“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. He’d dreamed he was going through a grove of timber trees where a gentle drizzle was falling, and for an instant he was happy in his dream, but when he awoke he felt completely spattered in bird shit.”
And so it begins, the tale of a man’s death that nearly everyone in a small village knew was coming, but did nothing to prevent. Marquez is a genius. Any Marquez book would get a raving review by me. The man writes in the way I wish I could. He throws out fantastic sentences as if they were of no importance, and hides them within paragraphs where the reader will not expect to find them. Most writers know when they’ve written a fantastic line and they place it at the beginning or end of chapters, or at least at the beginning or end of paragraphs, or they have characters speak them. They are always on prominent display. However, Marquez writes them as if they were the easiest words to have placed together in a beautiful sentence, and tosses them around like Easter eggs.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold is narrated by a man who is trying to understand what happened when a man was murdered 27 years earlier. He talks to all those involved, and in the end, doesn’t learn much beyond the fact that everyone knew the murder was going to happen, and that no one did anything to stop it. A young woman, upon being found impure by her new husband, is forced to name the man who defiled her. She gives the name of Santiago Nasar, although it is never known if he was the man who really did the deed or not. Her brothers, in the name of honor, vow to kill him. They sharpen their knives before all, announcing to all who will hear that they are going to murder Santiago Nasar. But not one person, including the town police officer, believes that the two men would ever truly do such a thing. The two brothers even tell people to warn Santiago Nasar that he is going to die, hoping to be stopped from having to the kill the man and still uphold their family honor, but no one does. Many forget, or believe that it isn’t necessary because surely someone else had told him by then.
When a friend finally tries to save him, he finds himself looking in the wrong places, taking the wrong turns down streets, and not finding Santiago Nasar until it is too late.
It is a story about fate. Was it Santiago Nasar’s fate to die that day and that is why no one saved him? It’s also a story about responsibility. Is the entire town at fault for Santiago Nasar’s death? No one spoke out to save him, no one believed the two brothers capable of such an act, because they lived in a culture that did not take such things seriously. When you hear an angry friend say that they hate someone so much that they want to kill them, do you rush off to warn that person? Or do you brush it off as meaningless because your friend is just angry?
In the end, I would say just read this book. It’s one of Marquez’s smaller books so it’s a good start to those just reading his work. If you enjoy it, read another small one, or take on his longer and more in-depth novels such as One Hundred Years of Solitude or Love in the Time of Cholera.
Enough said. Now go read this book!
Buy the book? Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez