MEXICO CITY (AP) — His death mourned around the globe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is being hailed as a giant of modern literature, a writer of intoxicating novels and short stories that illuminated Latin America's passions, superstition, violence and social inequality.
Widely considered the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century, the Colombian-born Nobel laureate achieved literary celebrity that spawned comparisons to Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. He died at his home in Mexico City on Thursday afternoon at age 87.
His flamboyant and melancholy fictional works — among them "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," ''Love in the Time of Cholera" and "The Autumn of the Patriarch" — outsold everything published in Spanish except the Bible. The epic 1967 novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude" sold more than 50 million copies in more than 25 languages.
His stories made him literature's best-known practitioner of magical realism, the fictional blending of the everyday with fantastical elements such as a boy born with a pig's tail and a man trailed by a cloud of yellow butterflies.
"A thousand years of solitude and sadness because of the death of the greatest Colombian of all time!" Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Twitter.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wrote in a tweet, "Affection and admiration for the essential and universal writer of Spanish literature in the second half of the twentieth century."
The first sentence of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" has become one of the most famous opening lines of all time: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
Biographer Gerald Martin told The Associated Press that the novel was the first in which "Latin Americans recognized themselves, that defined them, celebrated their passion, their intensity, their spirituality and superstition, their grand propensity for failure."