Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel laureate whose novels and short stories exposed tens of millions of readers to Latin America’s passion, superstition, violence and inequality, died at home in Mexico City on Thursday. He was 87.
Widely considered the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century, Garcia Marquez achieved literary celebrity that spawned comparisons to Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.
His flamboyant and melancholy fictional works – among them “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” ”Love in the Time of Cholera” and “Autumn of the Patriarch” – outsold everything published in Spanish except the Bible. The epic 1967 novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude sold more than 50 million copies in more than 25 languages.
His stories made him literature’s best-known practitioner of magical realism, the fictional blending of the everyday with fantastical elements such as a boy born with a pig’s tail and a man trailed by a swarm of yellow butterflies.
“A thousand years of solitude and sadness because of the death of the greatest Colombian of all time!” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Twitter. “Solidarity and condolences to his wife and family … Such giants never die.”
Biographer Gerald Martin told The Associated Press that “One Hundred Years of Solitude” was “the first novel in which Latin Americans recognized themselves, that defined them, celebrated their passion, their intensity, their spirituality and superstition, their grand propensity for failure.”
Dozens of journalists camped outside the author’s Colonial red-brick home in a wealthy section of southern Mexico City, swarming the slow trickle of friends who came to pay respects to Garcia Marquez’s family.
“It’s a loss for all Spanish-language literature,” said Monica Hernandez, a 28-year-old fan who laid a bouquet of white flowers on the doorstep.
When he accepted the Nobel prize in 1982, Garcia Marquez described Latin America as a “source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune.
“Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”