GABRIEL Garcia Marquez, the Colombian author whose beguiling stories of love and longing brought Latin America to life for millions of readers and put magical realism on the literary map, died on Thursday. He was 87.
A prolific writer who started out as a newspaper reporter, Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece was “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” a dream-like, dynastic epic that helped him win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
Garcia Marquez died at his home in Mexico City. He had returned home from hospital last week after a bout of pneumonia.
Known affectionately to friends and fans as “Gabo,” Garcia Marquez was Latin America’s best-known and most beloved author and his books have sold in the tens of millions.
Although he produced stories, essays and several short novels such as “Leaf Storm” and “No One Writes to the Colonel” in the 1950s and early 1960s, he struggled for years to find his voice as a novelist.
But he then found it in dramatic fashion with “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” an instant success on publication in 1967 that was dubbed “Latin America’s Don Quixote” by late Mexican author Carlos Fuentes.
It tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the fictional village of Macondo, based on the languid town of Aracataca close to Colombia’s Caribbean coast where Garcia Marquez was born on March 6, 1927, and raised by his maternal grandparents.
In the novel, Garcia Marquez combines miraculous and supernatural events with the details of everyday life and the political realities of Latin America. The characters are visited by ghosts, a plague of insomnia envelops Macondo, a child is born with a pig’s tail and a priest levitates above the ground.
At times comical and bawdy, and at others tragic, it sold over 30 million copies, was published in dozens of languages and helped fuel a boom in Latin American fiction.
Garcia Marquez, a stocky man with a quick smile, thick moustache and curly hair, said he found inspiration for the novel by drawing on childhood memories of his grandmother’s stories - laced with folklore and superstition but delivered with the straightest of faces.
“She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness,” he said in a 1981 interview. “I discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself, and write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face.”
Tributes poured in following his death.
“The world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers - and one of my favorites from the time I was young,” said US President Barack Obama.
“Your life, dear Gabo, will be remembered by all of us as a unique and singular gift, and as the most original story of all,” Colombian pop star Shakira wrote on her website alongside a photograph of her hugging Garcia Marquez.