AUTHOR: Gabriel Garcia Márquez
BESTSELLERS: One Hundred Years of Solitude; Of Love and Other Demons; Love in the Time of Cholera
1st PUBLISHED: in Spanish as "Cronica de una muerte anunciada"; this translation was published in 1982.
On their wedding night, Bayardo San Román finds out that Angela Vicario- his wife- is no virgin. Outraged, he sends her back to her family that very night. Angela’s humiliated mother batters her brutally, and her two brothers- Pablo and Pedro- demand to know her violator, whom she names as Santiago Nasar.
‘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 he wakes to thoughts of the previous night’s celebrations, Santiago is oblivious to the slurs that have been cast against him. However, with Angela’s brothers hell bent on avenging their family honor, soon the whole town knows who they intend to kill, where, when and why.
Santiago Nasar was a man for parties, and he had his best time on the eve of his death calculating the expense of the wedding. In the church, he estimated that they’d set up floral decorations equal in cost to those for fourteen first class funerals. That precision would haunt me for many years, because Santiago Nasar had told me that the smell of closed-in flowers had an immediate relation to death for him and that day he repeated it to me as we went into the church.
“I don’t want any flowers at my funeral,” he told me, not thinking that I would see to it that there weren’t any the next day.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a masterpiece by a Nobel laureate. It is an astute reflection of the evil rooted deep within the society, the kind that has been garbed as a matter of honor and, ironically, as a matter of justice. What is extraordinary about this engaging novella is that the gory, disturbing plot has been written in a surprisingly simplistic, and yet poetic, technique.
This book is an exceptional work of literature. One is made aware of the murder in the very first lines of the novel- but it is still difficult to believe that the massacre will actually take place until it does. Márquez
has made skillful use of subtle irony and humor to bring to light certain aspects of society:
‘Purisima del Carmen (Angela’s mother) had been a school teacher until she married forever.’
On a slightly more serious note, we find Carmen giving us an acute estimation of a young woman’s life which applies to numerous women all over the world-
“Any man will be happy with them because they’ve been raised to suffer.”
The universal appeal of the storyline and the horrifying climax make Chronicle of a Death Foretold a book that has a profound impact on the reader. I doubt that anyone who reads this book can fail to list it as one of their most favorites- you just cannot put it down. As Nicholas Shakespeare puts it, this is-
“A work of high explosiveness- the proper stuff of Nobel Prizes. An exceptional novel that shows how a whole community is to blame for a murder which is dressed up as an affair of honor.”
RATING: 4 on 5
PRICE: Rs150/- (Penguin India)