Classic Corner: Chronicle Of A Death Foretold


Name: Chronicle Of A Death Foretold

Author: Gabriel García Márquez

Year: 1980

Genre: Crime

Chronicle Of A Death Foretold is the 1981 novel written by Gabriel García Márquez, and is part of the series of short classic books I wanted to read in 2022.

The story of this novel is written from the perspective of an unknown narrator who is giving an account of “the day they decided to kill him”, him being Santiago Nasar.

The narrator begins with describing the events of the morning which leads to his death. He has just returned home after leaving a wedding between Bayardo San Roman, a newcomer and Angela Vicario, a long-term resident of their village. However, two hours after the wedding Bayardo returns Angela to her parents, saying she isn’t a virgin, causing her mother to violently beat her. When she names Santiago Nasar as the man who took her virginity, her brothers, Pablo and Pedro Vicario, set out to kill him to avenge the insult to their family honour. After the bishop makes an appearance at the village the two brothers stab him to death with meat knives.

The remainder of the novel examines some of the reasoning behind what happened and why it wasn’t prevented and in a non-linear way. For example, the book after the murder describes the relationship between Angela Vicario and Bayardo San Roman, before moving to talk about Santiago’s autopsy where is body is more or less butchered as no one is qualified to do it.

In terms of whether I recommend this book, I find myself very on the fence with it. I can definitely admire the novel’s creativity in how it deviates from the traditional detective novel by telling you who did the crime and why right at the beginning.

I also like the journalistic writing style, presented almost as if the narrator is investigating it like a true crime podcast would today (it also reminds me of Solving Cadence Moore which I reviewed a few years ago and had a similar structure). Marquez was himself a journalist and is does come across in the forensic way the story is written and it definitely hooks you into the end.

In doing further research into the novel, I was quite interested to learn Marquez was inspired by real-life events that occurred with his godbrother which was strikingly similar to the plot of this novel. A young couple got married in Sucre in 1951 only for the husband to discover his new wife wasn’t a virgin and had slept with her ex boyfriend who was murdered by his brothers. However whereas the true story it was definitely the case that she had slept with him, in this novel it is ambiguous.

I think this is also my central problem with the novel that it Marquez doesn’t make it clear if Santiago Nasar was guilty or not. In fact, it is is suggested otherwise but no alternative is really given to say who could have done it instead.

It could be argued in some ways the novel isn’t necessarily about the death but how little was done to prevent it with various characters asked by the narrator why they didn’t stop it. The characters give answers ranging from them thinking the brothers wouldn’t go ahead with it, believing someone else would warn him instead and being nonchalant and even a few characters wishing him dead anyway for other misdeeds done by him and his family.

This does provide some interesting commentary about how a singular event can affect a community in different ways and also how people can think about someone else in public and in private. I would say though towards the end I was getting a bit fed up of hearing other people’s perspectives and I was disappointed there wasn’t a resolution at the end.  At the beginning, the novel had been very literal with the first sentence stating someone dies so I was expecting a twist at the end. For instance, maybe the narrator we are reading as actually had a relationship with Angela as it is suggested the narrator lived there and moved away before returning.

The book does have a creative take on crime fiction so I would recommend at least giving it a try. If you have read it, let me know your thoughts in the comments down below as I wonder if this is just me or something that is a wider perception of the novel.

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