I am foregoing Friday Favourites today so that I may address the passing of a beloved writer, nobel laureate and tremendous inspiration: Gabriel García Márquez. When I speak of literary influences, I think of those men and women, a small handful of poets, playwrights and novelists who set my mind ablaze as a young girl —those who instilled a profound adoration of literature in me and a personal desire to grow as a writer, reader and receptor of knowledge and creativity. The extraordinary Márquez was one such individual.
I first read 100 Years of Solitude, Marquez’s seminal magical realist work, many years ago. It was my first introduction to the genre, and to Latin American writing in general, which has since expanded to include literary favourites such as Jorge Luis Borges, Alejo Carpentier, Miguel Angel Asturias, Mario Vargas Llosa, Pablo Neruda and Isabel Allende, among numerous others. Márquez’s ability to tell a multi-generational story was riveting; figurative language leapt off the page as it spun tales of unravelling fatalism, despair, thwarted romance and even comedy. I was compelled by the surrealism of it all, immersed in the lives of these entwined, flawed characters and their pursuit of mistaken ideals. The overarching passion, superstition and response to dictatorship and revolution were something that I had not really encountered before in such an overt manner, and I was hooked.
Since those early days when I discovered Gabo’s masterpiece, I have read all of his other works, often re-reading them in either English or French over the years; my comprehension of Spanish is quite limited, and I have long regretted the fact that I have had to read these works in translation. That being said, I have never felt bereft of the powerful emotions that course through his work, and feel as though his luminous voice speaks assertively and with great conviction — that we as readers are informed by his original intentions and rise to understand them.
Today, like many other international leaders and thinkers around the world, President Obama offered his condolences, saying that with the death of Márquez, “the world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers.” Jonathan Kandell of The New York Times called Márquez “a conjurer of literary magic.” But perhaps the most on-point was written in The Guardian by Peter Carey (himself a two-time winner of the Booker Prize): “Like Joyce and Eliot, Márquez gave a light to follow into the unknown. He made us braver, he returned us to the path of story and he showed us, thank you Sir, that a large and generous heart is no impediment to genius.”
Farewell, kind Sir. A voice that privileges the redemption of love while exposing the corruption of power will never be extinguished. Thank-you for a lifetime of enchantment.