At 87, and not the work of a firing squad

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]abriel Garcia Marquez died Thursday at 87. Cancer. His masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, has been lauded almost since it came out as a landmark in the history of the novel. It was first published in 1967. It was translated into English in 1970, and Americans from that era who liked to read novels, even those who didn’t, have the image burned into their brain of the paperback version that was everywhere, the AVON edition. The lovers on the cover are caught in an embrace in a collage jungle under the title and that edition’s famous marketing copy: “The magnificent family chronicle… ‘Forces upon us at every page the wonder and extravagance of life!’ The New York Review of Books.”

How did it first enter your house? Your aunt brought it over. She was wearing brown bell-bottomed corduroys and large oval sunglasses. Your sister, who was a freshman in high school, curled up on the green couch under the window in the living room and didn’t stop reading until she had digested all 383 pages. Ten years later, on trains criss-crossing Europe, young people you met from countries all over the world had their own editions, also dog-eared, with different kinds of covers, tucked into their backpacks.

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo.

Bien des années plus tard, face au peloton d’exécution, le colonel Aureliano Buendia devait se rappeler ce lointain après-midi au cours duquel son père l’emmena faire connaissance avec la glace.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s dream-like magical-realist work was always deeply political. He was a journalist at heart, he said, and he never gave it up, writing and speaking about CIA colonialism in Latin America, state corruption and threats to free speech and liberty for most of his 87 years.

“I’ve always been convinced that my true profession is that of a journalist. What I didn’t like about journalism before were the working conditions,” he told The Paris Review. “Now, after having worked as a novelist, and having achieved financial independence as a novelist, I can really choose the themes that interest me and correspond to my ideas.”