Storyteller With Bent for Revolution: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
By MARLISE SIMONS
The New York Times
Published: October 22, 1982
When Gabriel Garcia Marquez tried to call his mother in Colombia this morning to tell her he had just won the Nobel Prize, her phone was out of order. Later he heard her say, during a radio interview, ''Maybe now they will finally fix the telephone.''
It was the sort of story, of the absurd, the funny and the impossible in much of Latin America, that this Colombian author loves to tell.
When talking with friends recently about his growing fame and the chance of winning the Nobel, Mr. Garcia Marquez, a committed and politically active leftist, said it would be for ''the good of the revolution'' in Latin America.
But the short and stocky 54-year-old writer, who is shy in public, also said fame was making him personally deeply uncomfortable. ''I detest being converted into a public spectacle,'' he commented. ''The worst thing that can happen to a writer in a continent where people don't read is that his books are being sold like sausages.'' Fiction Based on Reality
This eminent storyteller has come a long way, as he once remarked, from Aracataca, the run-down banana town of wooden homes and zinc roofs on Colombia's Caribbean coast. He was born there on March 6, 1928, one of 16 children of a telegraph operator. When his parents moved to another town, he stayed behind and was raised by his grandparents.
The characters and the setting of those early years were frequently used in his writing and dominated his best-known novel, ''One Hundred Years of Solitude.'' He has often said that much of his fiction ''did not have to be invented - I took most of it from reality.''
As a teen-ager he won a scholarship to a school for the poor in the nearby village of Zipaquira. Later he enrolled in the law school at Bogota University because, he once said in an interview, it was the only one that had afternoons free so he could earn a living.
Political violence led to the closing of the university and ''Gabo,'' as his friends call him, moved to Barranquilla, where he got his first job as a journalist and wrote fiction in his free time. He was fortunate, he once recalled, in living over a brothel. ''It's the best thing there is for a novelist. The days are very quiet. At night you can enjoy yourself and meet interesting characters.'' Miserably Cold in an Attic
As a journalist on Bogota newspapers, first on El Tiempo, then on El Espectador, he was sent to Geneva, Rome and Paris. And when El Espectador closed down while he was in Paris, he decided to stay. Friends often found the writer, used only to the tropical Caribbean, in a small Paris attic, wearing overcoat, hat and gloves. He worked there on short stories, freezing with cold and deeply in debt.
''One Hundred Years of Solitude,'' published in l967, eventually brought him fame and wealth, but he still remembers the cold. The studio he built at the bottom of the garden in his Mexico City home is always kept very warm. When he is not traveling in Europe or Cuba - he is a long-time friend of President Fidel Castro of Cuba and President Francois Mitterrand of France - he writes there and listens to music every day from 9 till 2.
He uses his fame and the money he has earned from his numerous literary awards for specific political causes and to promote socialist revolution in Latin America. After the Cuban revolution he helped found Prensa Latina, the Cuban press agency, but in 1961, while he was its correspondent in New York, he fell out with the editors and moved to Mexico City. He still defends the Cuban revolution but opposes the region's Communist parties because, he has said, the ''model made in Moscow'' does not fit the character, traditions, likings or geopolitics of Latin America.
His political views have often caused squabbles between him and the Colombian rulers. In March 1981 he took refuge in the Mexican Embassy in Bogota; he said at the time had been told confidentially that he was about to be arrested.
For a decade after he left New York he was refused a visa by the United States because of his political leanings, but he says, ''I have never belonged to a Communist party.'' He was finally allowed entry in 1971 to receive an honorary doctorate at Columbia University. He says that he now gets a visa whenever he applies but that it is always marked ''For lecture at Columbia University'' even though that is not the case. A Love Story in the Works
For all his fame as a novelist and short story writer, Mr. Garcia Marquez says he still feels much like a journalist. Over the past two years he has written a weekly column of social and political commentary that is syndicated in l6 Spanish-language newspapers.
With the election of a new government in Colombia relations have improved and he says he hopes to start his own newspaper there next year. ''Gabo has always dreamed of having his own newspaper,'' said his wife, Mercedes, to whom he has been married 25 years. They have two sons, Rodrigo, 23 years old, and Gonzalo, 20.
The writer is now working on a novel that he has described as ''a love story'' with a happy ending. ''Love stories always end badly, the people are always miserable,'' he said recently. ''I'm writing a story in which people are happy forever and ever. The world is short of happiness.''