In 1981, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a year shy of winning his Nobel Prize in Literature, released Chronicles of a Death Foretold to the world. It tells a non-linear story of the murder Santiago Nasar, a cattle rancher. The murder is perpetrated by two other men, who are twin brothers seeking to bring back honor to their sister. The sister, who is forced into a marriage, is then returned by her husband hours after their own extravagant wedding when he finds out she isn’t a virgin. The sister claims that Santiago Nasar took her virginity. The story is told from the perspective a nameless narrator who investigates the murder twenty years after the event.
The first distinction I noticed about this novel is that although Marquez uses his trademark flowing lyrical diction, it never goes into the realm of magical realism. No one floats up to heaven while doing the laundry, nor lives for one hundred-and-forty y
rs; instead, every character and motivation is rooted in reality most of the time and Latin American culture. Even the way Marquez writes is straightforward and short. I would argue that this novel is perhaps the most “normal” of Marquez’s library. The paragraphs and sentences never go on and on like they do in One Hundred Years of Solitude or The Autumn of The Patriarch. Rather, the novels reads sometimes like a true crime/detective novel. Despite the sentences being written in Marquez’s poetic way, the sentences alway feel they are presented in a matter-of-fact tone, like in a police report.
Besides the beautiful writing of Marquez, a highlight of this book is that despite it telling you already that the murder happened and is going to happen no matter what, the reader is never truly prepared for the climax at the end when the twins finally reach Santiago Nasar. The graphic detail in which the climax unfolds shocked me. It really stuck at home that this murder was senseless, and the reality of killing another person and the reasons for murder is down right ugly or ridiculous in retrospect, and nobody deserves it. I enjoyed this story gave me a glimpse into the thought processes and importance of “honor” in Latin America. Another highlight is that I liked how short the novel was. Marquez does have a penchant for going on waxing poetics, but this book was concise. It was long enough for me to not feel that he wasn’t giving me enough, nor was it too long to become tedious. It was a satisfying nugget of literature.
One thing that I have to critique about it is that the story did not move me. I was touched. I felt engaged at some points, like why no one stopped the murder sooner, and I felt bad for the Santiago at the end, but when I closed the book, I didn’t need a moment of solitude to reflect on the book like I did with One Hundred Years of Solitude. I would say the reason for this is because the characters bordered on too normal. I knew a lot about these characters, but a majority of them were not extremely interesting, including the protagonist Santiago Nasar. By far the most interesting character of the book, and thereby the saving grace of this being too normal for a Marquez book, is the antagonist Angela Vacario, who sets the murder in motion and later obsesses over her estranged husband. The reader never really finds out if Santiago Nasar did take her virginity. It is ambiguous over whether she lied or not, but the book itself implies that he did not. The fact that the book and I do not know for certain engages me, and saves it from being too ordinary.
In conclusion, Chronicles of a Death Foretold is a short, easy, and delightful read that can be finished in a day or three. I do suggest people to read it, and not because it is Gabriel Garcia Marquez book and you should, but because it stands on its own, and it stand beautifully. Although not as compelling as Marquez’s other literature, you can still go to your fancy cocktail parties and impress the people you’re schmoozing with for reading this gem.