With a doodle of the mythical city Macondo on Tuesday, Google honored the distant day when Gabriel García Márquez was born. A prolific author, journalist, and Nobel Laureate, Márquez is best known for his canonical novels and for popularizing the literary genre of magical realism.
Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia, in 1927. He began his writing career as a journalist, covering “La Violencia,” the Colombian civil war in the Fifties. Midway through the 10-year conflict, he was forced to flee his home country after his reporting angered a military dictator.
Márquez lived in Europe for a few years before returning to South America and transitioning away from journalism. His first foray into fiction writing was in the form of short stories. It wasn’t until 1967, at the age of 40, that Marquez published his breakthrough novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude.
The book is a multigenerational tale about the mystical city Macondo and the Buendía family who calls it home. It is an essential work of magical realism, a genre typified by an otherwise realistic world that is imbued with magic in strange places. In One Hundred Years, for example, fantastical metaphor bleeds into reality. An incestuous marriage results in a child with a pig’s tail, a pack of traveling gypsies presents the townspeople with a magic carpet, and the narrator frets about how it will alter the landscape of Macondo. It rains for four years, 11 months, and two days — an event so incredibly improbable as to render it magical.
Márquez uses magic in part to encourage the reader to question what constitutes the unreal. By juxtaposing technology with magical artifacts in his work, he makes a point about how people describe the unknown. A car would appear magic, too, if one were to stumble upon a Ford in feudal Europe. Similarly, in Macondo, a block of ice is seen as a paranormal object simply because it is a novel concept.
After writing One Hundred Years of Solitude, Marquez enjoyed a long, successful career. He later wrote Love in the Time of Cholera and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 for his body of work. He died in 2014.
Like his magical realist contemporaries, Jorge Luis Borges and Isabel Allende, Márquez constructed vibrant and complex universes, filled with equal parts depth and delight, whimsy and wistfulness. But perhaps his crowning achievement is the opening line of One Hundred Years of Solitude, widely considered one of the greatest leads to any novel in the history of the world:
“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.”
Buendía’s memory is crystallized in the Google Doodle of Macondo, an otherworldly city that couldn’t be more real.