on 24 March 2004
Marquez displays his true journalistic background in this short novel. Moving effortlessly from past to present and seamlessly interweaving accounts from a myriad of characters and his own perceptions he presents us with a riveting account of a 27 year-old killing. There is a dreamlike quality about his language and style that I found very entertaining.
on 28 April 2004
A man returns to the town where the murder of Santiago Nasar took place 27years before.
Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning onthe Monday he was going to be killed by the twins Pedro and Pablo Vicario.The narrator is told by Placida Linero, Santiago Nasar's mother, thatwithin the hour, her 21 year old son would be dead.
Why did the twins want to kill the proprietor of The Divine Face, theranch he had inherited from his father? Why did they chose that particularmorning, when the bishop was due to visit the village? Why wasn't SantiagoNasar aware of the fact that somebody had shoved an envelope under thedoor of his house with a written document warning him that he was goingkilled, stating in addition the place, the motive and other quite precisedetails of the plot? How could the murder have been committed despite thefact that nearly all the inhabitants of the town knew that it wasinevitably going to happen?
The investigation of this murder takes thequality of a hallucinatory exploration into the past. The narrator's questfor the truth leads him into the darkness of human intentions, a truththat perpetually seems to slither away. This small masterpiece is one ofthe greatest classics of the 20th century.
on 1 May 2005
This book is a little gem that I can rank only alongside Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground. Its short length means nothing, because it is so unique and fascinating that you will remember it when all your 500-page novels have been forgotten.
The account is based on a true event which took place in the Colombian town of Sucre during Gabriel García Márquez's earlier years, though the names have been changed in this account. This highlights the fact that this book was not written to be a journalistic reconstruction. First and foremost it is a story - a story of a vicious stabbing against a front door, a murder of revenge, foretold (or "announced" as it may also be translated) in advance all over the town.
The book does not need to be long because it does not set out to provide the thrills and spills of a typical crime novel. It is as cool and evocative as The Godfather, but the gorgeous Latin American stylings serve a higher purpose. Márquez's theme is collective responsibility. Is the whole town responsible for allowing this "death foretold"? Is a whole culture responsible? To what extent is this murder justifiable as a crime of passion?
Márquez puts these questions to the reader by dissecting the events, in the process shedding light upon all the relevant circumstances, motives, culprits, victims and consequences in his simple yet poetic manner.
This is a master storyteller in his element, confronting difficult themes while presenting a plethora of believable characters. It is so concise you could read the book in the time it takes to watch a film, but Chronicle of a Death Foretold is well worth savouring and rereading.
on 17 July 2004
How can an author keep the reader interested in his book when he gives away the ending in the first page?. Well, he needs to be an extraordinary writer, with the ability to enthrall the reader completely. Of course, not everybody can do that, but the truth is that the author of this book isn't "everybody". Gabriel García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, and he clearly deserved it. You can easily see that if you read some of the many master pieces he wrote: this is just one of them.
"Chronicle of a Death Foretold" has many ingredients that make it a wonderful book. In my opinion the most important ones are García Marquez's brilliant prose, and the risk he took by doing the unthinkable: bluntly telling the reader the end of the story in the first pages of the book.
However, I think I should also highlight that the story itself is excellent: a wedding, a bride returned to her family in disgrace, her brothers forced by their code of honor to kill her previous lover, and announcing to all that want to hear them that they intend to do so. This is indeed the "Chronicle of a Death Foretold"... Everyone knows who is going to die, except for the intended victim and his mother.
On the whole, this book is incredibly good and somewhat picturesque. The story takes place many years ago, in a provincial town with different values from those we have nowadays, and García Márquez manages to make the reader understand that. I couldn't ignore the sense of fatalism that pervades the book, probably due to the fact that something is already certain: things will turn out badly in the end.
Despite that, even though we know from the first page what is going to happen, we still want to find out why did it happen. There is another pertinent question: who were the culprits?. The girl's brothers or the whole town, that knowing what they were going to do didn't stop them?. In Lope de Vega's words, I believe that "Fuenteovejuna did it"... But that is merely a personal opinion.
My advice?. Buy this book, read it, and reach your own conclusions. You are highly likely to enjoy the process :)
on 7 October 2009
Anyone who stands by while a crime is being committed, and does nothing, is as guilty as those who committed the crime.
This story is about a community's complicity in the sacrifice of an innocent yound man.
A lawyer returns to his home town, and the scene of a murder, 27 years after it occurs in order to gain testimony from the town's living witnesses. What we find is that nothing is clear and that people seem to have differing opinions on the incident. Perhaps it is their guilt that clouds their memories, or perhaps they just want to forget their participation.
A young woman is married off to a man she doesn't know because her family hold his wealth and status in respect. On her wedding night he returns her to her family because she is not a virgin. Her family are outraged, her honour tarnished. To avoid a scandal and to regain her honour she is beaten until she agrees to give the name of the man who despoiled her. She gives a name, the name of Santiago Nasar.
The lawyer and narrator makes an attempt to clear up the mysteries surrounding Santiago's murder by the bride's brothers, slaughterhouse workers who butcher him with their knives. He attempts to separate fact from fiction and what we both discover is that this man could have been saved and that he wasn't.
So who do we blame for his death? The bride? Her brothers? The mayor of the town who, when petitioned for help, went off to the club? The priest who said that he only saves souls? His friends? His fiancee who, knowing his fate, locked him out? The townspeople who knew what was going to happen and so gathered around to watch?
All of them! All except Santiago Nasar himself, for it was not even he who deflowered the young woman.
Not for a long time has a text made me rage and weep in equal measure at injustice and the cruel, cruel nature of man. Have pity, for they had none.
on 22 October 2011
To fully appreciate this book, you have to first understand that most writers would have written this entire book within a paragraph. Magic realism is not for those who like fast pace and for many things to happen. It is for those who just want to be told a story, any story regardless of how short or unlikely the plot, and be told it in the most fantastical way possible.
It must be read for the love of reading and for the love of literature, not for the need to read something to pass the time. I could smell the blood sweat and tears as I read this unforgiving masterpiece. It paces the reader with great fluidity until the final and extremely graphic climax.
on 29 March 2011
Gregory Rabassa's translation is frankly awful. His prose style is wooden and clumsy,sometimes verging on meaningless e.g "the brothers had done nothing right in line with killing Santiago Nasar right off and without any public spectacle, but had done much more than could be imagined for someone to stop them from killing him, and they failed." When describing two knives he shifts to the singular ("it looked like a miniature scimitar"). He uses "awaken" transitively which is 'legal' but no English speaker would say "I awakened him". It seems that the cardinal rule of translation has been breached viz. the translator should have native fluency in the language of translation.
on 8 June 2000
This is a novel that I have read many times,both in english and spanish.Each time that I read it ,it is as the first time. You can feel the heat radiating from the pages ,transporting you, in a sense that you feel as though you are a silent onlooker to the events that unfold,powerless to stop them. The claustraphobia of the village and the intense misguided passion of its inhabitants positively infuse your mind with the feeling of anticipation and dread ,knowing all along there can only be one outcome. Although the finale is inevitable and you are aware of this from the begining,it holds your attention to the end and leaves you wanting more of marquez's unrivalled magical storytelling.
on 13 May 2000
I originally had to read this book as part of an A-level coursework, but it has since become a favourite book. Unravelling the events of a murder, many years prior - the book leaps around in a highly original and exciting way. Every read shows you that little bit more of irony, or a scene you failed to realise the importance of the first tiem around. A truly marvellous work.
"Chronicle of a Death Foretold" (1981) is a difficult, enigmatic short novel by the celebrated Columbian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Set in a small, unnamed Columbian village the book revolves around the murder of Santiago Nasar, 21 with pig knives by twin brothers, Pedro and Pablo Vicario, 24. The murder resulted when the twin's beautiful young sister, Angela, reluctantly agreed to an arranged marriage to a wealthy man, Bayardo, whom she did not love. When Bayardo discovered on the wedding night that Angela was not a virgin, he returned her to her home. Angela's mother then beat her unmercifully. Angela named Nasar as the man who had deflowered her. With reluctance, Pedro and Pablo set out to avenge their sister's honor by killing Nasar. As the story develops, virtually everyone in the town was aware of the impending murder and took no steps or ineffectual steps to stop it. Some individuals familiar with Nasar and his reputation for philandering may have actively abetted the murder.
Marquez tells the story in an elliptical way that resists easy summation. The event gets recounted from a variety of times and perspectives which are not fully consistent with each other and which are meant to be partial and unreliable. The manner of the telling and the style are as important or more so than the event. The book opens with an immediate announcement of the theme: "[o]n 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." The opening chapter concludes with the announcement: '[t]hey've already killed him."
The story is told by an unnamed narrator who was present when the events of the story occurred. He has become a journalist and returns to the small, forgotten village 27 years after the fact to explore the incident and the people involved further. The narrator is at least partially unreliable given his relationship to both the family of the bride and to the murdered man. His motives in returning to the village and in pursuing the incident after the lapse of so many years also is important and critical to trying to understand the story.
The story develops in layers in a concentric non-linear way. The narrator gives an overview of the event as it apparently developed followed by reports of official investigations and of incidents over the years prior to the narrator's final appearance in the village. Many of the records of the case have been lost or are otherwise incomplete. The views offered by various participants and observers tend to change with time. The gruesome murder itself, by the twins who made every effort to be stopped in their action, is recounted only at the end of the book.
The narrator's unstated role in the incident, the incomplete records, the nature of the village, and the passage of time warn against drawing hard conclusions from the story. Some of the background of the book turns upon Columbian history, including its civil wars, and its culture; but the themes of the book are tantalizingly broader. An important aspect of the book lies in the complicity of the townspeople in the murder and in their failure to intervene. Various reasons are suggested for this complicity, but the matter remains highly ambiguous and resists generalization. There is substantial doubt about whether the murdered man was "guilty" of the defloration of which he had been accused. The book discusses the sexual code of the small, changing town, in which women were expected to come to their husband without sexual experience while the men satisfied their sexual needs liberally with prostitutes. The Catholicism of the people gets a great deal of notice, most of which suggests complicity in a macho sexual world with sharp economic distinctions as well between the poor and the wealthy. With all of this, the role of chance, fate, and character also receive emphasis in Marquez' telling. The tone of the book reflects ambiguity and irony.
The story line is simple but the many characters, the shifts in time and perspective, the lack of information, and the narrator's studied ambiguity make this book provocative and difficult. More than pat answers on for example the need to resist evil or on the inadequacy of machismo culture, the book encourages reflection. The book tells a story with themes and gaps without moralizing. It is a beautifully written work of modern literature.