Discovering Gabriel García Márquez

"A mis doce años de edad estuve a punto de ser atropellado por una bicicleta. Un señor cura que pasaba me salvó con un grito: ¡Cuidado! El ciclista cayó a tierra. El señor cura, sin detenerse, me dijo: ¿Ya vio lo que es el poder de la palabra? Ese día lo supe. Ahora sabemos, además, que los mayas lo sabían desde los tiempos de Cristo, y con tanto rigor, que tenían un dios especial para las palabras."


The above quote is from the legendary Colombian Nobel prize-winning author, Gabriel García Márquez, who passed away this week. Translated loosely, he recalls how at 12 years old, while almost being hit by a car while on his bicycle, a priest was able to prevent the accident with only words. At that precise moment, Gabriel García Márquez details, he knew that there was a special god for words.

The world lost one of our greatest writers, Gabriel García Márquez, and I feel the loss of one of the most significant influences in my life. Discovering Señor Márquez during a freshman Spanish Literature class in college can only be explained as suddenly understanding a new language. I had never read anything before that was written in such soul striking introspective truth as what Señor Márquez wrote in his novel 100 Years of Solitude, and I haven't felt such emotion with a book since. It was impossible to not myself feel as naked and exposed as what his writing showed me of love and its lies, and miracles from the least likeliest of places.

Being a Colombian, I grew up hearing of Márquez's writing. To say Colombians consider him to be their greatest literary figure is not an understatement. But it wasn't until I read his work for myself, that I owned the religion of Señor Marquez, rather than just inheriting it. My freshman class had been assigned to read 100 Years of Solitude and as I turned page after page, unable to put the 400 page novel down, this author told me that I was a writer before I knew it myself. His words brought me to tears with the pain of recognition, and I clutched my chest as his truths on the tragedy and comedy of life spared no vulnerability. As I followed the seven generations of the Buendia family, it was in the honesty of their lives that I came to understand the term so often used when describing Marquez' work, "magic realism," the extraordinary of the ordinary, in all of our lives." I only knew it as his masterful ability to transport me into another world that felt as much alive as my own, to a place where lines blurred between questioning possibility and choosing to accept it.

To lose the voice of Gabriel García Márquez is a rift that I feel in my world. There is a sadness when the giants fall. He had a mysticism to his writing, going realms beyond novelist to entrancing storyteller. I am a skeptic of pre-determined fate, but I remember the moment I surrendered and let him prove me wrong. It was there, in his novel's pages when I read these words, "He pleaded so much that he lost his voice. His bones began to fill with words," that I believed Señor Marquez was created to put his words to paper. The exquisite way in which he wrote of life, deceit, forgiveness, and grace, gives testament to the most searing words of his that I have put to memory. On the very last page of 100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez illuminates life and its labors for us, "... we have no second opportunity on earth." He spent his time on earth doing exactly that for which he was meant.

I hope that in his death, many are moved to discover the wonder and the reason for our heavy hearts as we mourn the loss of a brilliant storyteller.

Photo credit: Sebástian Freire via photopin cc