What I found remarkable about Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold is its style. The novella does not follow the formula present in Garcia Marquez’s other more magical realist books and stories. The flights from reality and the all too dense and flowery sentences that extend to several paragraphs that one finds in Autumn of the Patriarch or sometimes in One Hundred Years of Solitude, the two long novels he wrote before Chronicle of a Death Foretold, are missing. Instead, what we have are short, precise sentences. The prose is written in a clear manner which I found more powerful than the florid prose of his two earlier works (I haven’t read any of Garcia Marquez’s later works yet apart from his short stories in Strange Pilgrims).
The whole plot is encapsulated in the opening sentence
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.
as in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis
When Grigory Samsa awoke from troubled dreams one morning, he found that he had been transformed in his bed into an enormous vermin.
or his longer The Trial:
Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K, for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.
However, the narrative is arranged in such a manner that one is kept in suspense all throughout the book in spite of knowing what happened from the very beginning.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold is told in a fragmented, non-chronological, and repetitive manner which looks at the death from one vantage point at a time. It works like an inverted detective story where the standard unmasking of who did the crime and why they did it, unraveling the events that led to the crime along the way, is missing.
In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, we already know who did it and know their reasons from the start. Instead, the narrative focuses on unraveling the circumstances surrounding the killing and its aftereffects on the inhabitants of the unnamed Colombian town in which it is set. Why, for example, was the murder allowed to happen in spite of the fact that everyone in town already knew about the Vicario brothers’ plan to kill Nasar beforehand?
I found Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the story of Santiago Nasar’s murder by the two Vicario brothers to protect their sister’s honor, a pleasure to read. At the same time it was devastating. Like every good piece of literature, it forced me to rethink certain things. In this case, I had to rethink the elements of something which I’ve been trying to do for some months already. ■