Some writers have built national reputations by faithfully chronicling the idiosyncrasies of their societies with all the diligence of a sociologist. Others, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died last week at 87, transcend national boundaries by writing stories that those who dream vivid dreams will recognize.
The Colombian novelist, who is often called the father of magical realism because of its penchant for hallucinatory images, was a writer with universal appeal who could expect to see even his minor works translated into dozens of languages. The recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 authored more than 20 books, but two of them are among the most admired and imitated — “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “The Autumn of the Patriarch.”
Because he was so beloved, the publication of a new Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel was more than a literary event. It often had political implications because of the author’s well-known political sympathies.
An unwavering critic of Latin America’s right-wing dictatorships and an admirer of the Cuban revolution, Garcia Marquez refused to back away from his friendship with Fidel Castro. His novels affirmed the humanity — and some might say the superiority — of ordinary people caught between a dream-like world and nightmarish political realities.
For three decades Garcia Marquez was denied a visa to the United States, until 1994, when President Bill Clinton, a fan of the author, wanted to have dinner with him at Martha’s Vineyard. Fortunately, many Americans were able to fully appreciate his art long before, and long after, his visit.