Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Credit: Ben Martin/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez has passed away at the age of 87, according to the Associated Press. García Márquez was recently hospitalized for an infection in Mexico City, and on Wednesday, April 9, he was released to convalesce at his home. The Colombian-born author and journalist is considered one of the most important writers of the 20th century. In his lifetime, he published six novels and seven nonfiction books, as well as numerous novellas and short story collections. His work transcended Spanish-language literature to become internationally beloved.

Gabo, as he is known to his friends and fans, was born in 1927 in Aracataca, Colombia, a small Caribbean town surrounded by banana plantations. There he lived with his maternal grandparents until he was eight years old, a fortuitous quirk of fate that ended up heavily influencing his writing. In an interview with the Paris Review in 1981, he described channeling his grandmother for his most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. “She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness,” he said. “What was most important was the expression she had on her face. She did not change her expression at all when telling her stories, and everyone was surprised. In previous attempts to write One Hundred Years of Solitude, I tried to tell the story without believing in it. I discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself and write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face.”

García Márquez started his writing career as a journalist and later became an early pioneer of literary nonfiction, mixing the narrative elements of fiction with his reporting. This blurred distinction between reality and non-reality turned into magical realism in his fiction. His writing is rife with hallucinatory revelations — bitter almonds that smell of unrequited love and showers of yellow roses that rain from the sky. His journalistic attention to detail melded with his supernatural imagery. “If you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you,” García Márquez told the Review. “But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants flying in the sky, people will probably believe you.”

As a Colombian author, García Márquez was central to the Latin American literary boom of the 1960s and 1970s, which thrust Latin American literature into the international arena. In 1967, he rocketed to fame with the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude, which has now sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. In Spanish, it has outsold every book except the Bible. In 1982, fifteen years after One Hundred Years of Solitude, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Three years later, he released another massive hit, Love in the Time of Cholera, which was made into a movie in 2007 starring Javier Bardem.

García Márquez walked in a world where love stories span centuries, the specters of history live alongside us, and imagination is a door that allows us to pass into infinite realities. His spirit will remain in the legacy of his books and the hearts of his readers. As he taught us in One Hundred Years of Solitude, the end is merely the beginning.