Musing on Chronicle of A Death Foretold


This year has been good reading wise. I have been reading some amazing books. I am getting more and more awestruck by writers’ creative imagination and experimentation. There is so much to read and so much to feel.

I always get affected, as any other reader would be, by  weaving of words. But only some books can affect me at a primal level. As I am growing old the number of books which can affect me at primal level are vanishing fast. My mind can’t get shocked and shaken so easily now. Finally Gabriel Garcia Marquez managed to shock and shake me with his book “Chronicle of A Death Foretold” (1982). The book is translated from Spanish by Gregory Rabassa. It ‘s not really a proper book, it is a tiny one, a novella. A tiny but a potent book.

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With a toddler and a special child it is very easy to get dragged into the non-book world. This book I read at night after putting children to sleep. It took only undisturbed single hour two nights to finish the book. My solitude enhanced the affect of the book on me. Now I shudder to even look at the book.

The current Netflix show Narcos, set in Marquez’s native country Columbia, starts with his name and his magical realism. Like I have mentioned in The World of Haruki Murakami, magical realism is a fantasy in real world. Marquez can create a fantasy like situation in everyday events. Compared to his other books I have read, Chronicle of A Death Foretold is more like Narcos, where primal violence is depicted as other worldly.

As we know from his other works, he is very good in narrating provincial life in South America. By this I mean, his narration style is such that readers feel they are witnessing the mundane yet magical lives.

As the title of the book suggests the main plot is how a young person met his death because of inevitable fate. Some may get mad at me for spoiling the book but if they are then this book is not for them. Because this book is not about the end but like all good books it is about the journey towards end and the journey beyond end. The book begins with end then narration goes both back and forth. The timeline is non-linear.

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.

Do I sympathise with Santiago? I don’t know because he was preying on helpless adolescent girls. Yet I could not help being sorry and shocked at his murder in the end. He was murdered by Vicario twin brothers for supposedly being in a physical relationship with their sister.

Things are so much like our own country. The sister Angela’s “worldly” husband found out on the wedding night she was not a virgin so threw her out. To save her honour her family must find the culprit and punish him. But was Santiago the culprit? We don’t know really.

She only took the time necessary to say the name. She looked for it in the shadows, she found it at first sight among the many, many easily confused names from this world and other,……

From narration it feels like she might have told this name to protect someone she really cares about. But her family and her twin brothers just needed a name and a scapegoat to save family’s honour. Honour killing is not a new concept for our country.

Like honour killings in every closed community everyone except the victim knew about the murder before hand. Some did not take the open declaration of the twin for a murder seriously, a few tried to save the victim but fate played hide and seek, and then the rest gathered around to watch the murder as they would gather around to watch a parade.

Thus it was inevitable from the beginning for Santiago to get murdered and for two innocent souls to become murderers.

Along with the main plot, in the tiny book, Marquez has managed to describe the whole village community, insight into all main actors and there’s a side plot about the obnoxious Bishop.

But the real winner is the description of the murder, autopsy and the twin brothers washing themselves again and again to get rid of their victim’s smell.

The murder is brutal, scary, real, gory and at the same time magical. It will transfer the reader to another dimension. How helpless we all are really? And what are we? We are only a few organs covered by a skin. We are only waiting here to die. Yet life is the most precious thing we know. And some people can really murder other people!

The narrator, Santiago’s friend, narrates these incidents twenty-seven years after the murder. He adds the reminiscences of other people involved in his own narration. Hence the narration is full of inconsistencies regarding facts and time.

This makes the book even more realistic.

They’ve killed me, Wene Child,” he said.

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