Years after his death, Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel-winning, Colombian-born novelist, short story writer and journalist, remains a universal – and universally admired – literary figure.
And Juan Luis Suarez has the data to prove it.
Around the world, books and articles continue to be written about García Márquez and his works while readers and writers alike continue to engage with and attempt his style, trying their hand at the magic realism for which novels like One Hundred Years of Solitude are known.
Without a doubt, there is a timeless, universal appeal to García Márquez, according to Suarez, a professor of Modern Languages and Literatures and Director of Western’s CulturePlex Lab.
“He became one of the first global icons of the second part of the twentieth century. He was able to strike some kind of universal language in the type of writing he was able to achieve,” he said.
“Beyond specific themes of Colombia, magic realism is something people keep imitating and trying to explore and develop, and no one is doing that quite like him. He was able to invent a genre that came from many different traditions and literary movements at the time. That’s why his works appeal to so many people, so many readers and so many writers of all languages.”
The continued, universal appeal of García Márquez – who would have turned 92 on March 6 – is evident in the latest DataPoints publications of the CulturePlex Lab. The lab recently aggregated and analyzed information from nearly 10,000 articles from 638 English-speaking media outlets that have reported on various aspects of Márquez’s life and work. More than 20 per cent of the articles considered correspond to North American media, predominantly from New York, California, and Florida. The New York Times has the most news mentions of García Márquez, with 1,441 articles between 1978-2019 alone.
However popular following the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude, after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, García Márquez crossed the threshold of universal fame, Suarez explained. The attention he received from prestigious English-speaking media outlets propelled his fame across the globe.
Publications from India and South Africa have considerable mentions to García Márquez and, according to earlier research from CulturePlex, the writer’s immense global network, established by way of epistolary communication, helped him establish a “global literary republic.” China, Hong Kong, France, Pakistan, and Armenia also appear in news records related to García Márquez.
While a considerable proportion of articles on García Márquez appear in 2014, the year he passed away, his fame does not stop there. In recent years he had a resurgence with 576 news mentions in 2015; 519 in 2016; 508 mentions in 2017; and 919 mentions in 2018. Journalist Silvana Paternostro published a new book on García Márquez just last month.
The writer’s universal popularity was, without a doubt, fostered by his ability to network with individuals around the world – and, in particular, with high-ranking politicians and officials, Suarez added. He exchanged letters with many around the world.
“We were able to track through metadata the amount and calibre of the people he had correspondence with, and out of that, you see he was connected to everyone in the world through epistolary correspondence,” he said.
“It’s something we don’t give much attention to anymore but he had contact with prime ministers, kings, diplomats – everything, everyone. He comes from the journalistic world; that was his profession before he became a writer so he understood that way of writing and being in contact with people.”
García Márquez was “the archetype of the networked individual” with connections to diplomats, entrepreneurs, writers, filmmakers, painters, politicians, presidents and more. He had established relationships with people such as former Cuban President Fidel Castro, Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and Argentine novelist Julio Cortázar.
In the Gabriel García Márquez Archive at the Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin, there is likewise a list of “Very Important People” that wrote to the author between the 1986 and 2001. This label was ascribed by García Márquez himself, encompassing names such as Kofi A. Annan; Boutros Boutros-Ghali; Fidel Castro; Raúl Castro; Bill Clinton; Pablo Neruda; Akira Kurosawa; Thomas F. McLarty and François Mitterrand – among many others.
Among the writer’s non-VIP labeled correspondence are individuals such as Yōko Ono; Milan Kundera; Henry Kissinger; Juan Carlos I (King of Spain); Jane Fonda; Francis Ford Coppola and others. The reasoning behind the labeling of select individuals as a VIP is curious, Suarez noted, but it is evident García Márquez built an immense network over the course of his lifetime.
The writer’s letters shaped the literary, political, and cultural fabric of Colombia, and transformed the identity and movement of Latin American literature into a global republic established by García Márquez. He developed new global dimension in Latin American literature founded on the power of fiction that has greatly impacted the lives of people all over the world.