Experience Colombia

The Colombian Nobel Prize winner afflicted by poetry

Since the day he was born, Gabriel García Márquez suffered from the disease of poetry: it was his grandmother who infected him and she told him not to worry about it, but instead to court his illness. This terminal disease accompanied him throughout his life with a sense of melancholy that was not noticeable, but only because he would fight it with music, friends and rum. It was the virus circulating in his blood that made it possible for his complex and fantastic literary universe to exist, and this same universe led him to win the Nobel prize after the publication of the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.

As he grew up, his disease worsened. At the age of 13 he could already recite by heart all of the Spanish classical poets; just after that, having discovered the “piedracelista” poetry movement with its enthusiasm and literary vehemence, he realised he had to be a writer. He started with poems, then went on to write short stories, which had enough potential to be noticed by Eduardo Zalamea Borda, director of the cultural supplement of the newspaper El Espectador at the time, who published them in his newspaper. And then he finally got to the novel.

Márquez never stopped writing or reading, even when he moved from the Caribbean to Bogotà to study law. Many say he would spend his Sundays reading books on a tram in order to get through the rainy days in the capital city. And that he also continued to do so after he had escaped this cold city towards the coast, where he started working for the newspaper El Universal. There, in a comfortable bohemian environment, Gabo met the masters of literature: Hawthorne, Melville, Poe, Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Sherwood Anderson, Dos Passos, Teodoro Dreisser, Conrad… Thanks to this background and the guidance of the most interesting Colombian intellectuals of the time, the writer was ready for his great novel, which he wrote drawing inspiration from the Caribbean stories of his family, stories that represented all of Colombia. To do that, he used a strong weapon, magical realism, a literary technique that has allowed him to demonstrate how reality can be as fantastic as fiction. 

It was not easy. While he was writing One Hundred Years of Solitude, García Márquez dedicated himself body and soul to the novel and his wife had to support them financially until the publication of the book (the writer finished it in a year and a half). But these sacrifices paid off, because the novel in question made García Márquez a star.

The writer then became a powerful man: he never minced his words and his political ideals put him in serious danger, to such an extent that he was exiled to Mexico where, even though he would often return to Colombia, he spent the rest of his life. His position as an intellectual allowed him also to focus on his other passions – friends, cinema and music – and to frequent political leaders such as Fidel Castro and Omar Torrijos. For this reason, he made many enemies but also played a key role in the release of political prisoners or in mediations with the dictator in power, when his task was to improve relations with their exiled opponents.

His political beliefs caused many controversies but they did not manage to dampen the power of his literary work, with which he has tried to combat oblivion and put into words the history of Colombia, to the rhythm of vallenato and magic realism.

28/10/2015

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