Rumours of the death of the great Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez have been, in the immortal words of Mark Twain, greatly exaggerated.
Magical realist Márquez won 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”. Yesterday evening a Twitter account purporting to belong to the Italian author and academic Umberto Eco stated: “Gabriel García Márquez dies. I received the news now from New York.” Writer Mario Vargas Llosa and Márquez’s family confirmed the news, according to the account, which “will be officially announced by the sister Aida and by publishers in few hours”.
With the Eco account followed by almost 2,000 people, the news quickly spread and literary social media went into mourning – until doubts started to surface about its veracity. The Eco account has not been verified by Twitter as belonging to The Name of the Rose author, and its tweets were eventually dismissed as a hoax. “What if we said Umberto Eco died? A false account,” tweeted the apparent – although not verified – account of the 85-year-old Márquez himself, @ElGabo. Jaime Abello Banfi, director of the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation, also denied the rumours, while Reuters’ Mexico correspondent Cyntia Barrera Diaz said a colleague had spoken with the Colombian ambassador to Mexico, and Márquez was in Los Angeles visiting family.
“Don’t be upset about Twitter circulating rumours of Gabriel García Márquez’s demise – this is exactly how magical realism works,” said New York Times journalist Michael Roston. “Looks like the García Márquez news is hoax. What bastards. Chronicle of a Death Foretweeted …” said author Stephanie Merritt, referencing Márquez’s novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
Márquez is just the latest victim of the so-called Twitter death-rumour mill, joining Pope Benedict XVI, Fidel Castro and Pedro Almodóvar. Many of the hoaxes were instigated by the Italian schoolteacher Tommaso De Benedetti, who has also been linked to the fake Eco account. “Social media is the most unverifiable information source in the world but the news media believes it because of its need for speed,” De Benedetti told the Guardian in March.