Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)

 

I read this book  in Spanish and I am glad I did — based on the translation of the title alone, I don’t know how many other subletlies I might have missed if I had gone for a translated version.  García Márquez’s novella deals with an honor killing, and beyond what is implied in the book’s English title, the resulting death is one that is both “foretold” (namely, in a dream) and blatantly announced by the would-be murderers, to all and sundry but to the victim himself. — At the beginning of the book, the murder has already happened, and the story is told circuitously in reverse, leading up to an almost surreal, slow-motion pacing in the minutes before the actual killing, when fate, circumstances, cowardice, lethargy and ill luck conspire to see opportunity after opportunity to save the intended victim being missed.

In just over 100 pages, García Márquez employs pacing, perspective and contrasts (of perspective, plot elements, personalities, potential and actual murder weapons and much, much more) to deconstruct the society where the murder occurs — a small coastal town in Columbia — and its prevailing attitudes that excuse and justify the murder, a justice system unable to adequately deal with the crime, and of course the honor code that causes the murder to be committed in the first place.  It’s a gut-punching book as far away from Love in the Time of Cholera as it could possibly be and it’s been sitting on my shelves unread for far too long — I’m glad I finally did something about that.

 

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