If I remember rightly, and I may be remembering wrongly, Chronicle of a Death Foretold was the third GGM book I read. After reading Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude I was expecting another hugely involving piece of prose, what I got was an altogether different wee beastie.
Weighing in – if that is the right term – at 128 pages, my initial disappointment at the lack of words was immediately offset with the short summary scripted, as it so often is with books, on the back:
Santiago Nasar is brutally murdered in a small town by two brothers. All the townspeople knew it was going to happen – including the victim. But nobody did anything to prevent the killing. Twenty seven years later, a man arrives in town to try and piece together the truth from the townsfolk. To at last understand what happened to Santiage and why…
Starting a book with the ‘climactic’ event already known should make this book less interesting as a result but this being Márquez he fashions his short story into something with depth and intrigue.
Santiago Nasar, it is claimed, has committed a crime, he is then murdered, effectively letting the whole town play judge, jury and executioner as nobody prevented it, years later the never named Narrator turns up to establish the truth and find out what happened on that fateful day.
Here’s where Marquez gets clever, as well as writing in a style that has subtle detective story undertones, he also uses the book as a look at the morality of the individual and that of society. Death is used as a vehicle to judge the lives of people and societies ills. The sheer amount of witnesses who can provide testimony of what happened that day is a stark reminder of how silence can be as powerful as speaking out.
It’s human nature to deny everything, the lack of culpability and responsibility is quite frankly alarming, the townspeople’s trust in superstition, omens and supposed foresight (not to mention plain lying over their reminiscences) which naturally absolves them of blame and guilt had me shaking my head in disgust.
It is the fallibility of a community at its worst or at least most complacent and incompetent. Hindsight is a term bandied about after the fact (of course!) and every individual claimed they had good intentions that day yet still a life was extinguished. unsurprisingly the characters become heavily reliant on context and remembrance, or lack there of.
So who has accountability for this crime…the whole town, one individual? And more to the point was Nasar in actual fact even guilty? That of course is for you to decide from the evidence garnered by the anonymous interrogator, but it does open intriguing avenues into how decisions can affect lives how the modern law interprets accountability.
Don’t judge it on this beside the author’s very best works, which is hard to do when the standard is so high but this book is fascinating in its own right and at 128 pages is a nice quick read that will have you thinking over the story for weeks afterwards.