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Gabriel García Márquez and his life in Barcelona

The celebrated Colombian writer and journalist would have been 91 years old today

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06 March 2018 03:55 PM

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Rachel Bathgate | Barcelona

“Barcelona was a mythical memory,” Gabriel García Márquez is quoted as having said about his beloved city. During his nomadic lifetime, the celebrated Colombian writer and journalist lived in many places – but few might know that he also lived in the Catalan capital for seven years. Arriving in 1967, for almost a decade he built a life in Barcelona, making it his home and his source of inspiration.

A Nobel Laureate, a writer, and a journalist

García Márquez, affectionately known as ‘Gabo,’ was born exactly 91 years ago, in the Colombian town of Aracataca. Today, he’s considered one of the most significant writers of the 20th century. Indeed, five years after moving to Barcelona, he would win the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and then, in 1982, the Nobel Prize in Literature.

He is perhaps most known for the acclaimed novel ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude,’ published immediately before moving to Catalonia in 1967, and ‘Love in Time of Cholera’ (1985). These two great classics are also joined by ‘The Autumn of the Patriarch,’ imagined and written in Barcelona itself, which came out immediately after he left for Mexico in 1974.  

Along with being a pioneer in the literary world and one of the most prominent names in the genre of magical realism, García Márquez is also renowned for his journalistic work, not only covering Latin America, but also Africa and Europe. His commitment to political involvement and commentary would stay with him throughout his life and is seen in the majority of his works.

The wise Catalan bookseller

The writer’s connection with Catalonia began long before he moved to Barcelona. As a journalist in Colombia in the ‘50s, in fact, García Márquez worked with Catalan writer Ramon Vinyes, who would later become the inspiration for the wise Catalan bookseller character in ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude.’

When García Márquez did arrive in Barcelona in 1967, it was on the insistence of Catalan literary agent Carme Balcells, recognized as having revolutionized the publishing industry. She not only represented García Márquez but also Mario Vargas Llosa, Julio Cortázar, Pablo Neruda, among others. Indeed, she is credited with being one of the main driving forces of the so-called ‘Latin American Boom,’ with South American writers living and publishing their works throughout Europe.  

Gabo’s life in Barcelona

Of the Catalan capital, García Márquez is quoted as having said that it was “a city where one could breathe.” During the Latin American Boom years, the writer became one of the nuclei of Barcelona’s cultural life. Indeed, the Catalan newspaper ‘Lavanguardia’ reports that his apartment on Carrer dels Caponata became a meeting point for artists, journalists, and revolutionaries alike.

“What you did to Patricia in Barcelona”

Perhaps one of the most notorious connections from the writer’s time in Barcelona is the friendship-turned feud with Peruvian contemporary, writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who had also come to Catalonia under Balcells’ wing. The relationship between the two men made headlines when Vargas Llosa punched García Márquez in the face, famously shouting “How dare you come and greet me after what you did to Patricia in Barcelona!,” with Patricia being Vargas Llosa’s wife.

There were, of course, relationships that were less tempestuous. Among the writer’s well-known friendships was that with married couple Luis y Leticia Feduchi. Another close relationship was with Catalan journalist Avel·lí Artís Gener (known as Tísner); this is who García Màrquez would urge to carry out the Catalan translation for ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude.’  

A legacy lives on

Deceased in 2014 in Mexico City, Gabriel García Márquez and his works belong to the world, but Barcelona holds a special place in its heart for Gabo. Indeed, the writer was posthumously awarded the Golden Medal from the Barcelona City Council in 2015.

The award was collected by his son Gonzalo García Barcha, before an audience comprising some of the recipient’s closest friends from his time in Catalonia. This included Carme Balcells herself, who would pass away only months later. And, a reunion with all his friends is perhaps how the writer would have wanted it. “Gabo’s work would not have been the same without the love of his friends in Barcelona,” García Barcha said during the event.  

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  • Gabriel García Márquez (courtesy of Fundación Gabriel García Márquez para el Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano, FNPI)

  • Gabriel García Márquez (courtesy of Fundación Gabriel García Márquez para el Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano, FNPI)