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One Hundred Years of Solitude | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Gabriel García Márquez | Biography


Gabriel García Márquez was born on March 6, 1927, in Aracataca, Colombia, and lived in his maternal grandparents' house for eight years. Aracataca, the model for Macondo, was a village "where everybody knew everybody else." The village was founded on a riverbank where clear water "raced over a bed of polished stones as huge and white as prehistoric eggs." Those memories inspired the setting and events of One Hundred Years of Solitude.

As an adult, he returned to the village with his mother to sell his grandparents' house. As they rode the train, his mother showed him the square, where the army killed an "undetermined" number of banana workers in 1928. On this trip, inspired by everything, nostalgia "caught [him] by surprise." García Márquez describes returning to Aracataca as a major influence on his literary life. Not only did he gain his mother's blessing for his writing career during the trip, but he, then age 22, viewed the village as if "everything I saw had already been written," and his only task was to sit down and record it.

In addition, García Márquez modeled characters after important people in his life. García Márquez's grandfather—a retired colonel, "the most important figure of [his] life"—shares similarities with Colonel Aureliano Buendía. The tone of his masterpiece was inspired by the memory of his grandmother's seriousness when telling stories: "She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic ... with complete naturalness."

A political advocate for the Liberal left wing, García Márquez started writing stories for a local newspaper when La Violencia erupted—a 10-year violent political civil war between the Liberal and Conservative parties in Colombia fought primarily in rural areas. By the mid-1950s after penning political criticism, García Márquez's journalism career exiled him from Colombia to Paris, and then to New York through the early 1960s. This geographical and psychological distance from the conflicts of his homeland influenced his thinking about Latin American politics. Against elitism and imperialist influences in Latin America, García Márquez saw his writing as a means for creating "a Latin American identity" by drawing attention to Latin American culture.

Journalism not only supported García Márquez before he achieved literary fame, but it influenced his literary writing as well. He describes the level of detail that makes One Hundred Years of Solitude successful as a "journalistic trick" and a technique his grandmother employed in storytelling. He insisted that if one specifies that "there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants flying in the sky, people will probably believe you."

Before beginning to write the manuscript in 1965 at age 38, García Márquez hadn't written for five years despite having already written two novels, one novella, and a few short stories. While driving to Acapulco for a family vacation, the "ripe" voice arrived, and he turned around. He said, "I could have dictated the first chapter, word by word, to a typist." Afterward, he spent the next 18 months writing the manuscript while his wife, Mercedes, tended to the house. When he finished, they were $12,000 in debt and had to visit a pawnshop to collect money to send the entire manuscript to the publishing company Editorial Sudamericana in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

When his publisher told him they were printing 8,000 copies, García Márquez became nervous. His previous books (such as The Leaf Storm, published in 1955 by Ediciones SLB, and In Evil Hour, published in 1962 by Premio Literario Esso) never sold more than 700 copies. He asked the publisher to "start slowly." The publisher, impressed with the story, felt confident the copies would sell before the end of the year. Released in May 1967, the books sold out within the week. Reprinted and translated into many languages, the book has since sold more than 50 million copies.

In 1982 García Márquez won the Nobel Prize in Literature and continued publishing. He died on April 17, 2014, from lymphatic cancer and dementia. Months after his death, the University of Texas's Harry Ransom Center purchased his archives.

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