Gabriel Garcia Marquez with Shiner

Gabriel García Márquez with Shiner

Here’s a question for you: Which two winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature had a fist fight with each other? The above picture is a clue to the identity of one of them: The other is Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru, who felt that “Gabo” had been paying undue attentions to his wife. You can find all the gory details at this New York Times website from 2007.

I first discovered García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in November 1975 while I was in Yucatán. There I was at the ruins of Chichén Itzá at an open air souvenir stand with a thatched roof looking for a book to read. On the rack was a UK Penguin paperback edition of the book not for sale in the United States. I picked it up, started reading it, and found myself entranced. First at Chichén, then at the majestic old Gran Hotel in Mérida, and then at Uxmal, I pored through the pages and fell in love with Macondo (the fictionalized birthplace of the author in Aracataca, Colombia) and its weird history.

Ironically, it was in Mexico City that García Márquez died today of infection and dehydration. I will miss him the way I miss Jorge Luis Borges of Argentina and a handful of other greats who died in my time, such as John Ford, Orson Welles, and Howard Hawks.

Since that 1975 trip that changed my life in so many ways, I have read more than a dozen of Gabo’s books and expect to finish the rest within the next year or so.

If you’d like to read a Paris Review interview with the author, click here.