*Just a quick note: Today is the one year anniversary of NapoleonSplit! Thanks to everyone for reading, it has been a fantastic year! Hope you enjoy this post!*
Title: Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Author: Gabriel García Márquez
Publication Date: 1982
Page Count: 120
Genre: Novel, Crime Fiction
Why: Course book
1) “I couldn’t bring myself to admit that life might end up resembling bad literature so much.”
2) “…she nailed it to the wall with her well-aimed dart, like a butterfly with no will whose sentence has always been written.”
New words/phrases: scimitar
Friend(s) who would enjoy this book: Melanie at GTL, Margot at Lectito, Kate, Belle
Song(s) in the soundtrack of this book:
1) Son, Warpaint (This is how the book feels)
2) New Kid in Town, The Eagles (Bayardo. To a tee!)
3) We Could Be So Good Together, Jim Morrison (From Angela to Bayardo)
4) Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, Kylie Minogue (Too funny! Angela)
5) The Funeral, Band of Horses
6) Bitter Song, Butterfly Boucher
7) Street Joy, White Denim (Love this band!)
8) Where is My Mind, Maxine Cyrin
9) Too Young, Phoenix (For the wedding)
10) Cold Hearted, Paula Abdul (Santiago)
11) Money, Money, Money, ABBA
12) Que Sera Sera, Doris Day (Fate)
13) Word of Mouth, Shakey Graves (Perfect. “If you don’t want to lock ’em, then you better buy a gun”)
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.
The first sentence of Chronicle of a Death Foretold is best read factually and sounds plain in every way except that it acknowledges the murder of a major character in the first nine words. In a small Columbian town, a wedding has just occurred between the wealthy and handsome Bayardo San Román and the modest Angela Vicario. However, Angela is unceremoniously dumped at her family’s doorstep during the night when San Román realizes Angela is not a virgin. Angela’s two brothers Pedro and Pablo take on their duty to restore their sisters honor by killing the man who stole her virginity. When Angela steadfastly claims Santiago Nasar was the culprit, the Vicario brothers go after him and murder him. However after the murder, there is much confusion. No one recalls seeing Angela and Santiago together, and although many townspeople knew about the murder, no one was able to stop it. Both the reader and the town face the burden of the knowledge that an innocent man may have just been murdered unjustly.
My favorite thing about this read was how absolutely strange it was. It is well known that Marquez was influenced by Kafka, and it is incredibly apparent in his writing. Many esoteric things are said so casually throughout the novel that is seems as though the reader is transported to an alternate place where abnormality is the norm. Close to the beginning of the book when San Román enters town as a bachelor and sees Angela for the first time, before a nap he states,”When I wake up… remind me that I’m going to marry her.” Phrases like these, which are just so bizarre, emphasize different character traits and societal norms. The grotesque is definitely present in Marquez’s work, and this focus on the strange in gross situations adds much to the novel. For example, after Santiago had been stabbed by the Vicario brothers he walks around town with his guts falling out and “he even took care to brush off the dirt that was stuck to his guts.” This image of brushing off dirt on your intestines is just so outlandish and emphasizes how absurd the entire situation really is.
Marquez’s description and expression of ideas is incredibly unique. Reminiscent of synesthesia, Marquez seems to mix senses in order to describe the way things are. For example, Santiago Nasar wears white linen because “his skin was so delicate that it couldn’t stand the noise of starch.” (Isn’t this just beautiful!) And even depictions of characters are vivid and evocative, for example Bayardo San Román”had the waist of a novice bullfighter, golden eyes, and a skin slowly roasted by saltpeter.”
There are so many characters in this book to remember that I actually ended up making a character map. Minor characters represent the town, and although they do not develop much throughout the story, they each play an important role in presenting the perspective of the public on Nasar’s murder. However major characters do grow, and since the book jumps around chronologically it is incredibly cool to be able to see development when the narrator flashes forward. For example, the once timid Angela Vicario who was completely controlled by her mother fell completely in love with Bayardo San Román, leading to personal growth as seen below:
[Angela] became lucid, overbearing, mistress of her own free will, and she became a virgin again just for him, and she recognized no other authority than her own nor any other service than that of her obsession.
Marquez also provides insight into South American cultural values regarding marriage, love, honor, and duty. The reader is able to understand South American machismo, and how the male pride and female honor are very different things. For example, the Vicario mother Pura Vicario, raises her daughters to be submissive, good wives, even stating “Any man will be happy with [her daughters] because they’ve been raised to suffer.” The idea of duty to a family is also explored through the murder, as Pedro and Pablo Vicario do “what a man should do” (kill Santiago) to restore their sister’s virginity even though they are very reluctant to kill a man. How honor differs according to gender and the burden of duty are ideas that are very deeply explored, lending a certain depth to this short story.
The title Chronicle of a Death Foretold is ironic in every way. Firstly the novel is not a “chronicle” as the story is definitely not told in the order that it occurred. And the “death foretold” part is one of the most interesting things about this novel as a whole. Santiago Nasar’s death was not foretold. It was almost completely avoidable. If one of the townspeople had spoken up and told Santiago Nasar that the Vicario brother’s were out for him, or if Santiago had just gone through the back door of his house, the murder would never have happened. Not many in the story believe Santiago truly deserved to die, and even the Vicario brother’s were reluctant to kill him and looking for a way out. In a way this is a kind of commentary on remaining silent: the entire town is in someway guilty of killing an innocent man.
I’ll end with this. Oh, the irony.
“There had never been a death more foretold.”