MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - 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, a source close to his family said. He had returned home from hospital last week after what doctors said was a bout of pneumonia. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed the death.
Known affectionately to friends and fans as "Gabo", Garcia Marquez was Latin America's best-known author 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" in the 1950s and early 1960s, he struggled for years to find his voice as a novelist.
But he then found it in dramatic fashion with "One Hundred Years of Solitude," an instant success on publication in 1967 that was dubbed "Latin America's Don Quixote" by late Mexican author Carlos Fuentes.
It 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 Garcia Marquez was born on March 6, 1927 and raised by his maternal grandparents.
In the novel, Garcia Marquez combines miraculous and supernatural events with the details of everyday life and the political realities of Latin America.
At times comical, others tragic, it sold more than 30 million copies and helped fuel a boom in Latin American fiction.
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 was believe in them myself, and write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face."
Garcia Marquez was one of the prime exponents of magical realism, a genre he described as embodying "myth, magic and other extraordinary phenomenon."
It was a turbulent period in much of Latin America, when chaos was often the norm and reality verged on the surreal, and magical realism struck a chord.
"In his novels and short stories we are led into this peculiar place where the miraculous and the real converge. The extravagant flight of his own fantasy combines with traditional folk tales and facts, literary allusions and tangible - at times obtrusively graphic - descriptions approaching the matter-of-factness of reportage," the Swedish Academy said when it awarded Garcia Marquez the Nobel Prize in 1982.
Although "One Hundred Years of Solitude" was his most popular creation, other classics from Garcia Marquez included "Autumn of the Patriarch", "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "Chronicle of a Death Foretold".
(Reporting by Mexico City newsroom; Editing by Kieran Murray)