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Remembering Gabriel Garcia Marquez, storyteller who resonated with readers around the world

April 18, 2014 at 6:44 PM EST
Spanish-language author and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez drew worldwide admiration for the poetic style and magical realism of his many novels and stories. Marquez died Thursday in Mexico City at the age of 87. Hari Sreenivasan talks to writer William Kennedy, a long-time acquaintance of Marquez.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, we look at the seminal work in the life of author and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Hari joins us again from our New York studio for this appreciation.

HARI SREENIVASAN: His poetic words evoked love and longing, fantasy and fatalism, and worldwide admiration.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was the most popular Spanish-language author since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century, outselling all other Spanish literature, except the Bible. His novels and short stories exposed millions to Latin American life, and to magical realism, a style he discussed in an interview some years ago.

GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ (through interpreter): I lived in a supernatural world, a fantastic world where everything was possible, where the most wonderful things were just daily things.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Garcia Marquez first gained fame with the epic novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” published in 1967. It sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.

His birthplace in Colombia, the small town of Aracataca, was the inspiration for the village depicted in the book.

Biographer Gerald Martin:

GERALD MARTIN, Author, “Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life” (through translator): The Colombian government created a system of national high schools and scholarships for disadvantaged students. Garcia Marquez won a scholarship and leapt through that window of opportunity, a little bit like Alice entering into a wonderland or into magical realism.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The author’s other beloved classics include “Love in the Time of Cholera,” “Autumn of the Patriarch,” and “Chronicle of a Death Foretold.”

And, in 1982, his collective body of work won him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Garcia Marquez was also known for his leftist politics, and, for years, was denied a U.S. visa over his support of Fidel Castro and criticism of U.S. military interventions in Vietnam and Chile.

But last night, fellow authors, including Mexican writer Jorge Hernandez, said his literary contributions will be what are remembered.

JORGE HERNANDEZ, Writer (through interpreter): It’s a sad day, but it’s the first day of the first 100 years of an infinite solitude that we all share. No matter what language or what country, we must embrace all of his millions of readers. Not just today, but in five centuries, people will continue to speak of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the literature he gave us.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Gabriel Garcia Marquez was 87 years old.

We take a closer look at the life and literature of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with William Kennedy. Kennedy is a journalist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Albany Cycle,” and was a longtime acquaintance of Garcia Marquez.

So, for the unitiated, what is it about his work that resonated so much first with Latin Americans and then with the rest of the world?

WILLIAM KENNEDY, Author/Novelist: I don’t know.

He had the secret. He found the secret of how to tell the story of the human race in a single book. The great Latin American novel became the great — one of the great world novels of all time. And he did it — he did it with accessibility. It wasn’t complex or exalted — it was exalted prose, but it was exalted in an accessible way, beautiful writing, funny, great wit, and very profound insights into what constitutes the family and the family of man.

And he did it in — with such finesse and such control.

HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, speaking of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” you were one of the first reviewers of the book.

And then you’re famously quoted as saying, “The first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”

That is high praise. Why?

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAM KENNEDY: Well, I kept reading the book, and I would say to myself, this is a classic work. This is a — and it kept going on.

And then I would say, by God, there’s an abundance of it. It just doesn’t end. And it’s a — it’s classic. It’s classic. And when I was finished with it, I was baffled as to how to review it, because it was so phenomenally impressive to me, that I — it — the story was so complex.

And it takes — takes you over, you know, 100 years in a family and in a society that stands for everything. And it was a — it was a believable, credible story. He turned the fables or the myths of our lives and the myths, the great — the Greek myths, the Irish myths, the Spanish myths, and made it everyday currency in the lives of these people that he invented.

It wasn’t mystical. It wasn’t improbable. It wasn’t a fairy tale. It was, the ghosts walked, and the ghosts disappeared, and they would come back, and they grow old. And it was just a very natural progression of life, and told in these wonderful anecdotes that he strung together to create this world and this family of the Buendias. It was like nothing else.

I mean, when you read the book, you have never read a book like this before.

HARI SREENIVASAN: You knew him personally as a friend. So, what was it was like? What was he like a person? What was it like to hang out with him?

WILLIAM KENNEDY: Yes. Yes.

Well, it was fun. He was a — he was a great conversationalist. He was not — he was a storyteller. Everything he told was — had a funny twist to it. He had a great wit, and he was a great guy.

He was — but he was also — and he would never — he wouldn’t monopolize the conversation, except if he — if you wanted him to. And he was an easygoing conversationalist, and then a great presence.

HARI SREENIVASAN: William Kennedy, thanks so much for your recollections.