Gabriel García Márquez – Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Posted on | October 18, 2010 | 8 Comments

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Chronicle Of A Death ForetoldAfter 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?


8 Responses to “Gabriel García Márquez – Chronicle of a Death Foretold”

  1. mee
    October 18th, 2010 @ 4:32 am

    I read One Hundred Year of Solitude a couple of months ago and am thinking of reading his book once per year too, like you have! This book has been on my radar, and I’ll surely get to it soon or later. I like the premise!

  2. Joanna
    October 18th, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

    I haven’t read any Marquez – I’m in the ‘he intimidates me’ camp. Maybe this one is a good one to start with, you’re right, it definitely intrigues me.

  3. Pete
    October 18th, 2010 @ 3:56 pm

    I’ve read two of GGM’s books – One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. I loved the first, couldn’t stand the second. This one looks interesting, though. Will have to look for a copy. Thanks for the review.

  4. Steph
    October 18th, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

    One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my very favorite books. I just loved the writing so very much, and it left me completely breathless. Marquez is an author whose entire collection I want to read – so far I’ve only read Love in the Time of Cholera, which was also good, but I didn’t love it quite as much as Hundred Years. I’m so glad to hear you find him consistently good!

  5. Becky (Page Turners)
    October 19th, 2010 @ 4:47 am

    Sounds amazing. Everything he writes is amazing, lets face it. I hadn’t even heard of this one but I am going to look for it

  6. Claire (Paperback Reader)
    October 20th, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

    I’d have to say that this and One Hundred Years of Solitude are my favourite books by Márquez so far and two of my all-time favourite books ful stop; “The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and her Heartless Grandmother” is also one of the best short stories I have ever read.

    I have also read Of Love and Other Demons, Memories of My Melancholy Whores and Love in the Time of Cholera; I would rate them in that order also.

  7. Kinna
    October 23rd, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

    Like most Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of my favorite authors. His longer novels get a lot of attention. But I think that his shorter works, his novellas, are really exceptional. Chronicle… is one of the best ones. I also love No One Writes to the Colonel. He demonstrates in Chronicle… that its the telling of the story, not actually the event, that matters. And the multiple retelling from various people was a lot of fun for me. Like entering a village where a tragedy has occurred and hearing it over and over from different people. One retelling is somehow not enough. Thanks for the review.

  8. Gabriel García Márquez – Of Love And Other Demons : another cookie crumbles
    May 30th, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

    […] Last year, I mentioned how I’m trying to read one book by Gabriel García Márquez every year. That was a resolution I made on reading my first novel by the Nobel Prize laureate (One Hundred Years of Solitude), but now – now, I’m thinking, why shouldn’t I read them back-to-back? That gives me ample time to go back and enjoy each of his books again, and again, and – you get the idea, right? […]

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