Thursday, 4 August 2011

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

A meditation on fate, a surreal journalistic account of an honour killing and a visceral account of the booze fuelled murder itself, Chronicle of a Death Foretold has been my introduction to the writing of Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez.


The plot itself concerns the killing of Santiago Nasar outside his house. Named by a bride rejected by her husband as the man who took her virginity, her twin brothers butcher him outside his house the morning after the ill fated wedding. The narrator, investigating the crime nearly thirty years later, discovers that although everyone in the town knew that the brothers were going to kill Santiago Nasar, the event itself could not be stopped. Even the victim, waking up with a hangover from the wedding, has a faint inkling that things might be awry, although he misinterprets his bad dreams:

Nor did Santiago Nasar recognize the omen. He had slept little and poorly, without getting undressed, and he woke up with a headache and a sediment of copper stirrup on his palate, and he interpreted them as the natural havoc of the wedding revels that had gone on until after midnight.

He gets up, leaves the house and walks past his executioners:

That morning they were still wearing their dark wedding suits, too heavy and formal for the Caribbean, and they looked devastated by so many hours of bad living, but they’d done their duty and shaved. Although they hadn’t stopped drinking since the eve of the wedding, they weren’t drunk at the end of three days, but they looked, rather, like insomniac sleepwalkers.

It has, by all accounts been quite a hooley:

He recounted that 205 cases of contraband alcohol had been consumed and almost two thousand bottles of cane liquor, which had been distributed among the crowd. There wasn’t a single person, rich or poor, who hadn’t participated in some way in the wildest party the town had ever seen.

As the narrator recounts the details of the story from what the surviving witnesses can tell him, he realises that small pockets of resistance have occurred here and there. The police chief takes the twins’ knives away from them, believing their threats to be drunken bravado. The twins themselves make sure to tell everyone they meet their intentions, but are unable to make anyone stop them. The lady at the local bar gives them more drink, in attempt to make them incapable of action:

The Vicario brothers came in a four-ten. At that time the only things to eat were sold, but Clotilde Armenta sold them a bottle of cane liquor, not only because of the high regard she had for them but also because she was very grateful for the piece of wedding cake they had sent her. They drank down the whole bottle in two long swigs, but they remained stolid. “They were stunned,” Clotilde Armenta told me, “and they couldn’t have got their blood pressure up even with lamp oil.” Then they took off their cloth jackets, hung them carefully on the chair backs, and asked her for another bottle.

Over-fortified and doomed to avenge their sister, the twins inexorably go about their duty and Santiago Nasar is hacked down at his front door. Like the hangover on the morning after, some things in life are just inescapable...

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