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69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Presence of Death in Life, June 17, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Mass Market Paperback)
The first sentence of this harrowing, surrealistic novella concerns itself with the murder of the wealthy, twenty-one year old Santiago Nasar and every page that follows only serves to broaden and enlarge this action.
The novella, a narrative written twenty-seven years after the murder by Nasar's journalist friend, serves as a detailed history of the hours leading up to the crime. The entire population of a fictional Latin American village comprise the cast of characters and as we become privy to their actions and memories, the one certainty we learn is that everyone had a part to play in this crime.
The night before the murder, Angela Vicario had married Bayardo San Roman in a lavish and costly ceremony. However, when San Roman learns that Angela is not a virgin he returns her to her mother immediately. When pressed to name the man who stole her virginity and disgraced the family name, Angela answers, "Santiago Nasar."
Nothing points to the truthfulness of Angela's assertion, but her twin brothers, Pablo and Pedro, who are pig butchers by profession, sharpen their knives and begin their search for Nasar.
Although "there had never been a death more foretold," every one of the town's citizens has some reason, valid or not, for doing little or nothing to prevent the death of Nasar.
Even Nasar, himself, until the final moments, seems oblivious to what every other person in the town is well aware of. Amazingly, he seems to either feel himself above death or simply resigned to his fate.
The narrator of Chronicle of a Death Foretold presents many instances and situations that could have saved the life of Nasar yet failed to do so, underscoring one of Garcia Marquez's signature themes--irony.
Some of the town's citizens, like Victoria Guzman, Nasar's cook, have private reasons for wishing him dead. Many assume that Nasar must surely be aware of the danger himself, while others simply discount the Vicario brothers announcement as drunken boasting.
By the time Nasar walks onto the dock to meet the visiting bishop's boat, everyone there knows how and why he's going to be killed. And, when the Vicario brothers begin their attack, no one lifts a finger to stop it.
During the final, surrealistic pages of the book, Nasar rises from the bloodied ground and dusts off his own entrails before "entering the house of his mother" and announcing, "They've killed me, Wene child," as he falls on his face in the kitchen.
Garcia Marquez illuminates, not only the duplicity behind the Latin "code of honor," but the hypocrisy of the women as well, a hypocrisy that makes a mockery of the community's strict code of behavior.
The little understood "cult of machismo" is also explored and Garcia Marquez shows us how the men's strict adherence to that cult contributed heavily to the death of Nasar.
While the narrator of Chronicle of a Death Foretold is unable to come to any firm conclusions regarding Nasar's death, he does show us the overwhelming inevitability of it all. Too many forces, including apathy, assumption and even chance are all moving in the same direction and all contribute to the final, harrowing outcome. This sense of the inevitable pervades every line of the book and we know there could have been no way the life of Nasar could have been spared.
Although told in a straightforward (though non-linear) manner, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is not a straightforward story. It is complex, shocking and powerful and surrelistic in its approach. It concerns itself with the power of death in life and how one death affects and transforms an entire community.
The language used in Chronicle of a Death Foretold is, at times, shocking and even brutal, but it is perfectly suited to the shocking and brutal story it tells.
In an early interview, Garcia Marquez mentioned the debt he owned to Juan Rulfo, author of Pedro Paramo. Although Chronicle of a Death Foretold is highly original, Rulfo's influence can clearly be seen. The two novellas parallel each other in their surrealistic qualities, the ever-present sense of death and meaninglessness and the inevitability of life's final outcome. Both works are characterized by unrelieved darkness and a descent into something unamed, from which it is impossible to return.
As with all of Garcia Marquez's works, this book is flawless. It is a highly rewarding, yet disturbing work that forces us to look at the inevitable presence of death in life and the uncertainty of even the next moment.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 27, 2009 1:08:18 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 27, 2009 1:08:42 AM PST
Wyote says:
Harrowing? Disturbing? Surrealistic? Shocking? Powerful?

Not really. You should read "Sophie's Choice." Or Kafka.
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