Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes a deterministic murder tale in a style that has been copied by the likes of Guy Ritchie. We begin a long time after the crime has been committed, as the narrator, a friend of both the victim and the killers, recounts all that he has compiled on the very strange affair, which proceeded like clockwork, driven by coincidence, guided by unknowing actors to an inevitable end. It is achronological, with the narrator following threads of the crime into the future before returning to the general narrative of how the young Santiago Nasar meets a grisly end at the hands of twins Pedro and Pablo Vicario.

There are happy enough endings along the way, there are bad ends, and there is always the nagging question: Did Santiago deserve his death?

Marquez is an overt, but skillful, symbolist. Vicars Peter and Paul murder Saint James, while James' friend Christ looks frantically for him, but cannot find him. The brothers act for honor, the town lounges in lassitude and stares as the crime occurs in the town square. Santiago dies beating on his front door, which his mother locked moments before. Some characters recall rain, others recall sunshine at the time of the crime. Who actually bore ill-will against Santiago? The book reads like an account of R.M.S. Titanic: colossal coincidences and decreed doom.

The Latins write like the Russians - obsessing over what it means to be themselves, and gazing over their shoulder to a past just out of reach, which is embedded in the hands and minds of each and every one; a premodern people navigating a modern world by instinct.

June 21, 2011

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