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Death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Colombian writer and Nobel laureate dies aged 87

He was considered the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century

Peter Apps
Friday 18 April 2014 09:02 BST
Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez was known affectionately as 'Gabo'
Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez was known affectionately as 'Gabo' (Getty Images)

Nobel prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez has died at the age of 87.

The literary giant, considered to be one of the greatest Spanish-language authors of all time, had spent nine days in hospital with a lung and urinary tract infection this month.

A source close to his family confirmed his death. He had been recovering from pneumonia in his Mexico City home since 8 April and was reported to have been in a fragile condition.

The Colombian author of One Hundred Years of Solitude was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer about 12 years ago and battled it successfully before being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2006.

He was admitted into hospital for an infection, dehydration and pneumonia. His death was confirmed by two people close to the family who spoke on condition of anonymity out of respect for the privacy of his wife, Mercedes and two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.

Reports in a Mexican newspaper this month that the cancer had returned and spread to his lungs, lymph nodes and liver were publicly denied by Colombian President Juan Manual Santos. “What they told me is that he had pneumonia, he has got over that, he remains in delicate health which is a reality of his age,” Santos told reporters after speaking to a member of Garcia Marquez's family.

“It is not true what was published in the Mexican newspaper that he is riddled with cancer, that's not true.”

The 1967 novel One Hundred Years Of Solitude remains his best known work, selling 30 million copies in more than 25 languages. In a career spanning more than 60 years his books - among them Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Love in the Time of Cholera and Autumn of the Patriarch - outsold everything published in Spanish except the Bible.

The author, whose career spanned journalism and fantastical novels said to have defined and popularised the genre of magic realism, has made few public appearances in recent years.

He was feted before the press on his birthday last month by friends and well-wishers who brought him cake and flowers outside his home in an exclusive neighbourhood in the south of Mexico City. He did not speak at the event.

Gerald Martin, Garcia Marquez's semi-official biographer, told The Associated Press that One Hundred Years of Solitude was “the first novel in which Latin Americans recognised themselves, that defined them, celebrated their passion, their intensity, their spirituality and superstition, their grand propensity for failure.”

Known to his friends as Gabo, he was highly political and campaigned for Latin American unity and an end to American meddling in the region. He had a personal friendship with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. 

Born in the small Colombian town of Aracataca, he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982 “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 Prize website.

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