on November 26, 2016
Marquez’s novella is a chronicle of the last hours of Santiago Nasar as told in the first person by a friend. The events all take place in a small coastal village in Latin America. Angela Vicaro is married to Bayardo San Roman. The wedding and celebrations afterwards are lavish and expensive. After the wedding Angela’s husband is returned to her mother when he discovers she is not a virgin. Angela names Santiago as her lover after a beating by her mother. Angela’s two twin brothers Pedro and Pablo then set out to murder Santiago to recover her honour. The two brothers seem a little reluctant to carry out the murder and tell everybody they meet what they are going to do. Everybody in the village seems to know but no significant effort is made to stop the murder. Santiago ends up butchered like a pig. The narrator is part of the story. A journalist he appears to be putting the story together in a dispassionate journalist style but his emotions or involvement become part of the story.
Along the way as the murder plot is outlined Marquez captures the absurd aspects of everyday life in the town. Although this story is about a tragic and indelible day in the life of a small community; our attention is frequently drawn to details that may seem unnecessary at first, but crucial later on. Given the length of the story, Marquez has little room to play around with character development, instead he provides small anecdotes and brief but vivid sketches of townspeople.
This book belongs to the magical realism genre. Magical realism novels include events that appear are normal in real life, but they are so ridiculously improbable of actually happening that they are "magical." The line between normal, fantasy and reality gets blurred. In this case everybody knows a murder is going to be committed but they don’t stop it. For each person there seems a normal reason for his or her inaction. You then end up with a situation where improbable events become common and the usual becomes rare.
The style of the novella is simple but imaginative, elegant and brilliant in the details. Every sentence is carefully crafted.
Many strange and ironical things happened that day. The role of Santiago’s mother in barring his escape route is especially so. Earlier Santiago Nasar watched a servant butcher rabbits for lunch, ''surrounded by panting dogs.'' He is soon similarly butchered, and the same dogs arrive at his autopsy, panting, ravenous, eager to be fed his bowels as they were fed the rabbits.
There are a lot of unanswered questions in the chronicle.
Who exactly was the husband Bayardo San Roman? Why did he come to town in the first place? Was he the Devil or a Homosexual? What did he do before he came to town? He certainly was a strange and interesting character, his answers to questions disguised the truth, why did he marry Angela, why did he give her back and why did he return?
Was Santiago Nasar the one responsible for Angela losing her virginity? The investigator could not find any evidence to suggest he was except Angela’s blank statement that he was responsible. There was a lot of evidence to the contrary; such as they were never seen together, they frequented different social groups and so on.
What really happened that day? The narrator can’t put the facts together in his mind even though he was there. He relies on the memories of others 27 years later and they can’t remember either. Memories are often tainted by what people would have liked to happen, a story that puts them in a good light especially to themselves. Even the narrator who was involved may not be telling the full truth. The wife Angela also seems a very unreliable witness.
Why didn’t someone warn Santiago or even better stop the murder? There were a few half-hearted efforts by the Mayor on others. Many people knew but did not warn the victim.
Santiago Nasar is portrayed as something of a Christ like figure. When he found out what was going to happen he seemed surprised but acted as if he accepted his fate.
The reader has to fill in the answers himself to these questions. This involvement of the reader is one thing that made the novel very interesting to me. Readers with different beliefs, prejudices or experiences will come to different conclusions. In my case I see a story without an objective reality or set of facts. What happened is what each person saw, believed and remembers. Others will see a strong religious significance in Santiago sacrificing himself like Christ.
There are many characters in the book. Everybody in the town seemed to be involved in some way. It reminds me of the small country town I grew up in NSW. The following is a list I compiled to keep track on them roughly in order of their appearance;
1. Santiago Nasar the victim who was murdered
2. The Bishop who visited the town but only blessed from a distance, did not land because he hated the place
3. Cristo Bedoya Santiago’s closest friend, who searched for Santiago in his dying moments.
4. Placida Linero, Santiago Nasar’s mother who contributed to his death by barring the door.
5. Narrator, friend of Santiago who was with him all the time at the day of the wedding, along with his brother and Cristo Bedoya at the church and at the festival.
6. Maria Alejandrina Cervantes, some sort of madam, on whose lap the narrator was recovering on the morning of the murder
7. Victoria Guzman, Santiago and his mother’s cook who butchered a rabbit on the day of the murder in a similar way to that Santiago was butchered.
8. Divina Flor, Victoria’s daughter who was just coming into bloom and who was grabbed by the pussy by Santiago on the morning of the murder.
9. Ibrahim Nasar, Santiago’s father, who had seduced Victoria Guzman.
10. Someone, unknown, who pushed a note under the door warning Santiago that his life was in danger.
11. Clotilde Armenta, Proprietress of Milk Shop in town square who was the first to see Santiago in the glow of dawn and thought he already “looked like a ghost”
12. Pedro and Pablo Vicario, twins who murdered Santiago.
13. Margo, Narrator’s sister who described the Bishop’s visit and described Santiago as being in good spirits at the Wharf
14. Cristo Bedoya, a member of group of four close friends including Santiago, the narrator and the narrator’s brother . He calculated the cost of the wedding with Santiago.
15. Flora Miguel Santiago’s fiancé
16. Don Lazaro Aponte, a Colonel and ex town Mayor in retirement, who was told by policeman of twins intentions at 4am Monday
17. Father Carmen Amador, town priest
18. Narrator and Margo’s mother, Luisa Santiaga, housebound but knew everything that was going on in the town.
19. Angela Vicario, bride that was returned to her mother by her husband because she was not a virgin
20. Pura Vicario, mother of returned bride
21. Narrator’s father
22. Narrator’s brother Jaime
23. Bayardo San Roman the man who gave back his bride and reminded the narrator’s mother of the devil
24. Magdalena Oliver who arrived with Bayardo on the boat 6 months before the wedding but couldn’t take her eyes off him
25. Poncio Vicario blind father of the bride
26. Bayardo’s family mother father and two provocative sisters
27. Alberta Symonds Bayardo’s mother a mulatto from Curacao
28. General Petronio San Roman impressive hero of civil wars
29. Widower Xuis – previous owner of house Bayardo bought for himself and his bride
30. Dr Dionisio Iguaran doctor who played dominos with Xuis.
31. Angela’s friends who advised her on how to handle the situation of her not being a virgin.
32. Narrator’s sister the nun who danced a merengue in her habit at the wedding.
33. Mercedes Barcha, who narrator proposed to in primary school and married 14 years later.
34. Faustino Santos, a butcher friend who sharpened the twin’s knives.
35. Other butchers who saw the twins early Monday
36. Leandro Pornoy, policeman who Faustino Santos told of the twin’s intentions. He passed the message onto Colonel Don Lazaro Aponte.
37. Don Rogelio De La Flor husband of Clotilde Armenta Proprietress of milk shop
38. Beggar woman who comes each day to ask for milk took a message to Victoria Guzman from Clotilde Armenta.
39. Hortensia Baute who saw twins passing by her house with their knives and thought “they had already killed him”
40. Prudencia Cotes, Pablo’s fiancée and her mother. Prudencia said that shoe would not have married Pablo if he did not commit the act.
41. Fake customers buying milk they didn’t need to see if the murder was really going to happen.
42. Susana Abdala Centenary Matriarch of Arab community provided medical help to twins.
43. Aura Villeros, midwife who suffered from bladder problems from the day of the murder.
44. Investigating Magistrate, new graduate whose report ended up in flood-ridden basement, which was Sir Francis Drake’s headquarters for 2 days. He found no indication that Santiago had been the cause of the wrong.
45. Polo Carrillo owner of electric plant who said Santiago thought his wealth made him untouchable. His wife Fausta Lopez commented “Like all Turks”
46. Indalecio Pardo, friend of Santiago who lost his nerve rather than warning him.
47. Ecolastica Cisneros who saw Santiago and his friend walking calmly in the square discussing the cost of the wedding
48. Sara Noriega shoe store owner who Santiago told not to worry about his paleness
49. Celeste Dangond who was sitting in his pyjamas in front of his house mocking those who were going to see the Bishop.
50. Yamil Shaium who waited at his dry goods store to meet Santiago and warn him.