(1927-2014) Colombian writer, generally considered the premier Latin American literary figure of the last half of the 20th century. He is the central contemporary creator of texts in the mythopoeic mode known loosely as Magic Realism, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. GGM began publishing fiction with "La tercera resignación" ["The Third Resignation"] for El Espectador (Bogotá) in 1947, and has remained prolific for half a century. Like many later tales, this first effort – a Posthumous Fantasy set in an exorbitantly conceived afterworld – translates "classic" 20th-century influences like Franz Kafka into a densely tropical mise en scène, a world where the relationship between Reality and Magic is no longer simply a question of clear Perception, but where the two intermingle incessantly and arbitrarily. It is this sense of the epistemological permeability of the nature of Reality that, above all, makes magic realism in general, and GGM's work in particular, difficult to assess as fantasy. If Fantasy narratives can (in part) be defined as self-coherent Stories that readers know are fantasy, while at the same time giving allegiance to the telling, then GGM is a writer of pure fantasy only at rare moments.
Further GGM stories – some realistic, some fantastic – are assembled in Los funerales de la Mamá Grande ["Big Mama's Funeral"] (coll 1962), which appears with El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (1961) as No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories (coll trans J S Bernstein 1968 US); in Leaf Storm and Other Stories (coll trans Gregory Rabassa 1972 US), the title story being a translation of GGM's first novel, La hojarasca (1955), which has supernatural elements, and adding four stories from La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y de abuela desalmada (coll 1972); the three remaining stories from this coll appear in Innocent Eréndira and Other Stories (coll trans Gregory Rabassa 1978 US); all three volumes of translations are reassembled as Collected Stories (omni 1984 US). A further volumes is Doce cuentos peregrinos (coll 1992; trans Edith Grossman as Strange Pilgrims: Twelve Stories 1993 US). Of these stories, several are of particular fantasy interest. "Isabel viendo llover en Macondo" (trans as "Monologue of Isabel Watching it Rain in Macondo" in Leaf Storm) is another posthumous fantasy, and represents GGM's first use of the town of Macondo, a fantasticated Myth-irradiated Polder which appears again and again in his most famous works. "Big Mama's Funeral" depicts a congested, particoloured Revel. In "El mar de tiempo perdido" (trans as "The Sea of Lost Time"), from Innocent Eréndira, two men descend undersea to a transfigured world, where the live and the dead commingle. In "El ahogado más hermosos del mundo" (trans as "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World"), from the same collection, a dead Gulliver-like Giant is washed up on a beach, where he occasions an efflorescence of mythopoeisis.
But it is with his novels that GGM comes most fully into his own. The greatest of them tend to work through structures that commingle images of the eternal return of the Cycle of the Seasons and linear narratives through which timeless worlds are exposed to the secular desiccations of history (>>> Thinning). There is a sense in which Cien anos de soledad (1967; trans Gregory Rabassa as One Hundred Years of Solitude 1970 US/UK) transfigures the polder of Macondo almost literally into a Cauldron of Story. Within its compass, the family chronicle featuring the founders and residents of Macondo becomes a Creation Myth of Colombia. The passage from prehistory to linear Time is conveyed through a description of a plague of Amnesia, by virtue of which the inhabitants of Macondo must learn to recognize who they are by memorizing their Story. That Story becomes secular, and a notion of the increasing congestion of the world is conveyed through GMM's increasing use of images involving Labyrinths and Mirrors. This sense of the recursive complexity of the world is strengthened by the revelation – as the vast spiralling cycle of Story reaches its climax – that a Sanskrit manuscript now being deciphered is a fictional Book whose contents are in fact identical to the real book it contains. One Hundred Years of Solitude is, in other words, all Story.
Although varied in texture and substance, later novels have a similar redemptive take on the story and history of the Land; they include El otono del patriarca (1975; trans Gregory Rabassa as The Autumn of the Patriarch 1976 US), El amor en los tiempos del colera (1985; trans Edith Grossman as Love in the Time of Cholera 1988 US) and El general en Su Laberinto (1989; trans Edith Grossman as The General in the Labyrinth 1990 US). The first again treats a funeral in terms of revel: it contains a long and comically savage portrayal of the eponymous dictator, probably of a Caribbean Island, whose stultifying rule and egregious life are conveyed through Timeslips and satirical absurdities. Various cycles lead always back to ruin and death (Death presides over the Patriarch's final demise, when he is aged somewhere between 107 and 232 years). GMM has been for many years a writer dangerous to politicians (many of his works have been banned) and vital to the imagination of the world. [JC]
Gabriel García Márquez