“Chronicle of a Death Foretold” is a fascinating novella by the famous author Gabriel García Márquez. Set in a small coastal town in Colombia, it recounts the events surrounding the brutal murder of Santiago Nasar. The murder occurs following Angela Vicario’s wedding night, during which her wealthy husband, Bayardo San Román, discovers that his new wife is no virgin. Disgusted, he returns Angela to her family home the very same night, where she is savagely beaten and forced to confess who her first lover was. She names Santiago Nasar, and her twin brothers, Pedro and Pablo, immediately announce their intentions to kill him for dishonouring their sister.
The story is told through the perspective of one of Santiago’s friends, who has returned to the town 27 years after the murder took place, determined to get to the bottom of the story. Through his extensive interviews with the people of the town, it emerges that virtually everyone knew that Santiago Nasar was going to be murdered, who was going to do it and why. As the narrator himself puts it: “there had never been a death more foretold”. The mystery then becomes: if everyone knew that the murder was going to take place, why did no one intervene to stop it?
Chronicle of a Death Foretold explores many important issues, such as the position of men and women in society, relationships, honour and hierarchy. Perhaps most important is the idea of collective responsibility and guilt. Everyone in the town knew what was going to happen, and yet did little to stop it. Through writing his chronicle, the narrator is really putting the whole town and its society on trial – rather than just the brothers who committed the murder.
I thoroughly enjoyed this gem of a book. It is completely unlike anything else I have read before, and left me eager to pick up some of Márquez’s other works. Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts”. This blend of the realistic and fantastic really shines through in “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”, and makes for a very interesting read.
Despite the fact that that event Chronicle of a Death Foretold centres around is revealed on the very first page, tension and intrigue are maintained throughout the novella, which is a true testament to Gabriel García Márquez’s writing skills. The details surrounding Santiago Nasar’s murder are revisited time and time again, becoming increasingly gory. As a consequence, the reader, like the narrator, is left wanting to understand the events that took place. Chronicle of a Death Foretold also leaves the reader with many questions unanswered – was Santiago really “guilty”? Why did Angela name him? Who was Bayardo San Román, really? I can’t help but think that this, perhaps, is meant to reflect that in real life, we are often left without true answers. In any case, it makes for a story that will keep you thinking, and stay with you for a long time after the final page.
In conclusion, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a brilliant novella which shows that you don’t need 500 pages to tell a gripping and complex story, and I highly recommend it. Fair warning, though – it’s not for the squeamish.