On today’s episode, we’ll review Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, listen in on a post-movie chat over dinner with myself and Steven, and take a look at the calendar for literary events around the country.
Short Story Book Review
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The nature of a crime is a commentary on the people who live in the society in which it occurs. When children come to school with guns with the intent to kill, it says something about the society that allows that to happen. When, in a supposedly modern age, a country continues to grapple with racism and gender discrimination decades after movements combating those social ills have long past, it says something about the disconnect that exists between its mainstream ideals and those whose thoughts have been marginalized or even silenced, but never destroyed.
So, when we read Chronicle of a Death Foretold, we see the structure of a simple society much like our own. Sure, there are details in the setting and the problems of the people that make it far fetched from anything we’re used to. But when we get down to thinking about the people and the choices they make that might have been the same ones you would have made in their situation, you begin to see how the society described in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Nobel Prize winning novella are just like us. It is a sad commentary about the burden of responsibility and what we choose to accept responsibility for.
As its title suggests, Chronicle of a Death Foretold tells the story of a murder that occurred nearly 30 years earlier in a small town. At a time when young women were still managed as property, Angela Vicario finds herself promised in marriage to San Bayardo Roman. She doesn’t love him, and it is revealed on their wedding night that she was not a virgin. When pressed for the name of the man who robbed her of her innocence, she gives the name of Santiago Nassar. Unfortunately for Santiago, he is unaware of the affair and doubly unaware of the Vicario brothers who have made it their mission to kill him to restore honor to the family name. The remainder of the story recounts how the narrator aims to learn more.
Besides the story itself, the strength of this novella is how the story was written. Marquez writes in elegant prose, not flowery or winding. Just simple, descriptive, and seemingly effortless in the way it moves the story along as if you were hearing it from a friend. It is complete in spite of its length and leaves you satisfied, in contemplation.
For me, the first thing I thought of upon reading this book was terrorism and the “See Something, Say Something” campaign that we’ve all grown accustomed to now. But as I allowed my thoughts to linger, I was reminded of the mass shootings that have been plaguing our schools and communities over the past few years. How often is it that we hear someone say they are going to do something bad and then we stand back and do nothing to stop them? Not even a simple, “You know, you really shouldn’t joke about something like that. That’s not cool.” Or whatever it is that you can say in the moment.
After something happens, is it enough to let us off the hook if we say, “Oh, I thought he was kidding”? Probably not. But that’s one of the questions that Gabriel Garcia Marquez asks us to grapple with. And that’s why this book is so relevant and appropriate for our time. I highly recommend it.