Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The supreme storyteller, he changed his country’s reality

Appreciation

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A couple of years ago, the Colombian ambassador in London convened a celebratory lunch in honour of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Gabo, as he was known, could not have been there.

His memory had started to fade some years before. Time was, at long last, catching up with a resilient survivor who had already grappled with cancer. Yet it was still an extrordinary occasion: a noble tribute to an author from a nation whose global role he had not merely embellished but helped to redefine.

From the era of “La Violencia” in the late 1940s, Colombia has weathered more than its fair share of hideous bloodshed, factional strife and chronic instability. But there, on the other side of the balance, stood Gabo: perhaps the best-loved novelist of the entire postwar period.

Gabriel Jose Garcia Marquez, born on 6 March 1927 during a rainstorm in the backwater of Aracataca near the Caribbean coast, not only described but in a sense created today’s Colombia.

The author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera and other masterworks from The Autumn of the Patriarch to The General in his Labyrinth, he put his stamp on his country and on a worldwide republic of letters.

And the former journalist did so with a charismatic allure unmatched since the heyday of Hugo and Tolstoy in the late 19th-century. This supreme storyteller managed, via the magic of his art, to alter the shape of his country’s and his continent’s reality.

If Latin America can now hope to boom in freedom, that is in no small part because its writers – and above all Garcia Marquez – came out of the middle of nowhere and by sheer force of talent, will and imagination transformed that nowhere into the centre of the world.

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