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Magical realism and Gabriel García Márquez

by James Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To pay tribute to the writerGabriel García Márquez.

Preparation and materials

  • Have available images of the covers of some of Gabriel García Márquez’s books and so on and the means to display them during the assembly.
  • Also locate some South American music and have the means to play it at the beginning and end of the assembly. 


  1. The recent death of the novelist Gabriel García Márquez has caused an outpouring of grief in his native Colombia. The Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, described him as the greatest Colombian of all time. His works included the famous One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.

  2. Before becoming a novelist, Márquez trained as a journalist. He did not keep quiet about the human rights abuses that took place across Latin America during his life, writing about the numerous coups and dictatorships across the region. 

    In 1982, he won the Nobel Prize for literature and gave a speech entitled ‘The Solitude of Latin America’, criticizing the legacies of European empires in Latin America. Márquez argued that the Western world embraced Latin American culture, art and literature, yet was extremely distrustful of social and political movements in the region. This mistrust had led to a series of Western-backed dictatorships and civil wars in order to protect Western interests at the expense of the people.

  3. For millions across Latin America and beyond, he was more than a writer. He was one of the most successful writers, inventing what we now call ‘magical realism’, in which ordinary events and situations are blended with the magical and surreal. This technique was used to explore the magic of the world and the value of even simple things, such as doing the laundry. By mixing the common and the uncommon, the mundane and the sublime, Márquez gave meaning to even the simple acts of daily life.

  4. His most famous book was undoubtedly One Hundred Years of Solitude, the story of seven generations of one family. The fictional village Macondo reflects both the nation of Colombia as a whole and the small village of Arcataca where Márquez grew up. 

    The idea of solitude runs through the book, reflecting both the isolated location of Macondo and the self-centred nature of many of the characters. Isolated from each other, they become increasingly greedy. Only through love does Mocando begin to renew. This transition – from self-centred isolation to a feeling of solidarity through love – reflects Colombia's gradual shift from an aristocratic society to being a fairer place for all.

  5. Márquez believed strongly in the rights of people to live freely, writing in his speech ‘The Solitude of Latin America’:

    Solidarity with our dreams will not make us feel less alone, as long as it is not translated into concrete acts of legitimate support for all the peoples that assume the illusion of having a life of their own in the distribution of the world.

Time for reflection

Through his work, Márquez argues that solitude is not a force for freedom but the very opposite of it. Only through love and human connections can we escape it.

'What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.' (Márquez)

Maybe you can act on his message, today and every day.


Chosen South American music 

Publication date: July 2014   (Vol.16 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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