The world responded instantly to the news of the death of Gabriel García Márquez, a Nobel laureate and a writer read and cherished by millions of readers everywhere. High praise for the artistry and humanity of his 15 novels and short story collections, from his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, reviewed for the Washington Post in 1970 by novelist Paul West, to Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2005), reviewed in Booklist by Brad Hooper, can be found in newspapers, on the radio, and all over the Web. But Márquez was never comfortable with public adoration and celebrity. Indeed, he poked fun of himself and the whole notion of the writer as hero or saint in Living to Tell the Tale (2002), which was to have been the first in a three-volume memoir.
His chronicle begins when he is 22, and happy to have abandoned law school to write. “For reasons of poverty rather than taste,” he writes, he looked like a hippie, with “a pilgrim’s sandals,” two decades before the counterculture. When his mother asks him to accompany her to their hometown, Aracataca, and help her sell their old house, their journey traverses both space and time as memories surface. The sight of his crib brings back an indelible moment in which he stood, clutching the bars and screaming to have his diaper changed. He was wearing new overalls and couldn’t bear the thought of their being soiled. “That is, it was not a question of hygienic prejudice but esthetic concern, and because of the manner in which it persists in my memory, I believe it was my first experience as a writer.”
Márquez also remembers “Lorenzo el Magnifico, the hundred-year-old parrot inherited from my great-grandparents,” who warned the family of an escaped bull charging toward the house; a duel that forever marked the family, and his parents. “The history of their forbidden love was another of the wonders of my youth.” Márquez continues,
“They were both excellent storytellers and had a joyful recollection of their love, but they became so impassioned in their accounts that when I was past fifty and had decided to at last use their story in Love in the Time of Cholera, I could not distinguish between life and poetry.”
As we mourn the loss of the man and reaffirm our appreciation for his spellbinding, soulful, and enduring works, we will forever be grateful to Márquez for his exceptional ability to discern the beauty in life, even in its tragedies, and to infuse literature with life’s infinitude of wonders.