Gabriel García Márquez Biography


In 1954, García Márquez was assigned to the Vatican as a correspondent for El Espectador. He had just completed Leaf Storm (La Hojarasca), his first serious writing, and he planned to become a director and film his own version of Leaf Storm. After some months of study, he moved to Paris and learned that the Rojas Pinella dictatorship had closed El Espectador and that he was jobless. He stayed in Paris and began a short story about violence. His language became more resonant and more rhythmic, with dialogue appearing more frequently than before. His long short story expanded quickly into a short novel (Leaf Storm), then two more novels appeared, the last which he completed first; it became No One Writes to the Colonel (El Coronel No Tiene Quien Le Escriba). He rewrote No One Writes to the Colonel eleven times; his first novel about violence was called La Mala Hora (The Evil Hour). In Paris, García Márquez said he lived on "daily miracles." He was a foreigner, not permitted to work, unable to speak French very well, and had run out of cash. He was living on credit in a Latin Quarter hotel and owed some 123,000-odd francs. He once said that he re-boiled chicken bones to make broth for his daily meals. The hotel, sensing his desperate straits, never tried to collect. The management trusted him, so he says, because they saw him working in his room the whole time. This kind of hand-to-mouth existence continued until one night when he sneaked into a maid's room. He was caught, but his new landlord let him live in an attic when his money ran out so that he was able to continue writing. Looking back on these three years of poverty, he concluded: "If I had not lived those three years, probably I would not be a writer. Here I learned that nobody dies of hunger and that one is capable of sleeping under bridges." In 1957, he sold newspaper editors in Bogotá and Caracas on the idea of a series of ten articles about the socialist Eastern European countries. Subsequently, he returned to Colombia to marry his fiancée, Mercedes, the model for the Mercedes of the "beautiful neck and sleepy eyes" in 100 Hundred Years of Solitude. (This fictional Mercedes is also engaged to a fictional Gabriel.)

García Márquez then moved to Venezuela when a newsman on a socialist country tour, Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, became editor of Momento, a Caracas magazine, and hired young García Márquez. It was there in Caracas, as he reported on the last days of the Perez Jimenez dictatorship, that he finished Big Mama's Funeral (Los Funerales de la Mama Grande), a collection of short stories published in Mexico in 1962. Only one story is set in Macondo, however; the rest are set in an unnamed town ("El Pueblo"). He left Momento and went to work for Venezuela Grafica, a magazine sometimes called Venezuela Pornografica in Caracas because it resembles both Playboy and Penthouse. García Márquez, needless to say, was not put off by the non-literary quality of his work. "I'm interested in personal life," he said, "I read all the gossip in all the magazines. And I believe it all."

After the Cuban revolution, he opened the Bogotá office for Prensa Latina, Cuba's revolutionary news agency. He had been a socialist since his militant student days at the university. Then, in 1960, he represented Prensa Latina at the United Nations' Fifteenth General Assembly — the same year former Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev used his shoe as a gavel there. He visited Havana and in 1961 went to New York to become Prensa Latina's assistant bureau chief. He resigned during an internal dispute concerning party ideology, leaving with his boss after only a few months in New York City. He says that his visa was withdrawn by U. S. immigration authorities while he was preparing to leave with his wife and son, Rodrigo, for Mexico City. This experience was to embitter him for some time afterwards. "New York," he said later, "was responsible for withdrawing my visa. As a city, New York is the greatest phenomenon of the twentieth century, and therefore it's a serious restriction of one's life not to be able to come here every year, even for a week. But I doubt if I have strong enough nerves to live in New York. I find it so overwhelming. The United States is an extraordinary country; a nation that creates such a city as New York, or the rest of the country — which has nothing to do with the system or the government — could do anything." When García Márquez received his visa back, he left immediately for Mexico City, going by Greyhound bus through the Deep South "in homage to Faulkner, with my books under my arms."

Continued on next page...

Back to Top