Chronicle of a Death Foretold
“The day he would be killed, Santiago Nasar rose at 5.30 in the morning…” In my opinion one of the best opening lines ever, can be found in Chronicle of a Death foretold by the Colombian Nobel Laureate writer Gabriel García Márquez,
The novella begins. Santiago Nasar is a 21 year old who, after a hard night of partying at the wedding of Angela Vicario, must hurry off to be at the port to greet an arriving Bishop. The cleric, who merely passes by the town port without stopping, blesses all those who got up early that morning to wait for his arrival, from the ship.
Five minutes past seven in the morning, Santiago Nasar was dead. Slaughtered like a pig by Pedro and Placido Vicario, twin brothers to the bride. Thus ends the first chapter of the novel, which consists of a total of five… the other four were written to tell the story of Ángela Vicario’s wedding, and to follow step by step, and in greater detail than the first, the nuances of Santiago’s activities the morning that he was killed.
Angela Vicario, who before that had no known boyfriends and who had grown up, with her sisters, under the iron fist rule of their mother, was forced into an arranged marriage by her father and brothers to Bayardo San Román, son of San Petronio Román, a civil war hero for the conservative regime.
In the morning, just after the wedding festivities, Bayardo returns Ángela Vicario to her family, because he’s discovered that she is not a Virgin. Forced by her family to confess who brought shame upon their household, possibly because no other name cameto her head at the time, or possibly because she did not think her brothers would dare do anything against him, Angela gives them the name of Santiago Nasar.
The only thing they can think of, that will clean their “soiled” honor, is blood. The twins immediately grab their pig gutting knives, and they go after Santiago, with whom they had been drinking until only a few short hours before. “There has hardly ever been a death more foretold”. The twins did almost everything in their power to announce their intentions of killing Santiago that morning. There was even a note left under the victim’s door; a piece of paper that no one saw or didn’t want to see.
Far from the magic realism Gabriel Garcia Marquez accustomed us to, the Chronicle of a death foretold is a fast novel, an easy read. Following and chronicling each and every step along the way, with the near precision of a stopwatch, all of the events, with a simple, focused prose that is rich in characterization and which perfectly describes the stories environment; it’s Garcia Marquez all-right, it’s his voice and his language, just perhaps a little less ornate than in previous occasions. Which is not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.