The 17th of April marks the first anniversary of the death of Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The journalist turned novelist received the Nobel prize for literature in 1982 for his novels and literary works. Throughout his career in journalism, Garcia Marquez was an outspoken critic of Colombian and US politics, resulting in him being denied visas to visit the USA, however the ban was later withdrawn by Bill Clinton during his presidency. The author was strongly influenced by his grandfather, a veteran of the thousand days war. He makes references to the banana massacre and the civil war between the liberals and conservatives in his work. Garcia Marquez contributed greatly to Latin American literature.

Much of his stories are set in the post-colonial “City of the Viceroys” (based on Cartagena de Indias), which he describes as crumbling into ruin, mirroring the erosion of the aristocracy and old societal structure. Garcia Marquez often features La Magdalena river in his stories. The journey down La Magdalena reflects that of the journey through life; the river can be calm, tumultuous, destructive, turbulent and beautiful. The passenger on the riverboat observes the ever changing scenery, fauna and communities and cultures along the river.

One of his best known works is possibly “Love in the Time of Cholera”. This novel examines love, life, aging, death, nostalgia and is rich in symbolism. Garcia Marquez was inspired by his parents’ relationship. He creates a timeless and ageless love story as Florention Ariza waits for over fifty years for the one he loves. In this time the protagonist sub-exists and endures and suffers the sickness of his unrequited love, becoming himself insubstantial in the mind of Fermina Daza. Lovesickness is compared to cholera; having similar mental and physically debilitating effects on the sufferer, as Florentino Ariza suffers greatly and is mistakenly believed to suffer from that plague. Furthermore, the feverish and smothering seasons mirror the effects of lovesickness. I think that this further amplifies the insubstantiality of love. It is as changeable and unpredictable as La Magdalena and can be just as destructive, as shown throughout the novel as many of the characters are subjected to such suffering consequential of the burden of love. I think that the yellow flag of cholera represents Florentino Ariza’s surrender to his love for Fermina Daza as they sail through the twilight of their lives along La Magdalena.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez has contributed greatly to Colombian and world literature. His work is profound. He often introduces the reader into another culture, another era and another world. His characters are fiercely complex. He explores the complexity of life; the happy and the sad events, betrayal, pain and anguish, suffering, pride and prejudice. He is a true story teller and beautifully narrates the far from idealistic, imperfect life. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech entitled “The Solitude of Latin America” Garcia Marquez stated:

“The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary.”

Other works of interest by Gabriel Garcia Marquez include: One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Autumn of the Patriarch and Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

Love in the Time of Cholera was made into a motion picture in 2007, directed by Mike Newell and starring; Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt and Giovanna Mezzogiorno.

– Hannah Redmond