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Gabriel Jose García Márquez: 1928—: Author, Journalist

A Childhood Steeped In Myth

García Márquez was born on March 6, 1928, in Aracataca, Colombia, a small town on the Caribbean coast to which his mother's family had moved after her father, Colonel Nicolas Marquez Mejfa, had killed a man in a duel. The oldest child of 11 siblings, García Márquez grew up in Aracataca with his maternal grandparents, who nurtured the budding writer's imagination with fascinating stories of local history and family events. The Colonel reminisced frequently about his youth during the country's civil wars, while the boy's grandmother, who claimed to converse with ghosts and spirits, recounted family legends and became the boy's "source of the magical, superstitious and supernatural view of reality," as García Márquez described it in a New York Times Book Review piece quoted in Dictionary of Hispanic Biography.

Among the more memorable family stories was that of García Márquez's parents' courtship. "This history of their forbidden love was one of the wonders of my youth," he wrote in "Seranade," a piece published in New Yorker. So impassioned were his parents' accounts of the affair, he observed, that when he attempted to write about the subject in his novel Love in the Time of Cholera "I couldn't distinguish between life and poetry." It was the Colonel who disapproved of Gabriel Eligio Garcia as a suitor for his daughter, Luisa Santiaga; the young telegraph operator had a reputation as a womanizer and had been born out of wedlock to a fourteen-year-old girl who went on to have six other children by three different men. "It is surprising that Colonel Marquez was so disquieted by this irregular conduct," García Márquez wrote, "when the Colonel himself had fathered, in addition to his three official children, nine more by different mothers, both before and after his marriage, and all of them were welcomed by his wife as if they were her own." Gabriel Eligio Garcia was also a political conservative—the party against whom the Colonel had fought in the civil wars—and had few financial prospects. After a passionate courtship that included violin serenades, exile, and even the purchase of a revolver by which Gabriel Eligio Garcia hoped to protect himself from the Colonel's wrath, the couple eloped. When Luisa Santiaga announced her first pregnancy, however, her parents welcomed her and her husband back to Aracataca, where the writer was born in his grandparents' house. García Márquez grew up with ten younger siblings and also has several half siblings from his father's extramarital affairs.

At a Glance . . .

Born March 6, 1928, in Aracataca, Colombia; son of Gabriel Eligio Garcia (a telegraph operator) and Luisa Santiaga Marquez Iguaran; married Mercedes Barcha, 1958; children: two sons. Education: Universidad nacional de Colombia, 1947-48; Universidad de Cartagena, 1948-49.

Career: Began career as a journalist, 1947; reporter for Universal, Cartegena, Colombia, late 1940s, El heraldo, Baranquilla, Colombia, 1950-52, and El espectador, Bogota, Colombia, until 1955; freelance journalist in Paris, London, and Caracas, Venezuela, 1956-58; worked for Momento magazine, Caracas, 1958-59; helped form Prensa Latina news agency, Bogota, 1959, and worked as its correspondent in Havana, Cuba, and New York City, 1961; writer, 1965–; Fundacion Habeas, founder, 1979, president, 1979–.

Memberships: American Academy of Arts and Letters (honorary fellow).

Awards: Colombian Association of Writers and Artists Award, 1954; Premio Literario Esso (Colombia), 1961; Chianciano Award (Italy), 1969; Prix de Meilleur Livre Etranger (France); 1969, Romulo Gallegos prize (Venezuela), 1971; honorary doctorate, Columbia University, 1971; Books Abroad/Neustadt International Prize for Literature, 1972; Nobel Prize for Literature, 1982; Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction, 1988; Serfin Prize, 1989.

When García Márquez was seven, his grandfather died and the boy returned to his parents in Bogota, the country's capital. During his adolescence the boy developed a love of literature, with such works as Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" inspiring him to dream of becoming a writer. First, though, he planned to obtain a law degree. He entered the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in 1947, the same year he published his first short story in El Espectador. In 1948 the country erupted in violence after the assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan and the university was damaged by fire and subsequently closed. García Márquez then transferred to the Universidad de Cartagena. There he began writing journalistic pieces for El Universal, and also met Ramon Vinyes, who introduced him to the works of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. García Márquez abandoned his legal studies in 1949 and moved back to the Caribbean region, to the town of Barranquilla.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: E(mily) R. Frank (1967-) Biography - Personal to Martha Graham (1893–1991) BiographyGabriel Jose García Márquez: 1928—: Author, Journalist Biography - A Childhood Steeped In Myth, Success As A Journalist, Wrote Critically Acclaimed Novel, Won Nobel Prize