Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Biography, Books & Short Stories

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and extensive experience working in the business world as Director of Marketing and Business Development at a financial advice firm.

This lesson is about noted Colombian author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We will discuss his life, and his works, including his novels and short stories. Read the lesson and take the quiz!

Literary Genius

'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.' These words were part of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's acceptance speech for his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, as he spoke about the concept of magical realism, a hallmark of his work. Indeed, in the suspended belief a reader takes on when reading Garcia Marquez's work, it is accepted that people can read minds, or fly, or see into the future. Garcia Marquez's writing is the best example of the movement of magical realism in the 20th century, opening a mental gateway from the known to the unknown, and living in the gap between the two.


Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born into poverty in Aracataca, Colombia, a setting that would feature time and time again in his work under a different name. His father worked several jobs to support his family, in which Garcia Marquez was the oldest child of twelve. His grandparents, his mother's parents, provided a home for the family, and were the primary support system that Garcia Marquez would draw from, especially in his writing, for years to come. He particularly loved their stories: his grandfather's of war and political activism, and his grandmother's of ghosts, spirits, and folk legends.

School took Garcia Marquez to Bogota, where he attempted to study law. However, the call of revolution was strong throughout Latin America, and he turned to journalism as his part of the world erupted in protests and violence. Writing became an obsession for Garcia Marquez, and his mind began to turn more toward literature. An interview with a sailor in 1955 made Garcia Marquez a target of the current administration, and he had to make a hasty exit for Europe. After arriving, his newspaper shut down, and he was left mostly destitute. While still in Paris, Garcia Marquez began to write steadily, producing short stories as well as novels.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

When he returned to Latin America in 1958, he married Mercedes Barcha, his partner from before he left for Europe. They would go on to have two sons. He developed a friendship with Fidel Castro and his administration in Cuba. This friendship would keep him out of the United States, labeled a danger and a Communist, for thirty years. It was President Bill Clinton who changed that due to One Hundred Years of Solitude being his favorite novel. Garcia Marquez continued writing, both his memoirs, and shorter pieces of work, until his last couple of years. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, but responded well to treatment. His brother stated that Garcia Marquez was suffering from dementia in 2012, but this was never confirmed. Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away from pneumonia in 2014 and was buried in Mexico City.

Books and Short Stories

Garcia Marquez was a prolific writer, writing short stories, novellas, and novels almost up until the end of his life. While he did not invent the concept of magical realism, his work was considered the flagship of the genre, with the idea being prevalent in the majority of Garcia Marquez's work. The reader is asked to suspend their beliefs of time and space and events and to accept a supernatural tie in, such as yellow flower petals raining from the sky before a funeral in One Hundred Years of Solitude, or a dictator reigning supreme for hundreds of years in Autumn of the Patriarch. These magical pieces are integral to understanding the concepts that Garcia Marquez conveys.

Love in the Time of Cholera
Love in the Time of Cholera

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