then. Chronicle of a Death Foretold further developed his reputation as political novelist, and he later wrote both fictionalized and nonfiction accounts of Latin American history. Garcia Marquez’s works have won numerous awards, including the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature.