Friday, 8 March 2013

The Classics Club: Chronicle of a Death foretold (Crónica de una muerte anunciada)

In honour of Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez's birthday this past Wednesday, I read a little book of his - the Chronicle of a Death foretold. A book little in size, but definitely not in content...

So many themes get mixed up in an atmospheric background, that I almost forgot what the subject was about:  this is a heinous crime, the murder of Santiago Nasar, and the narrator wants put the pieces of the puzzle together and record the events leading up to Santiago's demise.

Did I get a chronicle?  No. Do I know who the real culprit was? No. Do I know who the narrator is? No.  Yet, I really enjoyed this little novel...

We find ourselves somewhere in Colombia in the 1950s.  That already sets the tone and the mood of the book.  I felt I was watching a movie and everything had a sun-kissed look to it.  Everything is slower, more relaxed.  But we do have to meet Santiago, as he gets killed. 
He is named the culprit for Angela being returned to her parents by her groom, Bayardo - he's found out she's not a virgin.

Angela's brothers have consequently been looking for Santiago and when they do find him, they kill him.  This is one of the major themes in the book - honour, and how this dictates how one should live their lives.  Honour in a land where society itself is so dishonourable, it becomes cynical to talk about it.  Honour in times of extreme poverty that one does not have the luxury of living honourably.  Honour that will be used as the rationale for murder... Plenty of subtle comments towards this difference make it evident that there is definitely a contrast between what we show to others and what to ourselves...

Poverty also plays a role in how the story evolves - Angela cannot afford not to marry Bayardo.  Bayardo has been looking for quite some time to "buy" a wife.  Still, at the moment of the wedding, the most extravagant celebration has to be witnessed by the whole village.  When the bishop passes with the ship, all the villagers have to offer whatever they have in the hope to get a blessing from him... Such scenes did ring a bell with me because of similar experience I had in small islands - the less one has, the more they have to come up with on grand occasions.

The story of the murder of Santiago.  Everything narrated is almost hazy - a continuous shift between the time before and after the crime ensures a very entertaining reading, but also gives the impression that no one really knows the true story.  Which is, I would think, what the reality of most murders would tend to be like.  There are so many parameters, so many actors in such situations, that we will really need to dig to get to the bottom of the story.  The narrator in this book does not do so.  He lists the various interviews, facts heard or read about in a confused order, so that we come to realise that perhaps this was a murder that was not meant to be.  The brothers made everything possible to warn everyone of their intentions half-expecting, I suppose, that at least one would have to decency to lock them up.

No one does, however.  Their intended act coincides with the arrival of the bishop and people want to take this opportunity to get his blessing (hint:  he does not get off the ship...).  And so, we're left with a murdered young man who, by all indications, was not involved with the scandal, with a young woman who was in reality glad she did not go through with the masquerade - although in a twist, she falls in love with her husband after he deserts her - and with the two families picking up the pieces and trying to go on living.  Just like in real - surreal rather - situations in life.

The only difference is the warm weather, the slight wind on our faces, the noise of all the people around us...


  1. This is a great book and also a great introduction to García Márquez. The first sentence of the book is embedded forever in my brain, for some reason.

    1. Yes, I think I'll like his books!




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...