There is a legend Gabriel Garcia Marquez likes to tell about the writing of his most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. He claims that he wrote the book barricaded in his study in Mexico, after receiving a vision. One day, while he and his wife and children were in their car driving to Acapulco, he saw that he had to tell [his] story the way his grandmother used to tell hers, and that [he] was to start from that afternoon in which a father took his child to discover ice. He made an abrupt U-turn on the highway, the car never made it to Acapulco, and he locked himself in his study. Fifteen months later, he emerged with the manuscript, only to meet his wife holding a stack of bills. They traded papers, and she put the manuscript in the mail to his publisher.
Like everything Marquez writes, there is some truth and much fiction in this tale. The truth in the tale is that One Hundred Years of Solitude is a very personal book for the author. It would not have been written if he had not experienced the childhood he had. Marquez grew up with his maternal grandparents in Aracataca, Colombia. His grandparents were cousins who moved to Aracataca from Riohacha at the end of the War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902), a few years before a leafstorm. Marquez s childhood anecdotes tell of a big house full of ghosts, conversations in code, and relatives who could foretell their own deaths. It was also a house filled with guests and social events, shaded by almond trees and bursting with flowers. When Marquez s grandfather died, Marquez was sent to live with his parents. In his grandfather s absence, his grandmother, who was blind, could no longer keep up the house. It fell into a state of ruin, and red ants destroyed the trees and flowers. Also early in his childhood, Marquez witnessed the massacre of striking banana workersworkers at a plantation named Macondoat a train station. The government made every attempt to block information from the public and pacify the foreign plantation owners. Marquez was horrified, and even more horrified when he reached high school and learned that the event had been deleted from his history textbook.