April 18, 2014 - 09:33 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian author whose beguiling stories of love and longing brought Latin America to life for millions of readers and put magical realism on the literary map, died on Thursday, April 17. He was 87, Reuters reported.
A prolific writer who started out as a newspaper reporter, Garcia Marquez's masterpiece was "One Hundred Years of Solitude," a dream-like, dynastic epic that helped him win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
Garcia Marquez died at his home in Mexico City. He had returned home from hospital last week after a bout of pneumonia.
Known affectionately to friends and fans as "Gabo," Garcia Marquez was Latin America's best-known and most beloved author and his books have sold in the tens of millions.
Although he produced stories, essays and several short novels such as "Leaf Storm" and "No One Writes to the Colonel" in the 1950s and early 1960s, he struggled for years to find his voice as a novelist.
But he then found it in dramatic fashion with "One Hundred Years of Solitude," an instant success on publication in 1967 that was dubbed "Latin America's Don Quixote" by late Mexican author Carlos Fuentes.
Garcia Marquez was one of the prime exponents of magical realism, a genre he described as embodying "myth, magic and other extraordinary phenomena."
Although "One Hundred Years of Solitude" was his most popular creation, other classics from Garcia Marquez included "Autumn of the Patriarch", "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "Chronicle of a Death Foretold".
Like many of his Latin American literary contemporaries, Garcia Marquez became increasingly involved in politics and flirted with communism. He spent time in post-revolution Cuba and developed a close friendship with communist leader Fidel Castro, to whom he sent drafts of his books.
The United States banned Garcia Marquez from visiting for a decade after he set up the New York branch of communist Cuba's official news agency and was accused of funding leftist guerrillas at home.
Despite his reputation as a left-leaning intellectual, critics say Garcia Marquez didn't do as much as he could have done to help negotiate an end to Colombia's long conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people. Instead, he left his homeland and went to live in Mexico. The damning criticism he leveled at his homeland still rings heavily in the ears of some Colombians.
He was also a protagonist in one of literature's most talked-about feuds with fellow Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru.
The writers, who were once friends, stopped speaking to each other after a day in 1976 when Vargas Llosa gave Garcia Marquez a black eye in a dispute - depending on who one believes - over politics or Vargas Llosa's wife.
But Vargas Llosa paid tribute to Garcia Marquez, calling him a "great writer" whose novels would live on.
Politics and literary spats aside, Garcia Marquez's writing pace slowed down in the late 1990s. A heavy smoker for most of his life, he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1999, although the disease went into remission after chemotherapy treatment.
Garcia Marquez's most recent work of fiction, "Memories of My Melancholy Whores," got mixed reviews when it was released in 2004. The short novel is about a 90-year-old man's obsession with a 14-year-old virgin, a theme some readers found disturbing.
Garcia Marquez is survived by Mercedes Barcha, his wife of more than 55 years, and by two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.
When he was working, Garcia Marquez would wake up before dawn every day, read a book, skim through the newspapers and then write for four hours. His wife would put a yellow rose on his desk.
His last public appearance was on his 87th birthday when he came out from his Mexico City home to smile and wave at well-wishers, a yellow rose in the lapel of his gray suit.