How Gabriel Garcia Marquez Became a Writer

Marquez attributed his writing to drawing as a child…and Franz Kafka

 Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel Garcia Marquez A4045 Jorge Rios Ponce/dpa/Corbis

The author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose work came to be synonymous with magic realism, died on Thursday, April 17. Born in the small town of Aracataca, Colombia in 1927, Garcia Marquez studied law and then became a journalist in Bogota during a time of political and social upheaval, before devoting himself to writing literature. Garcia Marquez’s most celebrated work, One Hundred Years of Solitude, became an instant bestseller when it was published in 1967. He reportedly hated the success and public enthusiasm which that novel inspired, fearing it would tarnish people’s opinions of his later works.    

In 1981, the Paris Review published an interview with Garcia Marquez. The interview is lovely and funny, of course, and in it, he explained how he started writing:


How did you start writing?


By drawing. By drawing cartoons. Before I could read or write I used to draw comics at school and at home. The funny thing is that I now realize that when I was in high school I had the reputation of being a writer, though I never in fact wrote anything. If there was a pamphlet to be written or a letter of petition, I was the one to do it because I was supposedly the writer. When I entered college I happened to have a very good literary background in general, considerably above the average of my friends. At the university in Bogotá, I started making new friends and acquaintances, who introduced me to contemporary writers. One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read The Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads, “As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. . . .” When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that.

His hometown, which has long celebrated its connection to the author, held a candlelight vigil. “A thousand years of solitude and grief for the death of the greatest Colombian of all times,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted, adding, “giants never die.”

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