New Gabriel García Márquez Digital Archive Features More Than 27,000 Digitized Letters, Manuscript Pages, Photos & More

Uniden­ti­fied pho­tog­ra­ph­er. Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez in Ara­cat­a­ca, March 1966.
Cour­tesy Har­ry Ran­som Cen­ter.

When Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez died in 2014, it was said that only the Bible had sold more books in Span­ish than the Colom­bian writer’s work: Love in the Time of Cholera, The Autumn of the Patri­arch, Chron­i­cle of a Death Fore­told, The Gen­er­al in His Labyrinth… and yes, of course, One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, the 1967 nov­el William Kennedy described in a New York Times review as “the first piece of lit­er­a­ture since the Book of Gen­e­sis that should be required read­ing for the entire human race.”

Gar­cía Márquez began to hate such ele­vat­ed praise. It raised expec­ta­tions he felt he couldn’t ful­fill after the enor­mous suc­cess of that incred­i­bly bril­liant, seem­ing­ly sui gener­is sec­ond nov­el. Every­one in South Amer­i­ca read the book. To avoid the crowds, the author moved to Spain (where Mario Var­gas Llosa wrote a doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion on him). He needn’t have wor­ried.

Every­thing he wrote after­ward met with near-uni­ver­sal acclaim—bringing ear­li­er work like No One Writes to the Colonel, Leaf Storm, short sto­ry col­lec­tions like A Very Old Man with Enor­mous Wings, and decades of jour­nal­ism and non-fic­tion writing—to a much wider read­er­ship than he’d ever had before.

Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez’s revised type­script of Chron­i­cle of a Death Fore­told, 1980.
Cour­tesy Har­ry Ran­som Cen­ter.

After Gre­go­ry Rabassa’s 1970 trans­la­tion of One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, waves of “mag­i­cal real­ist” and Latin Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture from the 50s and 60s swept through the Eng­lish-speak­ing world, much of it in trans­la­tion for the first time. Gar­cía Márquez declared the Eng­lish ver­sion of his nov­el bet­ter than the orig­i­nal, and affec­tion­ate­ly called Rabas­sa, “the best Latin Amer­i­can writer in the Eng­lish lan­guage.” Upwards of 50 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide now know the sto­ry of the Buendía fam­i­ly. “Pub­lished in 44 lan­guages,” The Atlantic notes, “it remains the most trans­lat­ed lit­er­ary work in Span­ish after Don Quixote, and a sur­vey among inter­na­tion­al writ­ers ranks it as the nov­el that has most shaped world lit­er­a­ture over the past three decades.”

The sto­ry of the book’s com­po­si­tion is even more fas­ci­nat­ing. In the Democ­ra­cy Now trib­ute video below, you can hear Gar­cía Márquez him­self tell it. And at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin’s Har­ry Ran­som Cen­ter, we can see arti­facts like the pho­to­graph of the author at the top, in his home­town of Ara­cat­a­ca, Colom­bia in March of 1966, dur­ing the com­po­si­tion of One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude. We can see scanned images of type­script like the page above from Chron­i­cle of a Death Fore­told.

In all, the archive “includes man­u­script drafts of pub­lished and unpub­lished works, research mate­r­i­al, pho­tographs, scrap­books, cor­re­spon­dence, clip­pings, note­books, screen­plays, print­ed mate­r­i­al, ephemera, and an audio record­ing of Gar­cía Márquez’s accep­tance speech for the Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture in 1982… approx­i­mate­ly 27,500 items from Gar­cía Márquez’s papers.” These doc­u­ments and pho­tos, like that fur­ther down of young jour­nal­ist Gar­cía Márquez with Emma Cas­tro and, just below, of the sea­soned famous nov­el­ist, with her broth­er, tell the sto­ry of a writer who lived his life steeped in the pol­i­tics and his­to­ry of Latin Amer­i­ca, and who trans­lat­ed those sto­ries faith­ful­ly for the rest of the world.

Uniden­ti­fied pho­tog­ra­ph­er. Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez with Fidel Cas­tro, undat­ed.
Cour­tesy Har­ry Ran­som Cen­ter.

Enter, search, and explore the archive here. This amaz­ing resource opens up to the gen­er­al pub­lic a wealth of mate­r­i­al pre­vi­ous­ly only avail­able to schol­ars and librar­i­ans. The project fea­tures “text-search­able Eng­lish- and Span­ish-lan­guage mate­ri­als, took 18 months and involved the efforts of librar­i­ans, archivists, stu­dents, tech­nol­o­gy staff mem­bers and con­ser­va­tors.” Per­haps only coin­ci­den­tal­ly, 18 months is the time it took Gar­cía Márquez to write One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, bar­ri­cad­ed in his office while he ran out of mon­ey, pulled for­ward by some irre­sistible force. “I did not stop writ­ing for a sin­gle day for 18 straight months, until I fin­ished the book,” he tells us. As always, we believe him.

Uniden­ti­fied pho­tog­ra­ph­er. Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez with Emma Cas­tro, 1957.
Cour­tesy Har­ry Ran­som Cen­ter.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez’s Extra­or­di­nary Nobel Prize Accep­tance Speech, “The Soli­tude Of Latin Amer­i­ca,” in Eng­lish & Span­ish (1982)

Read 10 Short Sto­ries by Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez Free Online (Plus More Essays & Inter­views)

Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez Describes the Cul­tur­al Mer­its of Soap Operas, and Even Wrote a Script for One

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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