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  • Writer's pictureNate Purdy

This Day in Writing History - May 30 – Gabriel García Márquez

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Many writers achieve fame through their work, but few pioneer a new style of writing in the process. During his long career, Gabriel García Márquez managed to do just that, utilizing to great acclaim a form that came to be known as magic realism. May 30 marks the publication date of what's considered by many to be Márquez's masterwork, the epic novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude".

Fiction was not Márquez's initial focus. As a young man, the native Colombian trained as a journalist in Barranquilla and fell into what was a thriving intellectual scene that provided no shortage of inspiration. Márquez's wide travel, including spells in Bogotá, Caracas, and Europe, conferred a nuanced, thoughtful perspective on the region and its culture as he covered a wide variety of topics for various magazines and newspapers.

Photo Courtesy of Chanticleer Books

The effort that would become "One Hundred Years of Solitude" represented a dramatic creative foray. Inspired by his family history and the stories his grandfather would tell, Márquez had wished to craft a novel based on those sources of inspiration. Struck by an idea, Márquez cut short his family's trip to Acapulco and returned home to immediately devote himself full-time to writing, a process which stretched to about eighteen months. He met with family friends on a constant basis, soliciting feedback and presenting edits.

In the process, Márquez developed a unique method of storytelling that was a reflection of his grandfather's oratory style, seamlessly blending extraordinary occurrences and phenomena with standard descriptions of everyday life and detailed, realistic settings presented in a consistent and matter-of-fact tone. This merging of the fantastic and the commonplace - magic realism - was intended to reveal greater truths about reality than could be attained through a more conventional narrative. It came to become Márquez's calling card following the smashing success of "One Hundred Years of Solitude".

Chronicling seven generations of the Buendia family in a Colombian village reminiscent of Márquez's hometown, the novel sold widely and led to Márquez being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. The associated prestige granted Márquez considerable visibility on the world stage, to the point that he was engaged as a mediator in negotiations between the Colombian government and rebel organizations.

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

These and other obligations, along with Márquez's fastidious writing process, kept his output relatively small as his career moved along. But there was never any shortage of plaudits as Márquez went on to examine dictatorship in "The Autumn of the Patriarch", romance in "Love in the Time of Cholera", South American history in "The General in His Labyrinth, and religion in "Of Love and Other Demons". In addition, Márquez worked heavily in screenwriting, penning over twenty films throughout his career, mainly in Colombia. Always devoted to his native land, Márquez grew into a role of intellectual elder statesman and cultural ambassador that he maintained up until his death in 2014.

Never one to shy away from a frank examination of humanity, Márquez demonstrated a fascination with life that was implicitly optimistic in its diligent expression. In a new round of trying times, his work serves to inspire perhaps now more than ever.

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