Rating: 5/5 Stars
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez (translated by Gregory Rabassa) was one of the books that I was assigned to read last year for my IB Literature and Language class and by far my favorite. Chronicle is the whydunit, narrated by a journalist with his motives and accompanied by some of the most interesting religious, political, and cultural commentaries that I have ever read in a novel.
A man returns to the town where a baffling murder took place twenty-seven years earlier, determined to get to the bottom of the story. Almost hours after marrying the beautiful Angela Vicario, everyone agrees that Bayardo San Roman returned his bride in disgrace to her parents. Her distraught family forced her to name her first lover, and her twin brothers announced their intention to murder Santiago Nasar for dishonoring their sister.
Yet if everyone knew the murder would happen, why did no one intervene to try and stop it? The more that is learned, the less is understood, and as the story races to its inexplicable conclusion, an entire society—not just a pair of murderers—is put on trial.
Do I recommend this? Yes! (Especially to fans of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Life of Pi)
Age Rating: 16+
Trigger/Content Warnings: Mentions of past and underaged sexual assault, mentions of domestic abuse, graphic descriptions of murder, injuries, and illnesses
Chronicle of the Things I Loved:
Beneath Chronicle’s murder-mystery plot is a myriad of issues plaguing the society Márquez recognized within his home country of Colombia. Right out of the gate, the reader is introduced to the first one in the form of Santiago Nasar: machismo personified. It is suggested that Nasar’s toughness and roguish nature are partly due to the ostracization that his family faced as foreigners from the Arabian Peninsula. The result is the harrowing (and, to us as 21st-century readers, probably a little obvious) implication that toxic masculinity is a defense mechanism borne of hatred and insecurity in whichever form it decides to take. Santiago Nasar was a terrible and cruel man because he was raised with no one and nothing available to him as a model for healthy love. He, at some point, decided that he could not allow racism and xenophobia to break him, and the consequences were catastrophic.
The program that I am in at school requires me to read several translated works over my junior and senior years. We’ve studied the art of translations and closely examined Rabassa’s translation of Chronicle of a Death Foretold, originally titled Crónica de una muerte anunciada and written in Márquez’s native Spanish. Rabassa and Márquez were good friends, and it shows. You truly cannot go wrong with either version of the text—the cadence that the Spanish version adopts is brilliant, giving the impression of a scattered composition that starts with an unsure crescendo and ends the way it started, only now fuller and richer in sound. Rabassa’s translation is remarkably faithful to the literal translation of Márquez’s words and still manages to maintain the feelings and ideas that Márquez put into the text, a feat of remarkable effort and adoration.
Finally, magical realism is a genre that I feel is hard to get right. The line between fantasy and fiction can be tricky to walk when your characters live in early 20th-century Colombia and have undecipherable prophetic dreams every once in a while. Gabriel García Márquez is the Father of Magical Realism and has written the best magical realism that I have ever read, bar none. His prose translates to English beautifully, and the way that he weaves the supernatural and the bizarre into an uncertain narrative is nothing short of masterful. Choosing to pair an unreliable narrator with an unstable environment keeps the reader on their toes in the most delightful way, creating and maintaining a high level of suspense that you wouldn’t expect from a novel that spoils its ending.
What I Didn’t Like Very Mach-ismo:
Truthfully, I’m not sure I can find fault with Chronicle of a Death Foretold. It’s short and fast and bone-chilling. The wholly unsatisfactory ending is intentional, and the steady presence of religious symbolism throughout the novel hints at a more profound truth.
Mi Mayor Amor:
You’re not supposed to like anyone in Chronicle. And I don’t. Mission accomplished, Sr. Márquez.