April 17

This Day in History

Literary

Apr 17, 2014:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at age 87

On this day in 2014, Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose novels include “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera,” dies at his Mexico City home at age 87. The Colombian-born Garcia Marquez, a master of magical realism, a writing style that blends reality and fantasy, was considered a literary giant of the 20th century.

Born on March 6, 1927, in the town of Aracataca in northern Colombia, Garcia Marquez, whose father was a telegraph operator-turned-pharmacist, spent his early childhood living with his grandparents, who later served as inspiration for some of the characters in his books. After studying law at college, he became a journalist while also pursuing fiction writing. In 1955, an article he penned angered Colombia’s dictator and prompted Garcia Marquez to flee to Europe, where he worked as a foreign correspondent for several years. In the mid-1960s, he plunged his family into debt while devoting himself full-time to writing “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” about the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo (modeled on Garcia Marquez’s hometown of Aracataca) and the family who founded it, the Buendías. Released in 1967, the critically acclaimed novel went on to be translated into dozens of languages and sell tens of millions of copies around the world. American novelist William Kennedy called it “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”

Garcia Marquez’s next novel, “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” about the dictator of an unnamed Caribbean nation, was published in 1975; the author referred to it his best novel. In 1982, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts," according to the Nobel committee. Three years later, he published the best-selling “Love in the Time of Cholera,” about two lovers who are reunited after half a century. Among Garcia Marquez’s later works are the novels “The General in His Labyrinth” (1989) and “Of Love and Other Demons” (1994); “News of a Kidnapping” (1996), a non-fiction book about Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel; and “Living to Tell the Tale” (2002), a memoir.

In addition to his writing, Garcia Marquez, nicknamed Gabo, was an avid supporter of various left-wing causes and a friend of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. For many years, the American State Department refused to issue the author a visa to travel in the United States, purportedly due to his links to the Colombian Communist Party in the 1950s. President Bill Clinton, a fan of Garcia Marquez’s writing, lifted the long-standing ban in the 1990s.

In 2012, it was announced that Garcia Marquez had developed dementia. He died two years later, on April 17, 2014. Afterward, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia called him “the greatest Colombian of all time” and declared three days of national mourning, while President Barack Obama said, “the world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers-- and one of my favorites from the time I was young.”

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