How Gabriel Garcia Marquez Started Writing

Gabriel Garcia Marquez has long been known for his literary contributions with legendary novels such as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.

marquezThis Nobel Prize winning Colombian author, who has also enjoyed a long and fruitful life as a journalist, spoke about his first influences for writing in a Paris Review interview with Peter. H. Stone, in the winter of 1981.

The interview, which examines Marquez’s journey from a journalist to a writer and back to a journalist, showcases that other than these two mediums, Marquez encountered writing through an unusual interest in comic books. He attributes writing as resultant of an organic journey that started out very differently:

By drawing. By drawing cartoons. Before I could read or write I used to draw comics at school and at home.

Alas, Marquez’s drawings do not survive to the day. However, his revelations about combining drawing and organically discovering writing is exemplary of how serious artists must pay homage to the prospect of traversing various mediums of expression, before settling into one of theme. He highlights that it is precisely through experimentation that we can arrive at a coherent style of writing:

The funny thing is that I now realize that when I was in high school I had the reputation of being a writer, though I never in fact wrote anything. If there was a pamphlet to be written or a letter of petition, I was the one to do it because I was supposedly the writer. When I entered college I happened to have a very good literary background in general, considerably above the average of my friends.

The most incredible aspect of Marquez’s revelations is the influence that the discovery of magic realism through the works of Czech writer Franz Kafka had on his works as a college student, reminding us that for any serious writers, we must adhere to the fringes of the mainstream, and embrace that rules are made to be broken:

At the university of Bogota, I started making new friends and acquaintances, who introduced me to contemporary writers. One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read The Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads, “As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. . .” When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago. So I immediately started writing.

In fact, Marquez purportedly told his biographer Gerald Martin, who published “Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life” that when Garcia Marquez first read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, he said: 

“Shit, that’s just the way my grandmother talked.”




marquez with book


6 thoughts on “How Gabriel Garcia Marquez Started Writing

  1. I love that last quote. 🙂 I can imagine his grandmother talking like that! 100 Years of Solitude is my favorite book of all time. I think he’s amazing.

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