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Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez has died at the age of 87. The Colombian-born writer is best known for his novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude." In 1982, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature; as the citation read, for his novels and short stories in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts. NPR's Mandalit del Barco has this tribute to his life and to his writing.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Gabriel Garcia Marquez was and remains Latin America's best-known writer, spinning epic tales since the 1940s, the master of a style known as magic realism.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ: (Foreign language spoken)

DEL BARCO: He told NPR in 1984 that behind the reality, there's still a lot of space where some things cannot be explained. His novels were filled with miraculous and enchanting events and characters, love and madness, wars, politics, dreams and death. And everything he had written, Garcia Marquez said, he knew or heard before he was 8 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GARCIA MARQUEZ: (Foreign language spoken)

DEL BARCO: Garcia Marquez grew up on the coast of Colombia in Aracataca, which became a boomtown after a U.S. fruit company arrived. He was born there in 1927. He said his writing was forever shaped by the grandparents who raised him as a young child.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GARCIA MARQUEZ: (Through translator) There was a real dichotomy in me because, on one hand, during the day, there was the world of my grandfather - a world of stark reality, of civil wars he told me about since he had been a colonel in the last civil war. And then, on the other hand, there was the world of my grandmother, which was full of fantasy, completely outside of reality.

DEL BARCO: His grandfather, grandmother, their stories, and their town became the raw material for his most famous work, "One Hundred Years of Solitude." Here's a passage read by actor Hector Elizondo.

HECTOR ELIZONDO: (Reading) All the inhabitants ran out into the street and saw Aureliano Triste waving from a locomotive. And in a trance, they saw the flower-bedecked train which was arriving for the first time, eight months late. The innocent, yellow train that was to bring so many ambiguities and certainties, so many pleasant and unpleasant moments, so many changes, calamities and feelings of nostalgia to Macondo.

ILAN STAVANS: I think "A Hundred Years of Solitude" is a towering book of enormous influence worldwide. And it is also as close as one could get to a perfect book.

DEL BARCO: Ilan Stavans wrote a biography of the author's early years, including the time Garcia Marquez spent as a newspaper journalist.

STAVANS: He was a nobody. He was really, an unknown journalist and author of short stories, just beginning to make his career. He was, at that point, coming close to 40. And the fame and celebrity and this standing that he has as a literary giant of the 20th century - really all coalesced in that particular moment when the book was published.

DEL BARCO: It was a unique moment in time, and "One Hundred Years of Solitude" struck a chord, says another Garcia Marquez biographer, Gerald Martin.

GERALD MARTIN: You had to be in the 1960s. You had to be in the world of The Beatles and Third World revolution, psychedelia - lots of things - to understand now what impact the first page of that book had. It just seemed to be a kind of writing that everybody had been waiting for. They didn't know they were waiting for it till it came. It was just one of those zeitgeist things.

ELIZONDO: (Reading) Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Col. Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

MARTIN: The first two lines, the first time you read them, you just felt: I've read this before. Where does this come from? - which is what he felt when he first, himself, thought up the first line of the book.

DEL BARCO: Garcia Marquez was among what's known as Latin America's literature boom of the 1960s and '70s, along with Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes and Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, with whom Garcia Marquez differed sharply in his political beliefs. The Colombian got his leftist leanings from his grandfather. They, too, shaped his writing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GARCIA MARQUEZ: (Through translator) I write mostly about the reality I know, about the reality of Latin America. Any interpretation of this reality in literature must be political. I cannot escape my own ideology when I interpret reality in my books; it's inseparable.

DEL BARCO: His 10 novels include "Autumn of the Patriarch," about a Latin American dictator, but they also include the lifelong love story of two elderly people married to others. "Love in the Time of Cholera" was made into a film in 2007.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA")

JAVIER BARDEM: (As Florentino Ariza) Fermina, I have waited for this opportunity for 51 years, nine months and four days. That is how long I have loved you - from the first moment I cast eyes on you until now.

DEL BARCO: Gabriel Garcia Marquez titled his 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech "The Solitude of Latin America."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GARCIA MARQUEZ: (Through translator) We, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of a new and sweeping utopia of life.

DEL BARCO: In his acceptance speech, Garcia Marquez spoke about Latin America's wars, military coups, dictatorships and ethnocide.

ARIEL DORFMAN: Garcia Marquez is speaking about all the people who are marginal to history, who have not had a voice.

DEL BARCO: Chilean novelist Ariel Dorfman told NPR the speech was one of the author's most important messages to the world.

DORFMAN: He gives a voice to all those who died. He gives a voice to all those not born yet. He gives a voice to Latin America.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GARCIA MARQUEZ: (Through translator) When no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where races condemned to 100 years of solitude will have, at last and forevermore, a second opportunity on earth.

DEL BARCO: Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez died today. I'm Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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