Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Genius and Castro Buddy, Dead at 87

The greatest South American writer, the man who popularized magic realism and turned journalism into dream-like fiction, is dead.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was 87 years old. He wrote perhaps the greatest novel of our time, 100 Years of Solitude, and rivaled the Spanish language greats from Cervantes to Borges in his use of language, metaphor, and plot.

Garcia Marquez was a close confidant of Fidel Castro, keeping a house in Havana for years and showing the Cuban dictator unpublished drafts of his book. He also consorted with Ecuadorean painter Oswaldo Guayasamin.

He grew up in Aracataca, Colombia, a town that would serve as inspiration for the fictional town of Macondo, setting for One Hundred Years of Solitude. His father was a postal clerk, and Garcia Marquez dropped out of law school to pursue journalism, working at several newspapers before starting his fiction career. It's said the then-40-year-old author was so poor at the time of publishing, he had to send the manuscript in two parts.

His works included Autumn of the Patriarch and Love in the Time of Cholera. Solitude and political violence were running themes throughout his career, and his opinions and observations about governments, rulers, and humanity at large were thoughtful and insightful...except perhaps his close relationship with Castro.

Garcia Marquez's reputation is based in perspective-altering fictional works that tackle harsh issues through fantastical storytelling. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1982 for his outstanding contributions to literature which reflected, characterized, and validated a continent. He was the first Colombian and fourth Latin American to receive the honor.

The official cause of death has not been determined, but it's reported he'd been in failing health for some time. He died in his home in Mexico City, in the presence of his wife and family.

Update: Here is President Obama's statement on Gabo's passing: "With the passing of Gabriel García Márquez, the world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers - and one of my favorites from the time I was young. Affectionately known as "Gabo" to millions of his fans, he first won international recognition with his masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude. I once had the privilege to meet him in Mexico, where he presented me with an inscribed copy that I cherish to this day. As a proud Colombian, a representative and voice for the people of the Americas, and as a master of the "magic realism" genre, he has inspired so many others - sometimes even to pick up the pen themselves. I offer my thoughts to his family and friends, whom I hope take solace in the fact that Gabo's work will live on for generations to come".

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse