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Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in 1928 in Aracataca, a small town on the coast of Columbia. He lived with his mother’s parents for the first eight years of his life. He learned a great deal from them, for his grandfather had been a soldier in Columbia’s civil war of the 1890’s and his grandmother was a natural storyteller. The author writes of having received many inspirations from both of them.
Garcia Marquez went to law school for three years and then worked as a journalist for fifteen years, spending time in Columbia, Europe, and Cuba. During his time as a journalist, he began to write fiction on the side. His first novels include Leaf Storm (1955), No One Writes to the Colonel (1961), and In Evil Hour (1962). He also wrote a book of short stories, Big Mama’s Funeral (1962). After these first successes, he went for five years without writing any fiction.
Marquez began writing again after having a vision of the first chapter of what was to become his best novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. He had been driving in Mexico when the idea for the book came to him, so he stopped working as a journalist and devoted one and a half years to completing the novel, which he published in 1967. The book met with popular success and Marquez began to devote all his time to writing. His final books include The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981), and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). For his great literary contributions, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
Garcia Marquez is usually considered part of the second generation of Latin American writers. The authors of the first generation were writing in the late 1960’s and included Jorge Luis Borges of Argentina, Miguel Angel Asturias of Guatemala, Alejo Carpentier of Cuba, and Pablo Neruda of Chile. The second generation is led by Garcia Marquez and includes Julio Cortazar of Argentina, Guillermo Cabrera Infante of Cuba, Carlos Fuentes of Mexico, Isabel Allende of Chile, and Mario Vargos Llosa of Peru. The writing of the second generation, though very varied, is characterized by a combination of the political and the personal and the realistic and the magical. It also uses the innovations introduced by modernism.
Each of the second-generation writers has his or her own version of magical realism, the literary style that describes the magical as if it were real. It is not necessarily of Latin American origin, but it seems to be done best by Latin American writers. Garcia Marquez, in speaking about magical realism, says that it includes much that seems impossible and fantastic and frees up the imagination. The fifty-year longing of Florentino for Fermina is the major magical element in Love in the Time of Cholera,
Garcia Marquez often acknowledges the influence of William Faulkner, one of the most prominent of the modernists, on his own writing. The modernists, who dominated the American literary scene in the 1920’s and 1930’s, freed up the novel from its nineteenth century conventions. The modernists began to look into the minds of their characters and to tell their stories in non-chronological ways. Although Love in the Time of Cholera does not use as many modernist innovations as Garcia Marquez’s other fiction, it does employ an organic plot that is held together by events rather than pure chronology. The novel starts when the couple is elderly, then loops back to the beginning when Florentino first falls in love with Fermina. All through the novel, the lives the characters are picked up, described, and then dropped again, until the plot arrives back at the end.
Because so many Latin American countries have been besieged with civil wars, foreign interventions, and economic exploitation by multinational corporations, Latin American writers are very politically outspoken. Although Garcia Marquez has been politically passionate, identifying with the cause of socialism in Latin America and opposing outside intervention in Latin American politics, he does not often bring his politics into his writing, and none is seen in Love in the Time of Cholera.