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By now, if you’re at all plugged into the book world, you’ve heard that the inimitable Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez has died. It’s always sad to lose a literary lion of García Márquez’s stature, of course, but today I am focusing on what he gave us, not on what we’ve lost.
How fortunate we were and are! García Márquez’s deeply human characters, his thicket of complex, overlapping stories, his extraordinary use of language (even in translation!), and his ultimately Romantic (big R, as in grand, human, emotional) vision all enriched my development as a reader – and an adult who remembers the common magic of childhood.
García Márquez was best known for his “magical realism” – injecting the unusual, the unknown, and the strange smack dab in the middle of something rather ordinary: a woman who ascends to heaven while hanging out the wash, for example, or a man who is constantly followed by a cloud of yellow butterflies, even when he is sleeping or walking through town.
When I first read García Márquez, starting with One Hundred Years of Solitude in high school, I was both surprised and comforted by this combination. It was strange, and enchanting, but it also reminded me of my favorite Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, where the everyday often mingled with the magical (and often the bloody). García Márquez’s world was both grownup and not, known and unknown, beautiful and mundane.
Let me say it again: how fortunate we are to still have García Márquez’s wonderful works! García Márquez is dead; long live García Márquez!