Gabriel Garcia Márquez's books on a yellow and pale blue background.

Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

Widely considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, Gabriel García Márquez was a journalist and short story writer as well as a novelist.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, “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”. By this point he’d published one of his two most famous novels.

If you’ve not come across his work before, or have only read one of his novels, here’s our guide to the work by Márquez that you need to read. 

Leaf Storm (1955)

This novella was first published in 1955 as La Hojarasca, and only published in English in the 1970s with its translated title. It’s the first appearance of Macondo, the fictional town that featured in one of Márquez’s most famous novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Drenched by rain, the town has been decaying since a banana company left, and its people are so bitter that when the doctor dies, there is no one to mourn him. But, thanks to a promise made many years ago, the Colonel and his family must bury the doctor.

If you’re curious about the development of Márquez’s writing style and ideas, then Leaf Storm is a must read. 

Love in the Time of Cholera (1985)

Published in English in 1988, three years after its original Spanish-language publication, Love in the Time of Cholera is a story of enduring love, and one of Márquez’s best known pieces of work.

It follows Florentino Ariza, a hopeless romantic who falls for Fermina Daza, but is rejected.

Instead, Fermina marries distinguished doctor Juvenal Urbino, while Florentino resigns himself to a life waiting for her. When Juvenal dies 51 years, nine months and four days later, Florentino has another chance to declare his feelings.

Moving between past and present, and infused with a sense of the fantastical and the absurd, Love in the Time of Cholera was Márquez’s third novel.

Reviewing the book in The New York Times, Thomas Pynchon wrote of Márquez: "He writes with impassioned control, out of a maniacal serenity: the Garcimarquesian voice we have come to recognise from the other fiction has matured, found and developed new resources, been brought to a level where it can at once be classical and familiar, opalescent and pure, able to praise and curse, laugh and cry, fabulate and sing and when called upon, take off and soar.” 

Innocent Eréndira and Other Stories (2014)

As well as novels, Márquez was also a dab hand at short stories. The lead story of this collection was first published in 1972 as 'The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and her Heartless Grandmother' (and in 1973 in English in an issue of Esquire). It tells the story of Eréndira, whose grandmother is a cruel woman. Eréndira, exhausted from never-ending chores, falls asleep with a candle still glowing, and it topples over. Her grandmother estimates that Eréndira owes her eight hundred and seventy-two thousand, three hundred and fifteen pesos, and so hawks her to soldiers, smugglers and traders. Can love save Eréndira? 

I’m Not Here to Give a Speech (2018)

Márquez’s talent for language came through in not just his written work, but in the speeches he gave throughout his life. This book collects together speeches Márquez gave throughout his life, from an early talk given as a teenager graduating high school to his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize.

I’m Not Here to Give a Speech offers a portrait of Márquez that goes beyond that readers may have gleaned from his fiction. 

Of Love and Other Demons (1994)

This was Márquez’s final published novel, and explores community, superstition and collective hysteria.

A witch doctor appears on the Marquis de Casalduero's doorstep prophesising a plague of rabies in the Colombian seaport. He initially dismisses the claims,  until his daughter Sierva María is the only survivor when four people are bitten by a rabid dog.

As rumours of the plague spread, the Marquis and his wife wonder at Sierva María's continuing good health, and superstition leads them, and the rest of the town, to put her survival down to a demonic possession and to see her supernatural powers as the cause of the town's woes. 

One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)

One Hundred Years of Solitude is probably Márquez’s most iconic novel, and tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family and of Macondo, the town they have built.

It blends magical realism, fantasy and comic invention with political reality, and is guaranteed to surprise on first reading.

Although it is now much praised, it wasn’t recognised for its greatness immediately upon publication. Looking back at the novel’s publication, The Atlantic wrote: "One Hundred Years of Solitude was not immediately recognised as the Bible of the style now known as magical realism, which presents fantastic events as mundane situations. Nor did critics agree that the story was really groundbreaking.”

How wrong those critics were.

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