Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian author whose beguiling stories of love and longing brought Latin America to life for millions of readers and put magical realism on the literary map, died on Thursday. He was 87.
A prolific writer who started out as a newspaper reporter, Garcia Marquez's masterpiece was "One Hundred Years of Solitude," a dream-like, dynastic epic that helped him win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.
Garcia Marquez died at his home in Mexico City, where he had returned from hospital last week after a bout of pneumonia.
Known affectionately to friends and fans as "Gabo," Garcia Marquez was Latin America's best-known and most beloved author and his books have sold in the tens of millions.
Although he produced stories, essays and several short novels such as "Leaf Storm" and "No One Writes to the Colonel" early in his career, he struggled for years to find his voice as a novelist.
He then found it in dramatic fashion with "One Hundred Years of Solitude," an instant success on publication in 1967. Mexican author Carlos Fuentes dubbed it "Latin America's Don Quixote" and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda also compared it to Miguel de Cervantes' 17th century tour de force.
Garcia Marquez's novel tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the fictional village of Macondo, based on the languid town of Aracataca close to Colombia's Caribbean coast where he was born on March 6, 1927, and raised by his maternal grandparents.
In it, Garcia Marquez combines miraculous and supernatural events with the details of everyday life and the political realities of Latin America. The characters are visited by ghosts, a plague of insomnia envelops Macondo, swarms of yellow butterflies mark the arrival of a woman's lover, a child is born with a pig's tail and a priest levitates above the ground.
At times comical and bawdy, and at others tragic, it sold over 30 million copies, was published in dozens of languages and helped fuel a boom in Latin American fiction.
A stocky man with a quick smile, thick mustache and curly hair, Garcia Marquez said he found inspiration for the novel by drawing on childhood memories of his grandmother's stories - laced with folklore and superstition but delivered with the straightest of faces.
"She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness," he said in a 1981 interview. "I discovered that what I had to do