Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez is suffering from dementia, which has made him unable to write, his brother says. "Dementia runs in our family, and he's now suffering the ravages prematurely due to the cancer that put him almost on the verge of death," Jaime Garcia Marquez, the author's younger brother, told students in Cartagena, Colombia, the Guardian reported Saturday.
"Chemotherapy saved his life, but it also destroyed many neurons, many defences and cells, and accelerated the process," Jaime continued. "But he still has the humour, joy and enthusiasm that he has always had."
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who is now in his mid-80s, is best known for his novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude," first published in Spanish in 1967, which has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. With it, he ushered in the genre known as magic realism, which combined fantastical elements and the real, and became closely associated with literature from Latin America.
"He has problems with his memory," Jaime said. "Sometimes I cry because I feel like I'm losing him." Jaime is head of the Ibero-American New Journalism Foundation, founded by his brother. As a young man, Gabo worked as a journalist in Colombia, Rome, Paris; Barcelona, Spain; Caracas, Venezuela; New York; and Mexico City.
During his life, Marquez has been overtly political in his life -- he fostered a friendship with Cuba's Fidel Castro -- and his writing. The novel "The General in His Labyrinth" caused an uproar when it was published in Colombia; it presented an ailing, delirious Simon Bolivar. Calling the book "anti-patriotic," Roberto Belandia, secretary of the Colombian Academy of History, told The Times, "He uses history to darken the prestige of our institutions and heroes." Marquez disagreed, telling The Times, "I haven't tried to destroy anything but to show the man. All the veneration and all the respect that he gets as a myth are greater if he is seen as a human being." It's sad to think that Marquez himself may be facing a similar fate.
Marquez's other major works include the novels "Love in the Time of Cholera," "The Autumn of the Patriarch," "The General and His Labyrinth" and the novella "Chronicle of a Death Foretold." He has written one memoir, "Living to Tell the Tale," intended to be the first book in a series. His brother says that he does not expect he will be able to complete the story.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 2006. Credit: AFP/Getty Images