Posted on | October 18, 2010 | 8 Comments
After reading One Hundred Years of Solitude some four years back, I decided to read one book by the Nobel laureate, Gabriel García Márquez, every year. This is the fifth book by Márquez that I’m reading, and I found it as brilliant – and different – as the previous four.
The plot of the book is revealed with the title of this novella, and the first line:
On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.
So, Santiago Nasar was going to be killed, and most of the people living in the small unnamed Columbian village knew the details : the perpetrators, the reason, the place, and the way in which the murder was going to be carried out. No one warned the victim, and by the time the people likely to warn him found out about the plan, it was too late.
Written in first person, this is a ‘chronicle’ of Santiago Nasar’s death, as the author goes about interviewing the locals, some twenty-seven years after the incident, in order to figure out why no one attempted to stop this event. To cut a short story shorter (sorry!), Bayardo San Roman, a wealthy out-of-towner, married the beautiful Angela Vicario. On their wedding night, he discovered that she wasn’t a virgin and subsequently, returned her to her parents’ house. Her brothers, Pedro and Pablo Vicario, coerced her into telling them who the man responsible for this act was, and her reply was Santiago Nasar. In order to defend their sister’s honour (and their family honour), the brothers decided to kill Nasar. However, it seemed as though it was tradition that prompted them to plan the murder, as opposed to any real desire to kill Nasar. Tradition that dictated that the brothers must always avenge their sister’s honour.
The writing is repetitive, in a way, as it follows the same event from many different perspectives. It’s almost like a mystery story going backwards, with the crime, the criminals and the motive being laid out at the very outset, and the “investigation” (i.e. the interviews conducted by the narrator) happening later. The pivotal question remains: how did the locals of the village allow the Vicario brothers to kill Nasar, despite knowing all the details of their plans?
The writing is precise and to-the-point, almost as though it’s a journalist doing the writing, not an author. The flowery poetic language found in One Hundred Years of Solitude is completely absent, as this book seems to be more factual. It’s completely engrossing, and I thought it was a non-fictional account. However, a quick search on Google told me otherwise.
I enjoyed this book, and for those of you who are intimidated by Márquez, this might be a good place to start, as it’s quite short, and the language isn’t overwhelming. The story is fantastic, and it lets the reader interpret certain key moments/events in their own way.
Have you read any Márquez? Which is your favourite book by him?