Love in the Time of Cholera | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Gabriel García Márquez | Biography

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Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia, on March 6, 1927. The eldest of Luisa Santiaga Márquez Iguarán and Gabriel Eligio García's 12 children, he lived in his maternal grandparents' house for eight years while his father worked multiple jobs to support their large family.

In 1946, at his parents' urging, García Márquez entered law school at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá. During college, he read a lot of international fiction and began to write short stories. Several of these stories were published by El Espectador, a Bogotá newspaper for which he eventually became a reporter. Severe political unrest, known as La Violencia, rocked Colombia between 1946 and 1964. In 1955, García Márquez wrote a series of articles about a sailor from the Colombian Navy, which later became a novel—The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor (1970). The articles, published in El Espectador, revealed corruption within the navy. Military dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla was angered by the revelations and closed the newspaper. García Márquez, on assignment in Paris at the time and fearing possible reprisals, stayed in Europe while looking for work. His career in journalism took him to Venezuela, Italy, Spain, Cuba, New York City, Mexico City, and back to Bogotá. García Márquez's time abroad led him to criticize the patronizing view he believed many Europeans took toward Latin America.

In 1960, García Márquez returned to Bogotá and joined the Cuban news service Prensa Latina (Latin Press). Sympathetic to Fidel Castro and the Communist Party, he was transferred to New York City, where he wrote articles favorable to the Castro regime during the Bay of Pigs crisis, a failed military invasion of Cuban exiles supported by the American Central Intelligence Agency. García Márquez's association with Castro caused one U.S. journalist to comment on his "literary brilliance and political rottenness." After a stay in Cuba, García Márquez was denied admittance to the United States as a suspected communist.

Throughout his years in journalism, García Márquez worked on his fiction. He believed much of the inspiration for his stories came from the military and adventure tales told to him by his grandfather and the magical folklore related by his grandmother. Love in the Time of Cholera, his fifth novel, was published in 1985 and is the one that García Márquez considered his best.

Gabriel García Márquez said two love stories inspired him to write Love in the Time of Cholera: the courtship of his parents, Luisa Santiaga Márquez Iguarán and Gabriel Elijio García, and a newspaper article about an old American man and woman who met annually for 40 years to vacation together in Acapulco. As the couple approached age 80, they were robbed and murdered by a boatman, and each of their families discovered their affair. In the novel, Fermina Daza is moved to tears over the tragedy and thinks of the story often, especially on the riverboat New Fidelity.

García Márquez said in a 1988 interview with the New York Times book reviewer Marlise Simons, "I could not have written Love in the Time of Cholera when I was younger. It has practically a lifetime's experience in it." After decades of hearing his parents' love story, García Márquez decided to finally write it. He built parallels between his parents and characters in the novel. Like his mother, the character Fermina Daza attends an elite school, Colegio de la Presentación de la Santísima Virgen. To the dismay of García Márquez's grandparents, their daughter and Gabriel Eligio García—the father of García Márquez—carried on a clandestine romance through letters. Like the character Florentino Ariza, Eligio García was a postal clerk and telegraph operator who played the violin. Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza's courtship mirrors the courtship of García Márquez's parents down to their journey on muleback. García Márquez says the only difference between his parents' history and that of his characters is that his parents married. After their nuptials, his parents ceased to be interesting, which is why García Márquez introduced the tale of the American vacationers.

In 1982, García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, primarily on the strength of his 1967 narrative, One Hundred Years of Solitude. This novel is regarded around the world as a literary masterpiece and the best-known work of magical realism.

García Márquez succumbed to lymphatic cancer in Mexico City, Mexico, on April 17, 2014.

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