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What Gabriel García Márquez knew about plagues

In his writing, Márquez uses disease as a device to illuminate and intensify his recurring themes of love, power and solitude. He then finds hardiness, heart and humour

By Daniel Rey  

"Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life.” Image: Scanpix Norway/PA Images

Aracataca was accustomed to plagues. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Colombian Caribbean endured epidemics such as yellow fever and cholera. The late Gabriel García Márquez, who was born in Aracataca in 1927, heard stories of petrifying locusts, of his mother’s malaria-racked childhood, and of his aunt’s death from typhus.

Much of this history filters into García Márquez’s fiction, which concentrates on the Colombian Caribbean. Alive to its natural presence in the region, García Márquez described plagues as “uncontrollable dangers” of “almost metaphysical dimension.” In his writing, he uses disease as a device to illuminate and intensify his recurring…

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