The sixties will forever be remembered as a decade of social revolution, controversy and change. In Latin America, a region left trembling from the dynamics of the Cold War and surrounded on all sides by politically electrifying blockades and barriers, Gabriel Garcia Marquez offered an escape to the struggling public through his worlds of magical realism and historical fiction. His landmark novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, written in 1967, had an almost instantaneous effect on the way Latin American culture was viewed around the world.
But more than that, his writing changed the way you viewed your own life and limitations. Travelling by street-car in Colombia, García Marquéz once witnessed "a flesh-and-blood faun (get) on at the Chapinero station." Later, he accepted that he had fallen asleep on his journey and that the faun had been a figment of his imagination, but the experience opened his eyes to the potential of literature; "the essential thing for me was not if the faun was real but that I had lived the experience as if it were."
Stridently political, controversial in his friendship with Fidel Castro and simultaneously worshipped as "Gabo" by the people he wrote for, he became a pioneer of imagination. In 2002 Marquez published the first of a projected trilogy of memoirs, Living to Tell the Tale, which tells the story of his life from his birth in 1927 (in Aracataca, Colombia) and all through his meteoric rise to fame after the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude. While this remains his most famous work, he published many other novels and novellas such as Love in the Time of Cholera, Leaf Storm and The Autumn of the Patriarch, which all received varied critical responses. Reports of his failing health have been publicly chronicled as he suffered from dementia and lymphatic cancer. In 2005 he confessed it was ‘the first [year] in my life in which I haven't written even a line. With my experience, I could write a new novel without any problems, but people would realise my heart wasn't in it."
Yesterday, Marquez died aged 87, owing to complications caused by pneumonia. Hundreds of tributes began pouring in, with the Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos contributing "One Hundred Years of Solitude and sadness for the death of the greatest Colombian of all time." He leaves behind a wife and two sons, and reminds us all that ‘no matter what, nobody can take away the dances you’ve already had’, as he wrote in Memories Of My Melancholy Whores.
You can watch Marquez talk about his life as a writer in this extract from the documentary Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Witch Writing: