He was one of the great writers of the 20th century. He created a world of his own, like other storytellers of his stature, such as William Faulkner, Jorge Luis Borges and Uruguay’s Juan Carlos Onetti, and now it is impossible to say if what he made up were his dreams or another way of seeing reality. “Reality copies dreams,” he said. That world he invented out of what he saw as a child in Aracataca, Colombia, was called Macondo and it had its foremost expression in one of the best novels ever written in the Spanish language, One Hundred Years of Solitude. As a journalist, he was a master of features, reportage and the column, and he had disciples from all generations, including that of today.
From Aracataca, where he was born, to the final frontier of the world, his books and his universe made the name by which he was known to friends, his fellow journalists in Colombian newsrooms, colleagues and even his enemies unmistakable: Gabo, Gabriel García Márquez. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 when he was still a young novelist thirsty for stories. And he remained, now like the great writer he was, a journalist who wanted to promote newspapers “in order to tell how people’s lives are.” Spurred on by that desire that led him to be in contact with events during the best years of his youth and life, he ended up creating a foundation to teach young people to develop a fondness for what he called “the most beautiful profession in the world.”
As a storyteller he had no frontiers; he wrote to challenge reality, to give new names to things nobody had ever seen
His personal career as a writer and journalist was just one of the facets of his extensive personality. He was also a political observer, an advisor to leaders who looked to him for experience and insight, and an interested witness to the revolutions (and counterrevolutions) that took place in Latin America. He intervened so that his country, Colombia, could recover the peace it had lost more than 50 years before and bore witness to the events he experienced up close with the lens of the great journalist he was. On the subject of that part of the continent, he always remained optimistic. “I believe that us Latin Americans are going to come out ahead,” he said on one occasion, when he also noted: “Perhaps we will end up in Latin America inventing formulas that self-sufficiency and European narcissism have not achieved in 2,000 years.”
That was his personal territory, Latin America, and that was, as a journalist and as a citizen, the area of his commitment and his hope. But as a storyteller he had no frontiers; he wrote to challenge reality, to give new names to things that nobody had ever seen. He was a methodical creator, who wrote listening to Bach, and looking toward territories that turned into myths that, without which, we could not conceive of literature, nor of the life of the men who read it. He was a writer, a journalist, and his world is one of the myths of our time. Gabo has died; he leaves a world behind.