Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Chronicle of a Death ForetoldIntroduction
Gabriel García Márquez
For Further Study
Gabriel García Márquez's novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold, first published in English in 1982, is one of the Nobel Prizewinning author's shorter novels, but past and current critics agree that the book's small size hides a huge work of art. According to Jonathan Yardley in Washington Post Book World, Chronicle of a Death Foretold "is, in miniature, a virtuoso performance."
The book's power lies in the unique way in which García Márquez relates the plot of a murder about which everyone knows before it happens. A narrator tells the story in the first person, as a witness to the events that occurred. Yet the narrator is recounting the tale years later from an omniscient point of view, sharing all of the characters' thoughts. García Márquez's use of this creative technique adds to the mystery of the murder. In addition, the repeated foretelling of the crime helps build the suspense. Even though the murderers' identities are known, the specific details of the killing are not.
Besides its unusual point of view, the book's themes also contribute to its success. The question of male honor in Latin American culture underlies this story of passion and crime. As in other García Márquez works, there is also an element of the supernatural: dreams and other mystical signs ominously portend the murder. García Márquez's artistry in combining these elements led critic Edith Grossman to say in Review, "Once again García Márquez is an ironic chronicler who dazzles the reader with uncommon blendings of fantasy, fable, and fact."
Best known as the author of the prizewinning One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez began life in Aracataca, Colombia, on March 6, 1928. The son of poor parents, Gabriel Eligio Garcia and Luisa Santiaga Márquez Iguarán, García Márquez lived with his grandparents for the first eight years of his life. According to Márquez, this is a common practice in the Caribbean. In his case, though, his grandparents offered to raise him as a reconciliatory gesture towards their daughter after opposing her marriage to García Márquez's father. As a result, García Márquez grew up in a house with his grandparents, aunts, and uncles and hardly knew his mother. His extended family regaled him with stories: the women told tales of superstition and fantasy, while the men—especially his grandfather—kept him grounded in reality.
In 1947, García Márquez entered the National University of Colombia, in Bogota, to study law. He had to transfer to the University of Cartagena when civil war erupted and closed the University of Bogota. There he began his work as a journalist. He dropped out of college to work as a reporter for the daily paper, El heraldo, in Barranquilla and began writing short stories. He had published his first short story, "The Third Resignation," in 1946. The editor of the Bogota newspaper that had published it, El Espectador hailed García Márquez as the "new genius of Colombian letters." García Márquez himself, however, was not satisfied with his writing, until a visit back to Aracataca, which was, according to García Márquez, a crucial turning point in his writing. He said in a 1983 Playboy interview with Claudia Dreifus, "That day, I realized that all the short stories I had written to that point were simply intellectual elaborations, nothing to do with my reality." García Márquez's writing from that point on reflects the influences of his grandmother's storytelling as well as the myths, superstitions, and lifestyle of the people in Aracataca. Leaf Storm introduced the fictional setting, Ma-condo (named for a banana plantation he saw on his trip back to Aracataca), and its inhabitants. Reviewers think the setting resembles William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County.
Even though García Márquez started his most celebrated novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, when he was only twenty, he did not feel that he knew what he really wanted to say in it until about thirteen years later. García Márquez says in the Playboy interview that he was driving to Acapulco when he suddenly had an "illumination" of the tone and everything in the story. Upon his return home, he began writing for six hours a day over the next eighteen months. His wife, Mercedes—whom he married in 1958—cared for their two young sons and supported him.
The resulting book established García Márquez as "one of the greatest living storytellers," according to Time magazine correspondent R. Z. Sheppard. He has written several critically acclaimed novels and short stories since then. Chronicle of a Death Foretold, published in English in 1982, further developed his reputation as political novelist, and he later wrote both fictionalized and nonfiction accounts of Latin American history. García Márquez's works have won numerous awards, including the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold relates the events leading up to and, to a lesser degree, those that follow the murder of Santiago Nasar, a twenty-one year old Colombian of Arab descent. He is killed by the Vicario brothers to avenge the loss of their sister's honor. Told twenty-seven years after the crime by an unnamed narrator (arguably Gar-cía Márquez himself) who returns to the village where he once lived to put back together "the broken mirror of memory," the story is constructed from the fragmented and often conflicting versions of events as they are remembered by the townspeople and by the narrator himself.
On the morning after the wedding celebrations for Angela Vicario and Bayardo San Román, Santiago Nasar, son of Plácida Linero and the late Ibrahim Nasar, wakes to greet the bishop who is arriving by boat early that morning. When he enters the kitchen, both the cook, Victoria Guzmán, and her daughter, Divina Flora, know what Santiago Nasar will not learn for some time—that two men are waiting outside the house to kill him. They, like many others Santiago will cross in the short time before his death, do not warn him.
When Santiago leaves the house, he passes the milk shop owned by Clotilde Armenta where the twins, Pedro and Pablo Vicario, are waiting to kill him. It is Clotilde Armenta's plea to "leave him for later, if only out of respect for his grace the bishop" that keeps the twins from killing him immediately. The bishop, however, never gets off his boat and departs after drifting past the crowd gathered on the pier. Santiago then joins Margot, the narrator's sister, and their friend Cristo Bedoya, two of the only people who still do not know about the twins' intentions. Santiago accepts an invitation to breakfast with Margot but wishes first to return home and change.
Meanwhile, Margot learns that Angela Vicario has been returned to her parents by her husband because he discovered that she wasn't a virgin. She does not know how Santiago is involved, only that two men are waiting for him to kill him. When Margot's (and the narrator's) mother hears the news, she immediately sets out to warn Plácida Linero that her son is in danger, but is stopped in the street and told that "they've already killed him."
Bayardo San Román arrived in the town for the first time in August of the year before looking for someone to marry. According to the narrator, it was never well established how he and Angela Vicario met. One version has Bayardo deciding to marry Angela after first seeing her pass by his boarding house; another has the pair meeting for the first time on the national holiday in October. According to the latter version, Bayardo wins a music box which he has gift-wrapped and delivered to Angela's home. He soon wins the family with his charms and, despite Angela's protests, succeeds in making her his fiancée.
Prior to the wedding, Angela comes close to telling her mother that she isn't a virgin but is dissuaded from her good intentions and follows the advice of two confidantes who teach her how "to feign her lost possession" so that, on her first morning as a newlywed, she can display the sheet with the stain of honor. When her wedding night arrives, however, she is unable to carry out the "dirty" trick and is returned to her parents' house by her husband. At home, Angela is beaten by her mother and is confronted by her brothers, to whom she reveals the name of the man responsible: Santiago Nasar.
After completing their gruesome task, the Vicario brothers surrender themselves to their church and announce that although they killed Santiago Nasar openly, they are innocent because it was a matter of honor. Despite their lack of remorse, the narrator tries to demonstrate that the twins did all they could to have someone stop them.
In the meat market where the twins go to sharpen their knives, Pedro and Pablo take every opportunity to announce their intentions. "We're going to kill Santiago Nasar," they say repeatedly. Later, at Clotilde Armenta's, they even reveal their plans to a policeman who passes on the information to the mayor. The latter takes away the twins' knives, but Clotilde Armenta believes the twins should be detained to spare them "from the horrible duty that's fallen on them." She says this knowing that the Vicario brothers are "not as eager to carry out the sentence as to find someone who would do them the favor of stopping them."
Although Pedro thinks his and his brother's duty fulfilled when the mayor disarms them, Pablo insists they carry out their deed. "There's no way out of this," Pablo tells his brother, "it's as if it had already happened." They return to Clotilde Armenta's with a new set of knives and wait while "fake customers" come in to see whether what they have heard is true.
Following Santiago Nasar's death, an autopsy is performed and determines that the cause of death was a massive hemorrhage brought on by any one of seven major wounds. The autopsy, a "massacre" performed by Father Amador in the absence of Dr. Dionosio Iguarán, makes it impossible to preserve the body and Santiago is buried hurriedly at dawn the next day.
On that day too the entire Vicario family, except the imprisoned twins, leaves town "until spirits cool off." They never return. The twins remain imprisoned for three years awaiting their trial but are eventually absolved of the crime. Pablo then marries his longtime fiancée and Pedro re-enlists in the armed forces and disappears in guerrilla territory.
For many, the only real victim in this tragedy is Bayardo San Román. He is found in his home on the Saturday following the crime, unconscious and in the last stages of ethylic intoxication. He recovers and is later taken away by his family. Angela, for her part, goes "crazy" for her husband following her rejection on her wedding night. For years she writes him a weekly letter until, one day, he shows up at her door, fat and balding, but wearing the same belt and saddlebags he wore in his youth. He carries with him a suitcase with clothing in order to stay and another filled with the almost two thousand unopened letters that she'd written him.
According to the narrator, Santiago Nasar dies without understanding his death. It is only after parting from Margot and Cristo Bedoya, when Santiago enters the home of his fiancée, Flora Miguel, that he is finally told that the Vicario brothers are waiting for him to kill him. Flora Miguel has heard the news and, fearing that Santiago will be forced to marry Angela Vicario to give her back her honor, returns to him his letters, crying, "I hope they kill you."
When Santiago leaves his fiancée's house, confused and disoriented, he finds himself amid crowds of people stationed on the square as they do on parade days. He begins to walk towards his house and is spotted by the twins. Clotilde Armenta yells to Santiago to run, but Santiago's mother, believing that her son is already up in his room, locks the door seconds before he would have reached safety. Instead, the twins catch up to him and carve him with their knives. The watching crowd shouts, "frightened by its own crime." When the twins are done, Santiago is left "holding his hanging intestines in his hands," walks more than a hundred yards to the back door of his house and falls on his face in the kitchen.
The head of the police, Lazaro Aponte (also known as Colonel Aponte) first hears of the twins' plot to kill Santiago a little after four o'clock that morning. He has just finished shaving when one of his officers, Leandro Pornoy, tells him. He does not take the threat too seriously, because when he sees the twins, they seem fairly sober. He takes their knives away and feels assured that they will not carry out their plan.
Owner of the milk shop where the killers slept and awaited Santiago, Clotilde Armenta claims that Santiago already looked like a ghost when she saw him early on the morning of the murder. She makes a mild attempt to convince the twins not to kill Santiago.
Cristo is a friend of Santiago and of the narrator. The three young men spend the night before the murder attending Angela Vicario's wedding. The next morning, Cristo is with Margot and Santiago on the pier awaiting the bishop's arrival. Cristo and Santiago go their separate ways when they reach the village square. When Cristo hears of the murder plot, he tries, to no avail, to catch up with Santiago to warn him.
Maria owns the brothel, or "house of mercies," where Santiago Nasar, Cristo Bedoya, Luis Enrique, and his brother, the narrator, continue their partying after the wedding. Maria has the reputation of having helped all of them lose their virginity. She is tender and beautiful, yet strict about her house rules.
Purisima is the mother of Angela and the twins, Pedro and Pablo. A former schoolteacher, Purisima is married to Poncio and has dedicated her life to being a wife and mother. She has raised her daughters to be good wives and mothers and her sons to be men.
A young woman just entering adolescence, Divina Flor is Victoria Guzmán's daughter. Seeing Santiago always overwhelms Divina with emotions she can not yet define. Santiago touches her in ways she does not like and seems to want to harm her. She knows of the plot to kill Santiago, but like her mother, she tells him nothing. She is too young to decide to tell him on her own and is frightened enough by him to want to keep her distance.
Victoria Guzmán cooks for the Nasar family. Formerly Ibrahim Nasar's mistress, Victoria views Santiago with as much disdain as she does his late father. She still hates Ibrahim for keeping her as his mistress and then making her his cook when he tired of her. She thinks Santiago is exactly like his father and works diligently to keep Santiago away from her daughter, Divina Flor. Victoria learns early on the morning of the murder that Santiago is destined to die, but she says nothing to him.
Santiago's mother, Plácida Linero, interprets people's dreams. On the day of her son's death, however, she fails to recognize the significance of Santiago's dream of birds and trees the night before. She regrets that she paid more attention to the birds, which signify good health. Trees, on the other hand, are an omen. In her later years, Plácida suffers from chronic headaches that started on the day she last saw her son. Her knowledge that she unwittingly closed the main door of the house against Santiago, where his killers caught up with him, haunts her.
Flora is Santiago's fiancée through their parents' arrangement. Her family never opens the doors or receives visitors before noon. Flora learns early on the morning of the murder that Santiago is going to die. Because she is afraid that if Santiago lives he will have to marry Angela to save her honor, Flora invites Santiago into her home and vents her frustration and rage. Flora's father, concerned about his daughter, comes to check on her and is the one who tells Santiago of the plot.
The narrator never gives his name, but he is a member of the Santiaga family, son to Luisa and brother to Margot. He is also a friend of Santiago Nasar. The narrator has returned to his village twenty-seven years after Santiago's murder and is trying to piece together the events of the day.
Ibrahim Nasar, Santiago's father and Plácida Linero's husband, has been dead for three years when the story opens. His memory lives on in Santiago, however, who has his good looks and runs his ranch. Nasar had come to the Caribbean village with the last group of Arabs who arrived after the civil wars ended. A relatively wealthy man, he had purchased the warehouse—in which Plácida and Santiago live—and brought his mistress, Victoria Guzmán, to live with them as their cook. Victoria despises Ibrahim for his womanizing and hates Santiago because he so much behaves like his father.
The son of the recently deceased Arab, Ibrahim Nasar, Santiago Nasar lives with his mother, Plá-cida Linero, in a small Caribbean village. Twenty-one-year-old Santiago resembles his father. He has his father's Arab eyelids and curly hair. He also possesses his father's love for horses and firearms as well as his wisdom and values. Having inherited the family ranch, The Divine Face, Santiago enjoys a comfortable life and has money to spare. From his mother, Santiago has received a sixth sense about things. On the day of his death, Santiago tells his mother of dreams that he has been having about trees and birds.
- Graciela Daniele adapted Chronicle of a Death Foretold as an on-Broadway musical performed at the Plymouth Theater in New York City in July, 1995. The theater production received mixed reviews, but was nominated for a Tony award in the Best Musical category.
Slim and pale, Santiago wears his clothes well—typically a khaki outfit and boots when he is working. On special occasions, such as the day of the Bishop's arrival at the beginning of the story, Santiago looks especially handsome in his white linen shirt and pants. Women appreciate Santiago's good looks and fortune as well as his pleasant disposition. They consider him a man of his word. Men, too, admire Santiago. When his father dies, Santiago has to leave his studies to manage the family business, yet he never complains and is always willing to join with his friends in celebrations of any kind. They know Santiago to be a man who is careful with his guns and ammunition and who has no reason to arm himself except when he is working in the country.
Santiago is to marry Flora Miguel at Christmas time. He seems happy with the arrangement and is content to live life as it is. He appears to have no enemies. Santiago's happy-go-lucky lifestyle ends, however, when Angela Vicario accuses him of taking her virginity.
Bayardo San Román
The insulted bridegroom Bayardo San Román returns Angela Vicario to her parents' home when he discovers that she is not a virgin. San Román acts very much the gentleman whom people have come to know since he appeared in their small community. Having only been a resident for six months, San Román still has people guessing about his background. The women, however, love his looks and do not worry about who he is. He arrives dressed in a short calfskin jacket, tight trousers, and gloves to match, with silver decorating his boots, belt, and saddlebags. His physique matches that of a bullfighter's, and his skin glows with health. When Bayardo's family arrives for the wedding, the townspeople discover that Bayardo is the son of a wealthy civil war hero.
General Petronio San Román
Bayardo's father, the General, arrives for the wedding in a Model T Ford with an official license. Famous for his leadership in the past century's civil wars, he is immediately recognizable. The General wears the Medal of Valor on his jacket and carries a cane that bears the nation shield. The people of the village no longer question Bayardo's honor and understand that because of who he is, Bayardo can marry anyone.
Luisa, the narrator's mother, typically knows everything that is going on. On the morning of the killing, however, she goes about her business at home without any inkling of Santiago's fate. When her daughter, Margot, arrives home and begins to relate what she has heard on the docks, however, Luisa suddenly knows before Margot has finished telling her. Luisa is Santiago's godmother but is also a blood relative of Pura Vicario, Angela's mother; therefore, the knowledge of the plan to kill Santiago poses a problem for Luisa.
The narrator's sister and Luisa's daughter, Margot envies Santiago's fiancée. To spend time with Santiago, Margot often invites Santiago to breakfast at her parents' home. Having felt a premonition about Santiago on the day of the murder, she urges Santiago to go home with her immediately. Later, she learns about the plot to kill Santiago while she is awaiting the arrival of the bishop. She is distressed by the news and hurries home to tell her mother.
The sister to twins Pedro and Pablo, Angela suffers great humiliation when her newlywed husband discovers that she is not a virgin. Angela is the youngest daughter of the Vicario family, who have raised her to marry. Even though she is prettier than her sisters, she somewhat resembles a nun, appearing meek and helpless. The Vicarios have watched over her carefully, so Angela has had little chance to develop social skills or to be alone with men. Everyone expects Angela to be chaste. When they discover Angela's secret, the family reacts violently to the knowledge that Santiago Nasar is responsible for her disgrace.
Even though twenty-four-year-old Pablo is the older of the Vicario twins by about six minutes, he assumes the role of the obliging younger brother. When Pedro leaves for the military, Pablo stays home to mind the business and take care of the family. Upon Pedro's return, however, Pablo is happy to depend on his brother's leadership. Pedro claims the responsibility for making the decision to kill Santiago. Pablo, however, actually gets the knives and convinces Pedro to carry out his plans after the mayor has disarmed them once.
Pedro Vicario, pig slaughterer by trade, is the twin to Pablo. Pedro and Pablo are responsible for Santiago's murder. Pedro is the "younger" of the twins, having been born about six minutes after Pablo. Twenty-four years old, Pedro and Pablo have lived a hard life. They have a reputation for heavy drinking and carousing. Pedro started their slaughtering business after his father lost his eyesight. While Pedro is the more sensitive of the two, his time in the military has made him hard. He likes to give people orders. Pedro claims to have made the decision to kill Santiago. In addition to acquiring in the military his tendency to command, Pedro also contracted blennorrhea, a medical condition that makes urination difficult and painful.
Poncio Vicario heads the Vicario household. As a former goldsmith who spent years doing close work, he has lost his eyesight. While the family still holds him in high esteem, he is not accustomed to being blind and appears confused and anxious most of the time.
The Widower Xius
Bayardo convinces the widower Xius, an old man living alone in the prettiest house in town, to sell it. He does not decide to relinquish his home, though, until Bayardo offers him ten thousand pesos. Although extremely sentimental about his home and unhappy to be put in such a position, the widower gives in. He dies only two months later.
The motive for the murder of Santiago Nasar lies undetected until halfway through Chronicle of a Death Foretold. While everyone knows that Nasar will be murdered, no one knows the reason. Then, after a night of carousing, the Vicario twins, Pedro and Pablo, return home at their mother's summons. The family presses a devastated Angela, the twins' sister, to tell the reason for her humiliated return from her marriage bed. When Angela says, "Santiago Nasar," the twins know immediately that they must defend their sister's honor. The twins' attorney views the act as "homicide in legitimate defense of honor," which is upheld by the court. The priest calls the twins' surrender "an act of great dignity." When the twins claim their innocence, the priest says that they may be so before God, while Pablo Vicario says, "Before God and before men. It was a matter of honor."
While the twins say the murder was necessary for their sister's good name, and the courts agree with them, many disagree, viewing the murder as a cruel act of revenge. The manner in which they kill Santiago appears to be much more vicious than what a simple murder for honor would entail. The twins first obtain their two best butchering knives, one for quartering and one for trimming. When Colonel Aponte takes these knives from them, the twins return to their butchering shop to get another quartering knife—with a broad, curved blade—and a twelve-inch knife with a rusty edge. Intent on making sure Santiago is dead, the twins use the knives to stab him over and over again. Seven of the wounds are fatal; the liver, stomach, pancreas, and colon are nearly destroyed. The twins stab him with such vengeance that they are covered with blood themselves, and the main door of Plácida Linero's house, where Santiago was killed, must be repaired by the city. Further supporting the view that the twins acted in revenge is the fact that they show no remorse for the murder.
After the murder, the twins fear revenge from the Arab community. Even though they believe they have rightfully murdered Santiago for their sister's honor, the twins think that the tightly knit community of Arabs will seek revenge for the loss of one of their own. When Pablo becomes ill at the jail, Pedro is convinced that the Arabs have poisoned him.
Purisima del Carmen, Angela Vicario's mother, has raised her daughters to be good wives. The girls do not marry until late in life, seldom socializing beyond the confines of their own home. They spend their time doing embroidery, sewing, weaving, washing and ironing, arranging flowers, making candy, and writing engagement announcements. They also keep the old traditions alive, such as sitting up with the ill, comforting the dying, and enshrouding the dead. While their mother believes they are perfect, men view them as too tied to their women's traditions.
Purisima del Carmen's sons, on the other hand, are raised to be men. They serve in the war, take over their father's business when he goes blind, drink and party until all hours of the night, and spend time in the local brothel. When the family insists on Angela's marrying Bayardo, a man she has seldom even seen, the twins stay out of it because, "It looked to us like woman problems." "Woman problems" become "men's problems" when the family calls the twins home upon Angela's return. She feels relieved to let them take the matter into their hands, as the family expects them to do.
Angela Vicario is not a virgin when she marries Bayardo, but no one would suspect otherwise. Her mother has sheltered her for her entire life. Angela has never been engaged before, nor has she been allowed to go out alone with Bayardo in the time they have known one another. Angela, however, is concerned that her bridegroom will learn her secret on their wedding night, and considers telling her mother before the wedding. Instead, she tells two of her friends, who advise her not to tell her mother. In addition, they tell Angela that men do not really know the difference and that she can trick Bayardo into believing that she is a virgin. Angela believes them. Not only does Angela wear the veil and orange blossoms that signify purity, she carries out her friends' plan of deception on her wedding night.
Topics For Further Study
- Pedro Vicario suffers from a medical condition he acquired while in the military. What is the condition? Research its causes, symptoms, and treatments. Assume the role of a medical practitioner and create a presentation to inform your colleagues about the illness.
- In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the narrator tells the story from a first-person omniscient point of view. Study the various literary points of view and explain why this is an unusual technique.
- Literary critics often credit García Márquez with reviving Latin American literature. Why is this? Research the changes in Latin American literature from the 1920s through the 1980s and make reference to Márquez's contributions.
- Critics have called García Márquez a master of the literary genre magical realism. What is magical realism? Where and how did it originate? Compare and contrast this Latin American genre with other genres or styles, such as science fiction/fantasy or prose poetry.
- García Márquez refers to "the civil wars," particularly when he introduces Santiago Nasar's father, Ibrahim. Investigate the political history of Latin America to determine whether this reference is fact or fiction. Write a paper supporting your findings.
- García Márquez is included in a group of writers referred to as the "Boom generation" in Latin America. Investigate Latin American culture to determine the following: Why do these writers have this distinction? When was the "Boom generation" prominent? Make a comparison to similar times and events in the United States' history, for example, the Harlem Renaissance.
- Investigate Latin American culture to gain an understanding of the idea of "male honor." What is the view of male image in Latin American culture today? How has this affected the treatment of women in Latin America?
Throughout of Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Márquez weaves elements of the supernatural. From the dreams that Santiago has the night before his death to the signs that people note foretelling his death, a sense of an unseen force prevails. For example, Santiago has inherited his "sixth sense" from his mother, Plácida. Margot feels "the angel pass by" as she listens to Santiago plan his wedding. Supernatural intervention pervades all aspects of the characters lives. For example, Purisima del Carmen tells her daughters that if they comb their hair at night, they will slow down seafarers.
Point of View
One of the most outstanding features of Chronicle of a Death Foretold is the point of view García Márquez uses to tell the story. Narrating the story from the first-person point of view is the unnamed son of Luisa Santiaga and brother of Mar-got, Luis, Jaime, and a nun. Having returned to the river village after being gone for twenty-seven years, the narrator tries to reconstruct the events of the day that ends in the murder of Santiago Nasar. Typically, a first-person narrator gives his own point of view but does not know what other characters are thinking: an ability usually reserved for the third-person omniscient, or all-knowing, point of view. In this novel, however, García Márquez bends the rules: the narrator tells the story in the first person, yet he also relates everything everyone is thinking.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold takes place in a small, Latin American river village off the coast of the Caribbean sometime after the civil wars. Once a busy center for shipping and ocean-going ships, the town now lacks commerce as a result of shifting river currents.
The events of the story evolve over a two-day time period. A wedding has taken place the night before between a well-known young woman from the town and a rich stranger who has been a resident for only six months. On the day of the murder, most of the townspeople have hangovers from the wedding reception. Because a visit from the bishop is expected, however, a festive air prevails.
Foreshadowing is typically achieved through an author's implication that an event is going to occur. García Márquez adds a twist to foreshadowing by telling exactly what is going to happen but not why it will happen. The entire story builds on the foretelling of Santiago's murder. The twins do not hide their plot; they tell everyone they meet of their plans. Each village person who hears about the scheme tells the next person. Santiago himself dreams of birds and trees the night before he dies, which his mother later interprets as the foretelling of his death. In the end, even Santiago knows that he is going to die.
Throughout Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the characters refer to dreams and visions they have that are related to Santiago's impending death. Santiago's mother, for example, though well-known for her interpretations of dreams, fails to understand Santiago's dream of his own death. He tells her of his dream of traveling through a grove of trees and awakening feeling as if he is covered with bird excrement. She remembers later that she paid attention only to the part about the birds, which typically imply good health. Clotilde Armenta claims years after the murder that she thought Santiago "already looked like a ghost" when she saw him at dawn that morning. Margot Santiaga, listening to Santiago boast that his wedding will be even more magnificent than Angela Vicario's "felt the angel pass by." The author's many references to dreams and visions contribute to the surrealistic tone that is characteristic of magical realism.
Latin American culture gave birth to the literary genre magical realism. While critics attribute its beginnings to the Cuban novelist and short story writer Alejo Carpentier they agree that García Márquez has continued its tradition. The hallmark of magical realism is its roots in reality with a tendency toward the fantastic. That is, while everything a magic realist writes has a historical basis, it also has fictitious elements throughout. Emphasizing this point, García Márquez said in an interview with Peter H. Stone in The Paris Review, "It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination while the truth is that there's not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality."
The Birth of Latin American Culture
The term "Latin America" refers to the area that includes all of the Caribbean islands and the mainland that stretches from Mexico to the southernmost tip of South America. Latin America has a very long history, dating back to Columbus' discovery of the territory in 1492. Settled mostly by Spanish and Portuguese immigrants, Latin American culture is derived from both its European new-comers and its native inhabitants' traditions. Márquez blends elements from both cultures in Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
When the Spanish and Portuguese arrived, they easily overcame the native populations. The colonists destroyed native architecture, replaced the native religions with Catholicism, and strengthened the class system that already existed. As the natives died from diseases brought to them by the European immigrants, they were replaced by a new generation that resulted from an intermixing of the male immigrants and the female natives. The new population, known as mestizos, makes up the greatest part of Latin American society today. The mestizos, along with the remaining natives and African slaves, made up the lower class of Latin Americans. They and the mixed-blood mulattos worked as slaves or in the mines. The upper class included whites from Spain and Portugal known as peninsulares. The peninsulares were the only Latin Americans who could hold public office or work as professionals. Between the upper and lower class were the Creoles, European whites who were born in the colonies. The Creoles, although really equal to the peninsulares, were not permitted to hold government positions or to work as professionals. The struggles between the peninsulares and Creoles contributed to the wars for independence.
Colombian Civil Wars
In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Ibrahim Nasar comes to the village after the end of the civil wars. The wars to which García Márquez refers are the Colombian wars for independence. Colombia, called New Granada at the time, experienced a separatist movement in the 1700s as a result of taxation and political and commercial restrictions placed on the Creoles. While independence was assured with Simon Bolivar's victory at the Battle of Boyaca, disagreement between Conservatives and Liberals arose over the issue of separation between church and state. Conservatives stood for a strong centralized government and the continuation of traditional class and clerical privileges. The Liberals believed in universal suffrage and the complete separation of church and state. The conflicts have continued throughout the years.
Post-Colonial Latin America
By 1830, most of the Latin America colonies had gained independence from their mother countries. While they continued to trade with Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain, they began to establish themselves as exporters of raw materials to the rest of the world. In addition to experiencing economic growth, Latin America also gained population. Immigrants poured into Latin American from less prosperous or politically unstable European countries. The growth in population and economic development has continued through the twentieth century. In the late 1990s, the Latin American economy was about the same size as the economies of France, Italy, or the United Kingdom.
Latin American Literature
Latin American literature aligns itself with the history of the region. Literary experts typically delineate four periods of Latin American literature: the colonial period, the independence period, the national consolidation period, and the contemporary period. During the colonial period, the literature reflected its Spanish and Portuguese roots and consisted primarily of didactic prose and chronicles of events. The independence movement of the early 1800s saw a move towards patriotic themes in mostly poetic form. The consolidation period that followed brought about Románticism—and later, modernism—with essays being the favorite mode of expression. Finally, Latin American literature evolved into the short story and drama forms that matured in the early twentieth century. The mid-twentieth century saw the rise of magical realism, for which García Márquez is best known. García Márquez was part of the "boom" trend, the growth of novel writing, that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. During the boom trend, male voices and masculine themes dominated Latin American writing. Recently, female writers have been recognized for their early works as well as their current achievements.
Critics credit García Márquez with bringing attention to Latin American literature. When García Márquez first appeared on the literary scene with his popular One Hundred Years of Solitude, reviewers praised not only his style but also his ability to tell a story to which everyone can relate. According to John Sturrock in the New York Times Book Review, García Márquez is "one of the small number of contemporary writers from Latin America who have given to its literature a maturity and dignity it never had before." David Streitfeld adds this sentiment in the Washington Post, "More than any other writer in the world, Gabriel García Márquez combines both respect (bordering on adu-lation) and mass popularity (also bordering on adulation)." Following on the success of this first novel, García Márquez has continued to build his reputation as a writer and storyteller.
By the time Jonathan Cape Limited of London published the English translation of Chronicle of a Death Foretold in 1982, García Márquez had established himself as a master of magical realism, a literature genre born in Latin America. Magical realism, a unique blending of fantasy and reality, evolved out of a culture that has been shaped by a combination of ethnic and religious populations that practice animism, voodoo, and African cult traditions. García Márquez credits his life experiences and his heritage with his ability to present the magical as part of everyday life. He says in a UNESCO Courier interview with Manuel Oscorio, "the area is soaked in myths brought over by the slaves, mixed in with Indian legends and Andalusian imagination. The result is a very special way of looking at things, a conception of life that sees a bit of the marvelous in everything."
Throughout García Márquez's long writing career, critics have commended his unique style. Besides his mastery of magical realism, García Márquez also possesses a talent for applying to his stories unconventional narrative styles, universal themes, and an unusual journalistic style that is often a commentary on social and political issues. Chronicle of a Death Foretold contains all of these. First, García Márquez has the narrator tell the story in the first person, but from an omniscient point of view. As Ronald De Feo says in a review in the Nation, "This narrative maneuvering adds another layer to the book." Next, the themes in Chronicle of a Death Foretold touch on universal concerns including male honor, crimes of passion, loyalty, and justice. Finally, most critics agree that Chronicle of a Death Foretold provides a snapshot in time of a society that remains captured by its own outmoded customs, beliefs, and stories.
While Chronicle of a Death Foretold retains a fairly widespread popularity, some reviewers have not been as accepting of its unusual form. The very characteristics of García Márquez's novel that most critics applaud have prompted others' scorn. Keith Mano, for example, says in the National Review, "In general, I wish García Márquez hadn't surrendered so many of the devices and prerequisites that belong to fiction: subjectivity, shifting POV, omniscience, judgment, plot surprise." Anthony Burgess has even harsher criticism in his review in The New Republic. He calls the book "claustrophobic" and goes on to say, "It does not induce a view, as better fiction does, of human possibilities striving to rise out of a morass of conservative stupidity. The heart never lifts. All that is left is a plain narrative style and an orthodox narrative technique managed with extreme competence. Perhaps one is wrong to expect more from a Nobel Prizeman."
Recognized for his revival of Latin American literature, García Márquez receives credit, too, for reinvigorating the modern novel genre. Overall, critics maintain that García Márquez deserves international acclaim for his unique style, plots, themes, and blending of fantasy and realism. In a review in Tribune Books, Harry Mark Petrakis describes García Márquez as "a magician of vision and language who does astonishing things with time and reality." Readers all over the world who await García Márquez's books would concur.
Jeffrey M. Lilburn
Lilburn, a graduate student at McGill University, is the author of a study guide on Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman and of numerous educational essays. In the following essay, he discusses the narrator's attempt to construct a chronicle that recaptures the past.
Gabriel García Márquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a seemingly simple story about the murder of a young man in a small Colombian town. Written in a factual, journalistic style, the novel is told by an unnamed narrator who returns to his hometown twenty-seven years after the crime to "put the broken mirror of memory back together from so many scattered shards." Assuming the role of detective, or investigative reporter, the narrator compiles and reports the information that he collects from the memories of the townspeople he interviews. What he finds, however, is a town full of people with varying and often conflicting memories of the events he is investigating. Consequently, what begins as an attempt to fill the gaps, to find out once and for all what really happened that dark and drizzly morning—or was it bright and sunny?—becomes instead a parody of any attempt to recapture and reconstruct the past.
At first glance, the narrator does what appears to be a very thorough job of finding and compiling information relating to the crime. He speaks to a great many people who knew Santiago Nasar, who were present on the evening of the wedding celebrations, and who were out to greet the bishop on the morning of the murder. Still, new information contradicts and undermines more often than it clarifies. Throughout the narrator's chronicle, for example, we hear varying accounts of the weather on the morning of the crime. According to some, it was a beautiful sunny morning; to others, the weather was drizzly and funereal. To the individuals reporting this information, the memory of that morning's weather is a fact—it is the reality they remember. Or it may simply be the reality they choose to report at that time since facts, or the reporting of facts, change over time. Victoria Guzmán, for example, initially reports that neither she nor her daughter knew that the Vicario brothers were waiting to kill Santiago, yet "in the course of her years" admits that both of them did, in fact, know about the twins' plans.
Memories are problematized further by the fact that the entire town was, on the night before the murder, celebrating Angela Vicario and Bayardo San Román's wedding. To begin, the narrator, before deciding to "rescue" the events of the festival "piece by piece from the memory of others," has "a very confused memory" of those events. Yet there is no indication that the memories of the individuals on whom the narrator relies to construct his narrative are any more reliable than his own. On the contrary, most of the townspeople seem equally confused. The narrator's brother, for example, who returns home in the early hours of the morning and falls asleep sitting on the toilet, also has "confused" memories of an encounter he has with the Vicario brothers on his way home. Similarly, the narrator's "sister the nun" has an "eighty-proof hangover" on the morning of the crime and doesn't even bother to go out to greet the bishop. These fuzzy, alcohol-drenched memories of events that happened twenty-seven years earlier not only help explain the varying reports about the weather, but they cast doubt on the entire narrative that uses these memories as its foundation.
According to Mary G. Berg, the narrator's failed attempt to find consensus among the varied accounts of the past reveals both the subjectivity of memory and the "inherent fallibility of journalistic report or written history." In short, it demonstrates the "insufficiency of words to depict (or reflect) human experience." It also, as John S. Christie writes, undermines the notion of a single narrative authority, since the ambiguity that results from the multiple perceptions and points of view reveals that no one version of the truth exists. Within the world represented in the novel, however, ambiguities and uncertainties are not so closely scrutinized. Santiago Nasar is murdered not because it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the man responsible for stealing Angela Vicario's honor, but because he is accused of doing so. It is the telling, Christie argues, that "creates the reality." The same might be said about the narrator's chronicle: by telling the story, by selecting and carefully arranging the conflicting versions of events into a highly structured narrative, the narrator creates the illusion that his version of the events succeeds in recapturing the reality of the past.
It is, however, only a temporary illusion. The narrator himself suggests that written reports can conceal more than they reveal when he mentions that the original report prepared by the investigating magistrate left out certain key facts. The fact that the twins started looking for Santiago at Maria Alejandrina Cervantes' house, for example, where they and Santiago had been just a short time earlier, is not reported in the brief. If this event is not reported, one must therefore ask what other information was also left out. Similarly, information that could significantly alter how events are understood and interpreted is also missing from the narrator's chronicle; he was only able to salvage "some 322 from the more than 500" pages of the original, incomplete brief from the flooded floor of the Palace of Justice in Riohacha. Moreover, some of the people whose testimony might have proven enlightening either refused to talk about the past, as did Angela's mother, or were unable to do so because they were dead, namely officer Leandro Pornoy.
The narrator's chronicle is complicated even more by the fact that he was himself a resident of the town. He grew up with Santiago and, in later years, they along with other friends spent their vacation time together. Moreover, he was with Santiago on the evening before his murder and, at the moment the crime was committed, was in the arms of Maria Alejandrina Cervantes, a woman with whom Santiago was once obsessed and whom the narrator was seeing without Santiago's knowledge. What's more, the narrator is related to Angela Vicario. According to Carlos Alonso, these ties between the narrator and the community put "in check the objectivity that his rhetorical posturing demands" and may even serve to "nurture the secret at the core of the events." At the very least, they add yet another layer of uncertainty to an already questionable narrative.
What Do I Read Next?
- Translated from Spanish to English in 1970, One Hundred Years of Solitude stands as García Márquez's best-known novel. It combines historical and fictional elements to tell the story of the rise and fall of a small, fictitious town—Macondo, Colombia. Many critics claim that while the novel reflects the political, social, and economic ills of South America, it actually depicts a more universal worldview.
- Many reviewers rate García Márquez's 1975 novel, The Autumn of the Patriarch, as his second-finest work. He attempts different stylistic techniques in this story of a political tyrant who has ruled for so long no one can remember his predecessor. García Márquez writes stream-of-consciousness-like sentences and uses a great deal of color and imagery to tell this tale.
- While the main character in The Autumn of the Patriarch lives in great isolation and never knows love, the main characters in Love in the Time of Cholera experience all kinds of love. Published in 1988, the book tells the story of star-crossed lovers who find themselves back together after over fifty years of separation.
- García Márquez writes about Simon Bolivar in his historical fiction, The General in His Labyrinth. This 1990 novel depicts General Bolivar, the liberator of Latin America, leaving for exile in the face of his former admirers' derision.
- Author Bill Boyd produced a nonfiction biography that reads like a novel with 1998's Bolivar, Liberator of a Continent: A Dramatized Biography. This accessible text tells the story of Simon Bolivar with both personal and political detail; Boyd also gives some attention to Bolivar's relationship with the United States.
- A rabid dog bites a nobleman's twelve-year-old daughter in García Márquez's Of Love and Other Demons. This 1995 story becomes more complicated when an exorcist falls in love with the girl.
- Another author who has successfully combined magical realism with historical detail and political commentary is Isabel Allende. Her 1982 debut novel (first published in the United States in 1985) The House of Spirits tells the story of a Chilean family through multiple generations, touching on themes of pride, class, power, sexuality, and spirituality.
Central to an investigation of the events surrounding the crime is the code of honor which leads the Vicario brothers to arm themselves with pig-killing knives and take the life of a man with whom they were drinking and singing just a few short hours before. The code of honor is one which, Christie explains, derives from a paternal authority associated with the "mythic past of some religious or moral order which has now dissipated." Still, the code remains sufficiently relevant in the community that an entire town stands by and watches as Pedro and Pablo brutally kill Santiago Nasar in the street. Years later, the townspeople who could have done something but didn't turn to the code for consolation, believing that "affairs of honor are sacred monopolies, giving access only to those who are part of the drama." The comment made by Prudencia Cotes, Pablo Vicario's fiancée, is also suggestive of the pressure the Vicario brothers were under as a result of the code: "I knew what [Pablo and Pedro] were up to and I didn't only agree, I never would have married [Pablo] if he hadn't done what a man should do."
The structure of the narrative seemingly supports this code by giving the impression that Santiago's death was inevitable. His imminent demise is announced on the very first page of the novel and is announced several times again throughout the chronicle. Even the Vicario brothers are said to think of the murder "as if [it had] already happened." Yet opportunities to prevent the crime are plentiful. By the time Santiago reaches the pier to greet the bishop, for example, very few of the townspeople do not know that the Vicario brothers are waiting for him to kill him. Even the town's mayor and priest are aware of the twins' intentions and do nothing. In the end, William H. Gass writes, "one man is dead, and hundreds have murdered him." And indeed, everyone who knew of the twins' intentions and did nothing to stop them shares responsibility for the crime.
One of the few characters who does try to intervene and prevent the twins from carrying out the duty that has befallen them is Clotilde Armenta. That she fails in her attempt, Mark Millington writes, emphasizes the difficulty that female characters have in trying to move out of the passivity enforced by the male-dominated society. Indeed, the community is very much one characterized by a gender divide. In Angela Vicario's family, for example, boys are "brought up to be men" and girls are "reared to get married." Of her daughters, Angela's mother says that any man would be happy with them because "they've been raised to suffer." Moreover, it is not Angela who chooses to marry Bayardo San Román but rather her family who, like the widower Xius, falls prey to Bayardo's charm and money and obliges Angela to marry him.
Millington argues that the murder of Santiago Nasar encapsulates much of the structure of power in the town. The murder, he writes, involves only male characters who act in defense of an honor code that "safeguards the dominant position of male characters." Female characters, Millington continues, are "peripheral to the main actions of the narrative just as they are peripheral to the structures of power in the society represented." Yet Milling-ton offers a reading of the novel that focuses on what he describes as "the untold story," namely that of the marginalized and powerless Angela Vicario. Her story, Millington contends, would trace her relationship with Bayardo and culminate with their reconciliation—a reconciliation that undermines the dominant system by annulling their separation. Millington's reading not only draws attention (once again) to the selective nature of the information used to construct the chronicle (the narrator chooses to focus on Santiago's story, rather than Angela's), but also to the multiple truths lurking behind and within it. This reading also highlights the subversive power implied by Angela's refusal to feign her virginity on her wedding night. To do so, Millington explains, would have acknowledged the importance of the honor code.
More importantly, Angela's refusal to feign her virginity provides her with a way out of an arranged marriage to a man that she does not love and eventually allows her to break free of the authority that forced her into the marriage. Later, when Angela discovers that she does indeed have feelings for Bayardo, she begins to write him letters and discovers that she has become "mistress of her fate for the first time." In the version of events constructed by the narrator, however, the details of her story remain largely untold. Trapped and represented in another's chronicle, she is once again subjected to male authority by a narrator who uses pieces of her story to tell the inevitable-seeming story of a death foretold.
Source: Jeffrey M. Lilburn, in an essay for Novels for Students, Gale, 2000.
William H. Gass
According to Gass, "Chronicle of a Death Foretold, like Faulkner's Sanctuary, is about the impotent revenges of the impotent.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold does not tell, but literally pieces together, the torn-apart body of a story: that of the multiple murder of a young, handsome, wealthy, womanizing Arab, Santiago Nasar, who lived in the town where Gabriel García Márquez grew up. The novel is not, however, the chronicle of a young and vain man's death, for that event is fed to us in the bits it comes in. It is instead the chronicle of the author's discovery and determination of the story and simultaneously a rather gruesome catalogue of the many deaths—in dream, in allegory, and by actual count—that Santiago Nasar is compelled to suffer. Had he had a cat's lives, it would not have saved him.
It is his author who kills him first, foretelling his death in the first (and in that sense final) sen-tence of the novel: "On the day they were going to kill him …" We are reminded immediately of García Márquez's habit of beginning his books in an arresting way, perhaps a by-product of his long journalistic practice. "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad …" One Hundred Years of Solitude commences, and The Autumn of the Patriarch is no less redolent with death or its threats. "Over the weekend the vultures got into the presidential palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows." Santiago Nasar's death is first foretold in the way any fictional fact is, for the fact, of whatever kind, is already there in the ensuing pages, awaiting our arrival like a bus station.
Santiago Nasar also dies in his dreams—dreams that could have been seen to foretell it, had not his mother, an accomplished seer of such things, unaccountably missed "the ominous augury." Before the day is out, his mother will murder him again. Unwittingly, and with the easy fatality we associate with Greek tragedy, Santiago dons a sacrificial suit of unstarched white linen, believing that he is putting it on to honor the visit of a bishop, just as he has celebrated the day before, along with the entire town, the wedding that will be his undoing. So attired, he stands before his mother with glass and aspirin and tells her of the dreams she will misunderstand. Santiago Nasar is then symbolically slain and gutted by the cook as he takes a cup of coffee in her kitchen and has another aspirin for his hangover. His father has mounted this woman, and she is remembering Santiago's father as she disembowels two rabbits (foretelling his disembowelment) and feeds their guts, still steaming, to the dogs.
The cook's daughter does not tell Santiago that she has heard a rumor that two men are looking to kill him, for he continually manhandles her, and she wishes him dead; the town, it seems, knows too, and participates in the foretelling. Attempts to warn Santiago are halfhearted: People pretend that the threats are empty; that the twin brothers bent on his death are drunk, incapable, unwilling; that it is all a joke. But Orpheus has his enemies in every age. Dionysus was also torn to pieces once, Osiris as well. The women whose bodies Santiago Nasar has abused (the metaphor that follows him throughout, and that appears just following the title page, is that of the falcon or sparrow hawk) await their moment. They will use the duplicities of the male code to entrap him. The girl whose wedding has just been celebrated goes to her bridegroom with a punctured maidenhead, and he sends her home in disgrace, where she is beaten until she confesses (although we don't know what the real truth is) that Santiago Nasar was her "perpetrator." And had not her twin brothers believed that the honor of their family required revenge, Nasar would not have been stabbed fatally, not once but seven times, at the front door of his house, a door his mother, believing him already inside, had barred.
The coroner is out of town, but the law requires an autopsy—the blood has begun to smell—so Santiago Nasar is butchered again, this time while dead. The intestines he held so tenderly in his hands as he walked almost primly around his house to find a back door he might enter in order to complete the symbolism of his life by dying in the kitchen he had his morning aspirin in—those in-sides of the self of which the phallus is only an outer tip—are tossed into a trash can; the dogs who wanted them, and would have enjoyed them, are now dead, too.
Santiago Nasar's mother's last sight of her son, which she says was of him standing in her bedroom doorway, water glass in hand and the first aspirin to his lips, is not, we learn, her last. Her final vision, which she has on the balcony of her bedroom, is of her son "face down in the dust, trying to rise up out of his own blood."
One man is dead, and hundreds have murdered him. The consequences of the crime spread like a disease through the village. Or, rather, the crime is simply a late symptom of an illness that had already wasted everyone. Now houses will decay, too, in sympathy. Those people—lovers, enemies, friends, family—who were unable to act now act with bitter, impulsive, self-punishing foolishness, becoming old maids and worn whores, alcoholics and stupid recruits, not quite indiscriminately. The inertias of custom, the cruelties of a decaying society, daily indignities, hourly poverty, animosities so ancient they seem to have been put in our private parts during a prehistoric time, the sullen passivity of the powerless, the feckless behavior of the ignorant, the uselessness of beliefs, all these combine in this remarkable, graphic, and grisly fable to create a kind of slow and creeping fate—not glacial, for that would not do for these regions, but more, perhaps, like the almost imperceptible flow of molasses, sticky, insistent, sweet, and bearing everywhere it goes the sick, digested color of the bowel….
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, like Faulkner's Sanctuary, is about the impotent revenges of the impotent; it is about misdirected rage; it is about the heart blowing to bits from the burden of its own beat; yet the author, Santiago Nasar's first murderer, goes patiently about his business, too, putting the pieces back together, restoring, through his magnificent art, his own anger and compassion, this forlorn, unevil, little vegetation god, to a new and brilliant life.
Source: William H. Gass, "More Deaths Than One: 'Chronicle of a Death Foretold,'" in New York, Vol. 16, No. 15, 1983, pp. 83-84.
In the following excerpt, Epstein examines if Garcia Marquez is as talented as popular opinion seems to think he is.
How good is Gabriel García Márquez? "Define your terms," I can hear some wise undergraduate reply. "What do you mean by is?" Yet I ask the question in earnest. Over the past weeks I have been reading García Márquez's four novels and three collections of stories—all of his work available in English translation—and I am still not certain how good he is. If I were to be asked how talented, I have a ready answer: pound for pound, as they used to put it in Ring magazine, Gabriel García Márquez may be the most talented writer at work in the world today. But talent is one thing; goodness, or greatness, quite another.
Valéry says somewhere that there ought to be a word to describe the literary condition between talent and genius. In writing about García Márquez, most contemporary American literary critics have not searched very hard for that word. Instead they have settled on calling him a genius and knocked off for the day …
In sum, no novelist now writing has a more enviable reputation. His is of course an international, a worldwide reputation—one capped by the Nobel Prize, won in 1982 at the age of fifty-four. The Nobel Prize can sometimes sink a writer, make him seem, even in his lifetime, a bit posthumous. But with García Márquez it appears to have had quite the reverse effect, making him seem more central, more prominent, more of a force….
In Latin America, Gabriel García Márquez has been a household name and face since 1967, when his famous novel One Hundred Years of Solitude was first published in Buenos Aires. This novel is said to have sold more than six million copies and to have been translated into more than thirty languages…. I thought it quite brilliant and stopped reading it at page 98 (of 383 pages in the paperback edition). A number of intelligent people I know have gone through a similar experience in reading the book. All thought it brilliant, but felt that anywhere from between eighteen to fifty-one years of solitude was sufficient, thank you very much. I shall return to what I think are the reasons for this….
Short of going to Latin American countries on extended visits, how does one find out anything about them? Whom does one trust? New York Times reporters capable of prattling on about fifty new poetry workshops in Nicaragua? American novelists—Robert Stone, Joan Didion—who have put in cameo appearances in one or another Latin American country and then returned to write about it? Academic experts, the kernels of whose true information are not easily freed of their ideological husks? Perhaps native writers? On this last count, I have recently read a most charming novel set in Lima, Peru, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, by Mario Vargas Llosa, which gives us a portrait of daily life—corrupt, incompetent, sadly provincial though it is—very different from that which Gabriel García Márquez supplies. Whom is one to believe?
So many oddities crop up. How, for example, explain that García Márquez had his famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, a book that he has claimed is an argument for change in Latin America, published in Argentina, universally regarded—to hear Jacobo Timerman tell it—as the most repressive of Latin American countries? How for that matter explain the emergence of Latin American literature to a place very near contemporary preeminence? How does one reconcile these various paradoxes, contradictions, confusions? It may be that finally, in reading about Latin America, one has to settle for the virtue which Sir Lewis Namier once said was conferred by sound historical training—a fairly good sense of how things did not happen.
Such a sense becomes especially useful in reading a writer like Gabriel García Márquez, who is continually telling us how things did happen. What he is saying is not very new. He speaks of the depredations upon the poor by the rich, upon the pure by the corrupt, upon the indigenous by the colonial—standard stuff, for the most part. But how he says it is new and can be very potent indeed. So much so that Fidel Castro is supposed to have remarked of him, "García Márquez is the most powerful man in Latin America."…
None of this power would exist, of course, if García Márquez were not a considerable artist. Literary artists make us see things, and differently from the way we have ever seen them before; they make us see things their way. We agree to this willingly because in the first place they make things interesting, charming, seductive, and in the second place they hold out the promise of telling us important secrets that we would be fools not to want to know….
Sweep and power are readily available to García Márquez; so, too, are what seem like endless lovely touches, such as a man described as "lame in body and sound in conscience." In "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World," a charming tale about a time when people had hearts capacious enough for the poetic, the way is prepared for a man "to sink easily into the deepest waves, where fish are blind and divers die of nostalgia." The movements of a woman in the story "There Are No Thieves in This Town" have "the gentle efficiency of people who are used to reality." A man in the story "One Day After Saturday" is caught at an instant when "he was aware of his entire weight: the weight of his body, his sins, and his age altogether." García Márquez's stories are studded with such charming bits: a woman with "passionate health," a man with a "mentholated voice," a town "where the goats committed suicide from desolation," another man with "a pair of lukewarm languid hands that always looked as if they'd just been shaved." García Márquez, as Milton Berle used to say of himself, has a million of them.
This fecundity of phrase was not always so readily available to García Márquez. Today his fame is such that his very earliest works are being reprinted and translated—most of them are in the collection Innocent Eréndira and Other Stories—and these early stories are dreary in the extreme: dryly abstract, bleak, cut-rate Kafka, without the Kafkaesque edge or the humor. As a novelist, García Márquez seems to have come alive when he began to write about the coastal town he calls Macondo and—the two events seem to have taken place simultaneously—when, by adding the vinegar of politics to his writing, he gave it a certain literary tartness.
García Márquez has claimed William Faulkner as a literary mentor, and the two do have much in common. Each has staked out a territory of his own—Yoknapatawpha County for Faulkner, Macondo and its environs for García Márquez; each deals lengthily with the past and its generations; and finally, each relies on certain prelapsarian myths (Southern grandeur before the American Civil War, Latin American poetic serenity before the advent of modernity and foreign intervention) to bind his work together. There is, though, this decisive difference between the two writers: Faulkner's fiction is almost wholly taken up with the past, while that of García Márquez, as befits a politically minded writer, generally keeps an eye out for the future.
Immersion in the work of such writers provides one of those experiences—perhaps it might be called moral tourism—exclusive to literature. By reading a good deal about a place rendered by a powerful writer, in time one comes to feel one has walked its streets, knows its history and geography, the rhythms of its daily life. Only certain writers can convey this experience through the page: Balzac did it both for Paris and French provincial towns; Faulkner did it; Isaac Bashevis Singer does it for Jewish Poland; and García Márquez does it, too.
Viewed in retrospect, the Macondo stories—they are found in Leaf Storm and Other Stories and No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories, and the town is also the setting for the novel In Evil Hour—appear to be an elaborate warm-up for the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. They seem to be sketches, trial runs, dress rehearsals for the big novel ahead. In these stories names will appear in passing—like Colonel Aureliano Buendía, one of the heroes of One Hundred Years—almost as if they were coming attractions. Then, working the other way around, incidents occur in One Hundred Years that have been the subjects of whole stories in the earlier volumes. To know fully what is going on in García Márquez one has to have read the author in his entirety. In these stories the stages in García Márquez's literary development are on display, rather like specimens inside formaldehyde-filled jars showing progress from zygote to fully formed human. One reads these stories and witnesses his talent growing, his political ardor increasing. In these stories, too, García Márquez shows his taste for that blend of fantasy and hyperbole, exhibited in a context of reality, that is known as magic realism….
"What I like about you," says one character to another in the García Márquez story "The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother," "is the serious way you make up nonsense." Serious nonsense might stand as a blurb line for One Hundred Years of Solitude. E. M. Forster remarked that at a certain age one loses interest in the development of writers and wants to know only about the creation of masterpieces. Certainly One Hundred Years of Solitude has everywhere been so acclaimed. The novel is a chronicle of six generations of the Buendía family, founders of the village of Macondo. It recounts such extraordinary happenings as Macondo's insomnia plague, its thirty-two civil wars, banana fever, revolution, strikes, a rain that lasts five years, marriages, intermarriages, madness, and the eventual extinction of the Buendía line with the birth of an infant who has a pig's tail and who is eventually carried off by ants.
"One Hundred Years of Solitude is not a history of Latin America," García Márquez has said, "it is a metaphor for Latin America." With that quotation we are already in trouble. What can it mean to say that a novel is a metaphor for a continent? Before attempting to ascertain what it might mean, tribute must be paid to the sheer brimming brilliance of One Hundred Years of Solitude. "Dazzling" does not seem to me in any way an imprecise word to describe the style of this novel, nor "epic" any less imprecise a word to describe its ambitions. Its contents cannot be recapitulated, for in its pages fireworks of one kind or another are always shooting off. Disquisitions on history, memory, time wind in and out of the plot. Yellow flowers fall from the sky marking a man's death; a heart-meltingly beautiful girl ascends to heaven while folding a sheet, a girl whose very smell "kept on torturing men beyond death, right down to the dust of their bones." Everything is grand, poetic, funny, often at once. A man suffers "flatulence that withered the flowers"; a woman has "a generous heart and a magnificent vocation for love."…
And yet—why do so many readers seem to bog down in this glittering work? Part of the difficulty seems to me technical, part psychological. One Hundred Years of Solitude is peculiarly a novel without pace; it is, for its nearly four-hundred pages, all high notes, service aces, twenty-one-gun salutes. In a novel, such nonstop virtuosity tends to pall. To use a simile to describe a novel that its author describes as a metaphor, reading One Hundred Years is like watching a circus artist on the trampoline who does only quadruple back somersaults. At first you are amazed to see him do it; then you are astonished that he can keep it up for so long; then you begin to wonder when he is going to be done, frankly you'd like to see something less spectacular, like a heavy-legged woman on an aged elephant.
Unless, that is, you sense a deeper meaning beneath all this virtuosity. And here it must be said that there has been no shortage of deep readings of One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel which, if critics are to be consulted, has more levels than a ziggurat. There are those who think that the true meaning of the novel is solitude, or, as Alastair Reid puts it, "We all live alone on this earth in our own glass bubbles." There are those who think that the novel is about writing itself…. There are those who are fascinated with the book's allusiveness…. There are those who believe that the stuff of myth ought not to be looked at too closely…. Then there is García Márquez himself, who has given a clear political reading to his own novel, commenting, in an interview, "I did want to give the idea that Latin American history had such an oppressive reality that it had to be changed—at all costs, at any pricel"…
Along with magic realism, Gabriel García Márquez has given us another new literary-critical label, "political realism," which, in its own way, is itself quite magical.
If One Hundred Years of Solitude leaves any doubt about the political intent of García Márquez's mature work, The Autumn of the Patriarch wipes that doubt away. When García Márquez says that One Hundred Years is a metaphor for Latin America, he is of course putting a political interpretation on his own novel. But The Autumn of the Patriarch is neither metaphor nor symbol but a direct representation of a strong political point of view….
The dictator in The Autumn of the Patriarch lives for more than two hundred years, his demise, à la Mark Twain, being often reported but much exaggerated. He has been in power—he has been the power—longer than anyone can remember, and his is the greatest solitude of all: that of the unloved dictator perpetuating his unearned power. This man, who himself can neither read nor write, is described, examined, and prosecuted with the aid of a novelistic technique as relentlessly modernist as any in contemporary fiction.
The Autumn of the Patriarch is divided into six chapters, but that is the only division in the novel, and the only concession to the reader's convenience. The book has no paragraphs, and while the punctuation mark known as the period may show up from time to time, the novel's sentences are not what one normally thinks of as sentences at all. A sentence might begin from one point of view, and before it is finished include three or four others.
One of the small shocks of this novel is to see the most complex modernist techniques put to the most patent political purposes. Now it must be said that García Márquez did not invent the Latin American dictator. Trujillo, Batista, Perón, Hernández Martinez, Duvalier (dare one add the name Fidel Castro?)—one could put together a pretty fair All Star team, though these boys are bush league compared with what Europe and Asia in this century have been able to produce.
García Márquez's portrait of the dictator in The Autumn of the Patriarch is an amalgam of Latin America's dictators, minus … Fidel and with a touch or two of Franco added. As a picture of squalor, rot, and bestiality, it is devastating. The devastation is in the details, of which the endlessly inventive García Márquez is never in short supply….
The Autumn of the Patriarch is about more than politics alone—time and the nature of illusion are motifs played upon artfully throughout—but politics give the novel its impetus and are finally its chief subject. These politics are highly selective, predictable, more than a trifle clichéd. Octavio Paz has said that García Márquez, as a political thinker, "repeats slogans." As a novelist, he can make these slogans vivid, even funny, but they remain slogans. For example, the attacks on the United States in this novel come through the dictator's continuous dealings with a stream of U.S. ambassadors of perfectly Waspish and quite forgettable names—Warren, Thompson, Evans, Wilson—who in the end succeed in swindling him out of the very sea. Americans, the Catholic Church, politicians, all, in the mind and in the novels of Gabriel García Márquez, are swindlers. Liberals or conservatives, it does not matter which, they are crooks, every one of them. Which leaves—doesn't it?—only one solution: revolution.
So talented a writer is García Márquez that he can sustain a longish tale on sheer storytelling power alone, as he does in his most recent book, Chronicle of a Death Faretold. It has been said of García Márquez that he combines the two powerful traditions of Latin American writing: the left-wing engagé tradition of the Communist poet Pablo Neruda and the modernist mandarin tradition of Jorge Luis Borges. In this slender novel it is the Borges side that predominates. The book is about a plot on the part of twin brothers who are out to avenge their family's honor against a young man who they mistakenly believe has deflowered their sister, thus causing her husband to return her in shame to her family the morning after the wedding night….
The tale is told with such subtle organization and such complete fluency that García Márquez can insert anything he wishes into it; and indeed the narrator does insert mention of his marriage proposal to his own wife and a brief account of his youthful dalliances with prostitutes. Such is the easy mastery of this novel that the reader is likely to forget that he never does learn who actually did deflower the virgin. Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a handsomely written and inconsequential book of a kind that offers ample leeway for deep readings, and one that could have been composed only by a hugely gifted writer. "Intellectuals consider themselves to be the moral conscience of society," García Márquez is quoted as saying in the New York Times Magazine, "so their analyses invariably follow moral rather than political channels. In this sense, I think I am the most politicized of them all." Yet, oddly, in García Márquez's fiction morality is rarely an issue; García Márquez himself seems little interested in moral questions, or in the conflicts, gradations, and agonies of moral turmoil. The reason for this, I suspect, is that for him the moral universe is already set—for him, as for so many revolutionary intellectuals, there are the moral grievances of the past, the moral hypocrisies of the present, and, waiting over the horizon, the glories of the future, when moral complexity will be abolished. The moral question is, for García Márquez, ultimately a political question. Outside of his politics, García Márquez's stories and novels have no moral center; they inhabit no moral universe. They are passionate chiefly when they are political; and when they are political, so strong is the nature of their political bias that they are, however dazzling, flawed.
Thus, to return to where I set out, a short answer to my question—how good is Gabriel García Márquez?—is that he is, in the strict sense of the word, marvelous. The pity is that he is not better.
Source: Joseph Epstein, "How Good is Gabriel Garcia Marquez?," in Commentary, Vol. 75, No. 5, May, 1983, pp. 59-65.
In this brief excerpt, Burgess addresses the problems of reading a translation, and of expressing an opinion different from "a world consensus." In this second situation, "dare one [the reviewer, in this case] be wholly frank?"
I have two problems in assessing this brief work [Chronicle of a Death Foretold] by the latest Nobel Prizeman. The first relates to the fact that I've read it in translation, and any judgment on the quality of García Márquez's writing that I would wish to make is necessarily limited. Mr. Rabassa's rendering is smooth and strong with an inevitable North American flavor, but it is English, and García Márquez writes in a very pungent and individual Spanish. The second problem is the one that always comes up when a writer has received the final international accolade: dare one be wholly frank? Dare one set one's critical judgment up against what, though it is really only the verdict of a committee of literati in Stockholm, is accepted as a world consensus? I note, in [the publisher's] publicity handout, that we are to regard García Márquez as "South America's pre-eminent writer"—a view I cannot give accord to so long as Jorge Luis Borges is alive. I think, as is often the case with officially acclaimed writers of fiction, that the imputation of greatness has more to do with content—especially when it is social or political—than with aesthetic values. One Hundred Years of Solitude, a book which impressed me rather less than it seems to have impressed others, has undoubted power, but its power is nothing compared with the genuinely literary explorations of men like Borges and Nabokov. Now here is a new brief novel that is decent, assured, strong, but indubitably minor. I am not seduced by García Márquez's reputation … into thinking it anything more.
The minimal distinction of the novella lies in the exactness with which its author has recorded the mores of a community in which machismo is the basic ethos. The bishop is coming on a river boat to give his blessing, and sacks of cockscombs await him to make his favorite soup. The town swelters in morning heat and hangover. Sex is a weapon, not a gesture of tenderness. The atmosphere is visceral. Rabbits are being gutted by the beginning of the story; at the end the dying Santiago Nasar enters his house "soaked in blood and carrying the roots of his entrails in his hands." There is also an element of debased hidalgo refinement.
Before we get to the end, which is less an end than an initial theme to be embroidered with the views of citizens locked in a tradition that they see no reason to break, we are given a sufficient anthropological survey of a society that has never known the benefits of aspirant Protestant materialism and ambiguous matriarchy. It is the world of Martin Ferrol, the Argentine epic that glorified machismo and helped to keep South American literature out of the real world. The little novel is an honest record, cunningly contrived, but it seems to abet a complacent debasement of morality rather than to open up larger vistas. It is, in a word, claus-trophobic. It does not induce a view, as better fiction does, of human possibilities striving to rise out of a morass of conservative stupidity. The heart never lifts. All that is left is a plain narrative style and an orthodox narrative technique managed with extreme competence. Perhaps one is wrong to expect more from a Nobel Prizeman.
Source: Anthony Burgess, "Macho in Minor Key," in New Republic, Vol. 188, No. 17, May 2, 1983, p. 36.
In the following passage, Rodman looks at García Márquez's message in Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
In much of his work [Gabriel García Márquez] has turned his hometown into a dream kingdom of shattered expectations built on nostalgia; Macondo is bereft of idealism, visions of a better world, calls to arms. These attitudes are seen as part of an old order that must be stripped away to get at the long-concealed truth….
Before [Chronicle of a Death Foretold] came The Autumn of the Patriarch, a monologue of a dying tyrant based on the life of Juan Vicente Gómez of Venezuela, whose crimes had been magnified into myth in the mouths of refugees to Aracataca during the novelist's childhood. The book's highly praised style was baroque and convoluted. García Márquez implausibly defends his method by citing the supposed unreadability of Ulysses when it first came out, and claiming that "today children read it." Although an intellectual tour de force, Autumn lacks the endearing magic of the author at his best.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, fortunately, brings García Márquez back on track. The setting is Macondo again, with many of the old faces reappearing in minor roles, including the author himself, his family and his wife. The mood is somber and tragic, for this is an account of a horrifyingly brutal and senseless crime….
Part morality tale, part fairy tale, Chronicle of a Death Foretold unfolds like a Greek tragedy. We know everything essential to the plot from the opening page, and yet García Márquez fills in the details with such masterful skill that we hang on breathlessly to the final paragraph, where the murder is described. As in all this writer's strongest work, the writing is lucid, factual, almost literary except for an occasional word or phrase in the vernacular ("rotgut," "eighty-proof hangover") to remind us that this is our world.
What is García Márquez trying to say in his books? I can hear him answer, amiably or scornfully depending on his mood, that he isn't trying to say anything, that he writes because he must, that the words come out this way, virtually trancelike, dictated by his memory and edited by the sum of his parts. Which would be the truth.
Still, one searches for some connection between the public man and the artist. A typical Latin American liberal, the public man supports all Leftist causes, while shying away from justifying the Soviet Union's domestic atrocities and its more barefaced sandbagging of its weak neighbors. He hates Augusto Pinochet and reveres the memory of Salvador Allende, regardless of what Allende did in Chile during his reign. García Márquez excuses Latin America's political infantilism on the grounds that democratic institutions did not have centuries to mature as in Europe—ignoring the United States, which broke away from colonialism at the same time….
As for the artist, Octavio Paz once tried to persuade me that García Márquez has not changed the language the way Pablo Neruda, Cesar Valléjo and Jorge Luis Borges have. "They started a new tradition, he comes at the end of an old one—the rural, epic and magic tradition of Ricardo Guïraldes, Horacio Quiroga, José Eustacio Rivera." I disagreed, comparing the Colombian Rivera's horrendous penetration of Amazonia with his successor's recreations of the past. One emerges from Rivera's desperate journey in The Vortex with a sense of suffocating depression, from García Márquez' strolls through Macondo with a reassuring conviction that a world so full of lusty adventurers, irrepressible louts and unconscious poets cannot be as bad as he says it is. The artist triumphs over the public man, over the sociologist.
In other words, whereas Rivera, the conscious artist, succeeded at what he set out to do—horrifying his readers—García Márquez, the unconscious artist and the better one, creates a realm that gives delight. His characters have lives of their own and they refuse to be manipulated. They may fulfill their tragic destiny, but they behave with so much spontaneity and good humor that we remember them as the better parts of ourselves and accept their world of irrational "happenings" as the real one.
Source: Selden Rodman, "Triumph of the Artist," in New Leader, Vol. LXVI, No. 10, May 16, 1983, pp. 16-17.
D. Keith Mano
Mano discusses the problems he found with Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]
[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]
Source: D. Keith Mano, "A Death Foretold," in National Review, Vol. XXXV, No. 11, June 10, 1983, pp. 699-700.
In the following essay, Rabassa looks at the structure of Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
When Gabriel García Márquez announced that he was abandoning literature for journalism until the Pinochet dictatorship disappeared from Chile, people expected him to keep his word, and many were surprised when he published Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold). He was not really breaking his pledge, however, as can be seen from what he said in an interview with Rosa E. Peláez and Cino Colina published in Granma (Havana) and reprinted in Excelsior of Mexico City (31 December 1977). In the interview he is asked what aspect of journalism he likes best, and his answer is reporting. He is subsequently asked about the crónica genre and answers that it is all a matter of definition, that he can see little difference between reporting and the writing of chronicles. He goes on to say that one of his ultimate aims is to combine journalism and fiction in such a way that when the news item becomes boring he will embellish it and improve upon it with inventions of his own. So when he wrote this latest book of his, a short, tight novella, by his lights he was not returning to fiction but carrying on journalism as usual, even though his uncramped definitions could well apply to everything that he had written previously and supposedly had put in abeyance.
The chronicle has long been the primitive method of recording events and people and passing them on into history. Most of what we know about medieval Europe has come from chronicles, and in Africa history has been kept through the oral chronicles of the griots. In Latin America, Brazil in particular, the "chronicle" is a recognized and broadly practiced form, offspring of the more ancient variety, that lies somewhere between journalism and "literature." In the United States certain newspaper columns of a more subjective and personal nature correspond to the Latin American chronicle, which almost inevitably makes its first appearance in the press before going into book form. Therefore García Márquez is correct when he says that it is all a matter of definition in the question of whether or not he has abandoned literature and whether or not he has returned.
This new book shows many aspects of life and literature and how one is essentially the same as the other; life imitates art. It starts off in good journalistic style with the "when" and the "what."
On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at 5:30 in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on….
This use of the temporal to begin the narration reminds one immediately of One Hundred Years of Solitude, which begins in a similar if not identical vein and sets the stage for the necessary retrospect…. The difference is that One Hundred Years of Solitude begins in medias res, in good epic fashion, while this "chronicle" opens almost at the end of the action, not quite so far as the end of life as in The Autumn of the Patriarch, but close to it. This might well show the influence of journalism in the direction that García Márquez's style has been taking through these last three longer works. The first is more legendary and historical as it develops toward its inevitable and fated climax, while the last two depend on journalistic investigation for their development.
Julio Cortázar has spoken about that nightmare for authors (and typesetters) in Spanish: casualidad/causalidad (chance/causality). There is no need to worry about such a slip in the interpretation of this story, as the two elements coincide quite neatly. It is known from the beginning of the tale that the Vicario twins are planning to kill Santiago Nasar for having deflowered their sister Angela, thus ruining her marriage to the strange but wealthy newcomer Bayardo San Román. Many people in the town are aware of the Vicarios' intentions, but through a concatenation of quite normal, even banal, bits of happenstance, nothing is ultimately done to stop them. Indeed, one gathers that even they have little heart for the dirty job that honor is forcing them to do and are only waiting for the authorities or someone to prevent them from bringing it off, since they are prevented by the code from backing down themselves. The title is quite fitting, therefore, in that the death in question has been announced and is foretold. García Márquez has managed to keep the shock and horror of surprise, however, by seeing to it also that the one person who is blithely unaware of what has been ordained, almost until the moment of the act itself, is Santiago Nasar. In the end chance has become the cause of the inexorable deed: casualidad/causalidad.
The format used for the narration of the tale is quite journalistic. The narrator, García Márquez himself, perhaps genuine, perhaps embellished, as he mentioned in the interview cited above, is investigating the murder some twenty years later in order to ascertain how such a thing could have happened, how in the end no one was in a position to stop what nobody, including the perpetrators, wanted to happen. The matter of imperfect memory (there are great discrepancies as to the weather) helps lend uncertainty to a tale or event that had become certain because of uncertainty itself. The narrator also relies upon his own memory; he was home from school at the time of the killing and was a friend and contemporary of Santiago Nasar, having caroused with him the night before the murder. In addition, he interviews the participants and several observers, tracking some of them down to more remote places. The narration is a kind of complicated act of turning something inside-out and right-side-out again in that it resembles the application of fictive techniques to the narration of true events in the manner of Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, but here fiction is treated like fact treated like fiction. This swallowing of his own tale by the snake gives a very strong feeling of authenticity to the story….
Instead of giving us a linear narration of the episodes leading up to the final tragedy, García Márquez divides the novella into chapters, each of which follows the trajectory from a slightly different angle and involves a different combination of characters. The fictive structure is therefore a web of crisscrossed story lines, and in the center (or on the bias) is the hole of solitude and impotence where the killing takes place, uncrossed by any of the lines that would have plugged it and prevented the tragedy. This reminds one of the suicide attempt by Colonel Aureliano Buendia in One Hundred Years of Solitude when, in emulation of the poet José Asunción Silva, he asks his doctor friend to make a dot on his shirt where his heart is. We later find that the wily physician, on to the colonel's intentions, has designated the one spot in the area of the heart where a bullet can pass without being fatal. As in so many other aspects of this book when compared to the others, and as García Márquez does so many times with a technique that links all of his tales but at the same time differentiates among them, we have mirror images, reverse and obverse.
There is a richness of characters, as one would expect from this author. While he borrows some from his other books, as is his wont, he invents new ones that have great possibilities for expansion into tales of their own, the same as innocent Eréndira and her heartless grandmother, conceived in One Hundred Years of Solitude and developed at length in their own novella. As it is, García Márquez is adept at weaving different and seemingly unconnected stories together in order to make the webbing of his complete tale, and any of the tangents that he uses to devise the whole chronicle could be followed off into a separate narrative. There are also intriguing characters on the fringes that we hope to see more of. The wedding and the murder coincide with the bishop's passage up the river (there are always rivers in García Márquez). This episcopal worthy was passing through early in the morning on the day after the abortive wedding and on the day of the killing. The atmosphere, rather than being tetric in advance of the slaughter (the brothers were butchers and killed him with their pig-sticking knives), is ludicrous; for it seems that the bishop's favorite dish is cockscomb soup, and the townspeople have gathered together hundreds of caged roosters as an offering to his grace. At dawn a cacophony ensues as the captive creatures begin to crow and are answered by all the cocks in town. As it so happened, and as predicted by Santiago Nasar's mother, the bishop did not even deign to stop, and his paddlewheeler passed by as he stood on the bridge and dispensed mechanical blessings to the sound of the congregated roosters. This was the comic atmosphere that would surround the death foretold.
What unites so much of García Márquez's writing is the sense of inexorability, of fatefulness. Things often come to an end that has been there all the while, in spite of what might have been done to avoid it, and often mysteriously and inexplicably, as with the death of José Arcadio, the son, in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Here the hand of doom is unavoidable, but the path is tortuous, as it would logically appear that there were ever so many chances to halt the assassination. There is a ouch of mystery too, however, in the fact that the narrator-investigator was never able to find out if Angela Vicario and Santiago Nasar had been lovers. All evidence and logic said that the dashing young rancher, already betrothed to the daughter of one of his Arab father's compatriots, could not possibly have been interested in a brown bird like Angela Vicario. She had her own mystery, however, because in the end, years later, she and Bayardo San Román come back together again as strangely as they had been joined the first time. He appears one day at her new home in "exile" beyond Riohacha with a suitcase full of the letters she had been writing him—all unopened.
From the beginning we know that Santiago Nasar will be and has been killed, depending on the time of the narrative thread that we happen to be following, but García Márquez does manage, in spite of the repeated foretelling of the event by the murderers and others, to maintain the suspense at a high level by never describing the actual murder until the very end. Until then we have been following the chronicler as he puts the bits and pieces together ex post facto, but he has constructed things in such a way that we are still hoping for a reprieve even though we know better. It is a feeling that makes us understand why King Lear was altered in the nineteenth century in order to spare those sentimental audiences the ultimate agony of Cordelia's execution. García Márquez has put the tale together in the down-to-earth manner of Euripides, but in the final pathos he comes close to the effects of Aeschylus.
The little slips of fate that seem so unimportant until they end in tragedy are the blocks that he builds with. Coincidence or lack of it is not so patently contrived as in Mario Vargas Llosa's novel The Green House, where we have the same characters wearing different masks on different stages. Instead, the epiphanies mount up and reveal the characters and the circumstances (never completely; there is always something unknown) by a succession of banal delights and contretemps….
Chronicle of a Death Foretold might well be the book that García Márquez was projecting in his Havana interview when he said that he wanted to write the false memoirs of his own life. He is not the protagonist of the story, but he is not only the author; he is the narrator. He even tells how he first proposed marriage to his wife and mentions her by name. In this way he is following the tradition of Cervantes, who mingled the real and the fictional to the degree that all levels came together in a time that only Proust could understand, and he is also very close to what Borges is up to in his story "The Other Borges." When Gabriel García Márquez said that he was abandoning literature for journalism, he probably did not realize the ambiguity of his statement, and since then, as he has done in his reportage, he has come to the conclusion that in technique at least—and possibly in many other ways as well—they are the same.
Source: Gregory Rabassa, "Garcia Marquez's New Book: Literature of Journalism?," in World Literature Today, 1982, Vol., 1982, No. 1, Winter, pp. 48-51.
In the following review, Salman Rushdie discusses Garcia Marquez's works; the opening sentence of Rushdie's essay purposely imitates Garcia Marquez's writing style.
We had suspected for a long time that the man Gabriel was capable of miracles, because for many years he had talked too much about angels for someone who had no wings, so that when the miracle of the printing presses occurred we nodded our heads knowingly, but of course the foreknowledge of his sorcery did not release us from its power, and under the spell of that nostalgic witchcraft we arose from our wooden benches and garden swings and ran without once drawing breath to the place where the demented printing presses were breeding books faster than fruitflies, and the books leapt into our hands without our even having to stretch out our arms, the flood of books spilled out of the print room and knocked down the first arrivals at the presses, who succumbed deliriously to that terrible deluge of narrative as it covered the streets and the sidewalks and rose lap-high in the ground-floor rooms of all the houses for miles around, so that there was no one who could escape from that story, if you were blind or shut your eyes it did you no good because there were always voices reading aloud within earshot, we had all been ravished like willing virgins by that tale, which had the quality of convincing each reader that it was his personal autobiography; and then the book filled up our country and headed out to sea, and we understood in the insanity of our possession that the phenomenon would not cease until the entire surface of the globe had been covered, until seas, mountains, underground railways and deserts had been completely clogged up by the endless copies emerging from the bewitched printing press, with the exception, as Melquiades the gypsy told us, of a single northern country called Britain whose inhabitants had long ago become immune to the book disease, no matter how virulent the strain….
It is now 15 years since Gabriel Garcia Marquez first published One Hundred Years of Solitude. During that time it has sold over four million copies in the Spanish language alone, and I don't know how many millions more in translation. The news of a new Marquez book takes over the front pages of Spanish American dailies. Barrow-boys hawk copies in the streets. Critics commit suicide for lack of fresh superlatives. His latest book, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, had a first printing in Spanish of considerably more than one million copies. Not the least extraordinary aspect of the work of 'Angel Gabriel' is its ability to make the real world behave in precisely the improbably hyperbolic fashion of a Marquez story.
In Britain, nothing so outrageous has yet taken place. Marquez gets the raves but the person on the South London public conveyance remains unimpressed. It can't be that the British distrust fantasists. Think of Tolkien. (Maybe they just don't like good fantasy.) My own theory is that for most Britons South America has just been discovered. A Task Force may succeed where reviewers have failed: that great comma of a continent may have become commercial at last, thus enabling Marquez and all the other members of 'El Boom', the great explosion of brilliance in contemporary Spanish American literature, finally to reach the enormous audiences they deserve….
It seems that the greatest force at work on the imagination of Marquez … is the memory of his grandmother. Many, more formal antecedents have been suggested for his art: he has himself admitted the influence of Faulkner, and the world of his fabulous Macondo is at least partly Yoknapatawpha County transported into the Colombian jungles. Then there's Borges, and behind Borges the fons and origo of it all, Machado de Assis, whose three great novels, Epitaph of a Small Winner, Quincas Borba and Dom Casmurro, were so far ahead of their times (1880, 1892, and 1900), so light in touch, so clearly the product of a fantasticating imagination (see, for example, the use Machado makes of an 'anti-melancholy plaster' in Epitaph), as to make one suspect that he had descended into the South American literary wilderness of that period from some Dänikenian chariot of gods. And Garcia Marquez's genius for the unforgettable visual hyperbole—for instance, the Americans forcing a Latin dictator to give them the sea in payment of his debts, in The Autumn of the Patriarch: 'they took away the Caribbean in April, Ambassador Ewing's nautical engineers carried it off in numbered pieces to plant it far from the hurricanes in the blood-red dawns of Arizona'—may well have been sharpened by his years of writing for the movies. But the grandmother is more important than any of these. She is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's voice.
In an interview with Luis Harss and Barbara Dohmann, Marquez says clearly that his language is his grandmother's. 'She spoke that way.' 'She was a great storyteller.' Anita Desai has said of Indian households that the women are the keepers of the tales, and the same appears to be the case in South America. Marquez was raised by his grandparents, meeting his mother for the first time when he was seven or eight years old…. From the memory of [their] house, and using his grandmother's narrative voice as his own linguistic lodestone, Marquez began the building of Macondo.
But of course there is more to him than his granny. He left his childhood village of Aracataca when still very young, and found himself in an urban world whose definitions of reality were so different from those prevalent in the jungle as to be virtually incompatible. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the assumption into heaven of Remedios the Beauty, the loveliest girl in the world, is treated as a completely expected occurrence, but the arrival of the first railway train to reach Macondo sends a woman screaming down the high street. 'It's coming,' she cries. 'Something frightful, like a kitchen dragging a village behind it.' Needless to say, the reactions of city folk to these two events would be exactly reversed. Garcia Marquez decided that reality in South America had literally ceased to exist: this is the source of his fabulism.
The damage to reality was—is—at least as much political as cultural. In Marquez's experience, truth has been controlled to the point at which it has ceased to be possible to find out what it is. The only truth is that you are being lied to all the time. Garcia Marquez (whose support of the Castro Government in Cuba may prevent him from getting his Nobel) has always been an intensely political creature: but his books are only obliquely to do with politics, dealing with public affairs only in terms of grand metaphors like Colonel Aureliano Buendia's military career, or the colossally overblown figure of the Patriarch, who has one of his rivals served up as the main course at a banquet, and who, having overslept one day, decides that the afternoon is really the morning, so that people have to stand outside his windows at night holding up cardboard cut-outs of the sun.
El realismo magical, 'magic realism', at least as practised by Garcia Marquez, is a development of Surrealism that expresses a genuinely 'Third World' consciousness. It deals with what Naipaul has called 'half-made' societies, in which the impossibly old struggles against the appallingly new, in which public corruptions and private anguishes are more garish and extreme than they ever get in the so-called 'North', where centuries of wealth and power have formed thick layers over the surface of what's really going on. In the work of Garcia Marquez, as in the world he describes, impossible things happen constantly, and quite plausibly, out in the open under the midday sun. It would be a mistake to think of Marquez's literary universe as an invented, self-referential, closed system. He is not writing about Middle Earth, but about the one we all inhabit. Macondo exists. That is its magic.
It sometimes seems, however, that Marquez is consciously trying to foster the myth of 'Garcialand'. Compare the first sentence of One Hundred Years of Solitude with the first sentence of Chronicle of a Death Foretold: 'Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice' (One Hundred Years). And: 'On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on' (Chronicle). Both books begin by first invoking a violent death in the future and then retreating to consider an earlier, extraordinary event. The Autumn of the Patriarch, too, begins with a death and then circles back and around a life. It's as though Marquez is asking us to link the books. This suggestion is underlined by his use of certain types of stock character: the old soldier, the loose woman, the matriarch, the compromised priest, the anguished doctor. The plot of In Evil Hour, in which a town allows one person to become the scapegoat for what is in fact a crime committed by many hands—the fly-posting of satiric lampoons during the nights—is echoed in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, in which the citizens of another town, caught in the grip of a terrible disbelieving inertia, once again fail to prevent a killing, even though it has been endlessly 'announced' or 'foretold'. These assonances in the Marquez oeuvre are so pronounced that it's easy to let them overpower the considerable differences of intent and achievement in his books.
For not only is Marquez bigger than his grandmother: he is also bigger than Macondo. The early writings look, in retrospect, like preparations for the great flight of One Hundred Years of Solitude, but even in those days Marquez was writing about two towns: Macondo and another, nameless one, which is more than just a sort of not-Macondo, but a much less mythologised place, a more 'naturalistic' one, insofar as anything is naturalistic in Marquez. This is the town of Los Funerales de la Mama Grande (the English title, Big Mama's Funeral, makes it sound like something out of Damon Runyon), and many of the stories in this collection, with the exception of the title story, in which the Pope comes to the funeral, are closer in feeling to early Hemingway than to later Marquez. And ever since his great book, Marquez has been making a huge effort to get away from his mesmeric jungle settlement, to continue.
In The Autumn of the Patriarch, he found a miraculous method for dealing with the notion of a dictatorship so oppressive that all change, all possibility of development, is stifled: the power of the patriarch stops time, and the text is thereby enabled to swirl, to eddy around the stories of his reign, creating by its non-linear form an exact analogy for the feeling of endless stasis. And in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, which looks at first sight like a re-version to the manner of his earlier days, he is in fact innovating again. The Chronicle is about honour and about its opposite—that is to say, dishonour, shame….
The manner in which this story is revealed is something new for Garcia Marquez. He uses the device of an unnamed, shadowy narrator visiting the scene of the killing many years later, and beginning an investigation into the past. This narrator, the text hints, is Garcia Marquez himself—at least, he has an aunt with that surname. And the town has many echoes of Macondo: Gerineldo Marquez makes a guest appearance, and one of the characters has the evocative name, for fans of the earlier book, of Cotes. But whether it be Macondo or no, Marquez is writing, in these pages, at a greater distance from his material than ever before. The book and its narrator probe slowly, painfully, through the mists of half-accurate memories, equivocations, contradictory versions, trying to establish what happened and why; and achieve only provisional answers. The effect of this retrospective method is to make the Chronicle strangely elegiac in tone, as if Garcia Marquez feels that he has drifted away from his roots, and can only write about them now through veils of formal difficulty. Where all his previous books exude an air of absolute authority over the material, this one reeks of doubt. And the triumph of the book is that this new hesitancy, this abdication of Olympus, is turned to such excellent account, and becomes a source of strength: Chronicle of a Death Foretold, with its uncertainties, with its case-history format, is as haunting, as lovely and as true as anything Garcia Marquez has written before.
Source: Salman Rushdie, "Angel Gabriel," in London Review of Books, September 16 to October 6, 1982, pp. 3-4.
In the following essay, Buford focuses on García Márquez's "demythologizing of romantic love" related to the murder and murderer as well as on the "unabsolved guilt" of the community that allowed the murder.
Gabriel García Márquez has repeatedly expressed his surprise at being so insistently regarded as a writer of fantastic fiction. That exotic or "magical" element so characteristic of his work is, by his account, not really his own achievement. It is merely the reality of Latin America, which he has faithfully transcribed in more or less the same way that he might write about it in, say, an ordinary article written for a daily newspaper. On a number of occasions, in fact, Márquez has said that for him there is no real difference between the writing of journalism and the writing of fiction—both are committed to the rigours of realistic representation—and his own ideal of the novel involves as much reportage as imagination. Viewed in this way, Márquez can be seen as an inspired tropical reporter for whom the strange Columbian world—with its prescient prostitutes, benevolent ghosts, and an eccentric magician who refuses to die—is just his everyday journalist's "beat". The image is not entirely fanciful. In an interview published in last winter's Paris Review, for example, he says that the non-fiction account of contemporary Cuba that he is currently writing will prove to his critics "with historical facts that the real world in the Caribbean is just as fantastic as the stories in One Hundred Years of Solitude." What he is really writing, he says, is good old-fashioned "socialist realism".
Chronicle of a Death Foretold is very close to Márquez's ideal fiction. Written in the manner of investigative journalism and in a conspicuously flattened, unadorned prose, the novel sets out to reconstruct a murder that occurred twenty-seven years before.
From the outset of Márquez's chronicle, every-body—including the reader—knows that the Vicario brothers intend to kill Santiago Nasar. Everybody knows how they mean to do it—with a pair of butcher's knives—and why. And they know so much because the brothers are dedicated to telling their plans to everyone they meet. The original Spanish title, lost in English translation, is important here. In Una crónica de una muerie anunciada, anunciada signifies not so much "foretold" as "announced" or "advertised" or "broadcast"—none of which, admittedly, makes for a very poetic title. The idea of an announced or broadcast death, however, is crucial. The brothers are committed to a course of action that has been determined for them—honour can only be redeemed publicly by their killing of Santiago—and they can only be relieved of their duty by the people around them. Once they have broadcast their intentions to the whole community, everyone, to some extent, by failing to stop them, participates in the crime….
It is … obvious that this murder, for all the simplicity with which it is narrated, is no simple crime. Part of its significance is evident in the way it is understood by those of Santiago Nasar's generation, for whom the murder seems to mark the end of their youth and render illusory so much that was once meaningful. Flora Miguel, Santiago Nasar's fiancée, for example, runs away immediately after the crime with a lieutenant from the border patrol who then prostitutes her among the rubber workers in a nearby town. Divina Flor—the servant meant for Santiago's furtive bed—is now fat, faded, and surrounded by the children of other loves. And, finally, after more than twenty years, Angela Vicario is reunited with the husband whose affronted masculine pride was the cause of the crime. Overweight, perspiring and bald, he arrives still carrying the same silver saddlebags that now serve merely as pathetic reminders of his ostentatious youth. Márquez's chronicle moves backwards and forwards in time, and views the participants in a senseless murder long after the passion that contributed to it has died. In many ways, then, the novel offers itself as an icy demythologizing of both romantic love and the romantic folly it inspires; it is a debunking of dream and sentiment hinted at by the book's epigraph: "the hunt for love is haughty falconry".
But the real significance of the murder is much greater, and is felt by the entire community whose uncritical faith in its own codes of justice and spectacle is responsible for the crime. The weight of this responsibility is felt most, though, by the unnamed narrator; he returns because he is bothered not by an unsolved mystery but an unabsolved guilt, and the chronicle he produces is a document charting the psychology of mass complicity. It is interesting that Márquez, in developing a simple tale fraught with obvious political implications, chose not to fictionalize an actual political event—Latin America provides more than enough mater-ial—but to treat instead a fictional episode with the methods of a journalist. In so doing he has written an unusual and original work: a simple narrative so charged with irony that it has the authority of political fable. If not an example of the socialist realism Márquez may claim it to be elsewhere, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is in any case a mesmerizing work that clearly establishes Márquez as one of the most accomplished, and the most "magical" of political novelists writing today.
Source: Bill Buford, "Haughty Falconry and Collective Guilt," in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4145, September 10, 1982, p. 965.
In the following excerpt, Hughes praises the accuracy of García Márquez's description of details as well as his originality for implicating the whole community in the murder through their foreknowledge of the murder plan.
One hundred pages of quality make [Chronicle of a Death Foretold] a fiction that reverberates far beyond its modest length. The story is a mere incident. In a waterfront town on the Caribbean a self-contained youth called Santiago Nasar will be, was, and indeed is being, stabbed to death with meat knives. This event takes place in gory detail on the last few pages. It is the sole preoccupation of the pages in between. And on the first we more or less know that it has already happened. So the suspense is not acute….
Not so much marching forward as marking time, the narrative continuum continually drifts more back than forth, rescuing the story piece by piece from the memory of policemen, gossips, of-ficials, shopkeepers, whores, whose 'numerous marginal experiences' are humanly unreliable. They can't even agree about the weather when the blows were struck. And that is the element that melts this strictly factual document (as it pretends to be) into delicious fiction: everyone in town regards his or her personal evidence as fact, whatever the contradictions. By exploiting the fallibility of his characters Marquez arrives at nothing but the truth.
The book's original touch is that these townspeople, deftly sketched without a word or image wasted, know before Santiago does, but without warning him, that he is on the point of being murdered. All have ostensibly cast-iron excuses, loss of nerve, forgetfulness, failing to take the threat seriously, not wishing to become involved. In their variety of selfish responses to foreknowledge, they bring on Santiago's death, as if secretly savouring it in prospect and relishing its aftermath. We are all to blame, mutters Marquez with good humour, because we all brainlessly share the eccentricity of common human feeling.
The book vindicates its brevity by an exactitude of detail that snaps a character to life without recourse to long or even direct description. To visualise a visiting bishop, all we need to be told is that his favourite dish—he discards the rest of the fowl—is coxcomb soup. The mayor's character is purely and simply conveyed when we are casually informed that a policeman is collecting from the shop the pound of liver he eats for breakfast. In these two images all authority, religious and civil, is nicely confounded, just because no heavy weather is made of confounding them. The reader is paid the compliment of being asked to respond imaginatively to the most delicate of hints and indeed to make his own moral structure from the ins and outs of the lack of narrative: to decide for instance, who is lying for good reasons, who being honest for bad.
One of the book's great virtues is self-containment. It presents a large world in parvo, without being self-consciously a microcosm, framed in noble if miniature proportions, viewed by an aristocrat of letters whose attitude to the human lot mingles contempt and compassion in a witty blend. Nobody shows up either well or badly under the microscope. People are seen as wayward but pitiable cells in the body politic, preventing it from functioning properly but at the same time breathing an outrageous life into it.
Some days after reading this novella I am still in several minds as to what it is about. Just a faithful picture of a community living off shopsoiled machismo? An author's obsession with the dramatics of sudden death? The last drop of blood squeezed out of material better suited to a thriller? A neurotic treatise on the erotic corollaries of murder? Any or all of these perhaps—and more. And that's a healthy feeling of perplexity. If good books do furnish the imagination, they also echo on and on in its rooms.
Source: David Hughes, "Murder," in Spectator, Vol. 249, No. 8044, September 11, 1982, p. 24.
Alonso, Carlos, "Writing and Ritual in Chronicle of a Death Foretold," in Gabriel Garcia Marquez: New Readings, edited by Bernard McGuirk and Richard Cardwell, Cambridge University Press, 1987, pp. 151-68.
Berg, Mary G., "Repetitions and Reflections in Chronicle of a Death Foretold," in Critical Perspectives on Gabriel Garcia Marquez, edited by Bradley A. Shaw and Nora Vera-Godwin, Society of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies, 1986, pp. 139-56.
Burgess, Anthony, review in The New Republic, Vol. 188, No. 1, May 2, 1983, p. 36.
Christie, John S., "Fathers and Virgins: Garcia Marquez's Faulknerian Chronicle of a Death Foretold," Latin American Review, Vol. 21, No. 41, June, 1993, pp. 21-29.
De Feo, Ronald, review in Nation, December 2, 1968.
Elnadi, Bahgat, Adel Rifaat, and Miguel Labarca, "Gabriel García Márquez: The Writer's Craft," interview in UNESCO Courier, February, 1996, p.4.
García Márquez, Gabriel, in an interview with Claudia Dreifus, in Playboy, February, 1983.
Gass, William H., "More Deaths Than One: Chronicle of a Death Foretold," New York Magazine, Vol. 16, No. 15, 11 April, 1983, pp. 83-4.
Grossman, Edith, review, in Review, September/December, 1981.
Mano, Keith, review, in National Review, Vol. 35, No. 2, June 10, 1983, p. 699.
Millington, Mark, "The Unsung Heroine: Power and Marginality in Chronicle of a Death Foretold," Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, Vol. 66, 1989, pp. 73-85.
Petrakis, Harry Mark, review, in Tribune Books, April 17, 1988.
Sheppard, R. Z., review, in Time, March 16, 1970.
Stone, Peter H., interview, in Paris Review, Winter, 1981.
Streitfeld, David, review in Washington Post, October 22, 1982.
Sturrock, John, review in New York Times Book Review, September 29, 1968.
Yardley, Jonathan, review in Washington Post Book World, November 25, 1979.
Bell-Villada, Gene H., García Márquez: The Man and His Work, University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
Followed by an extensive bibliography, this book puts Márquez in the company of other authors whose readers appreciate their ability to combine the commonplace with pioneering philanthropic political trends.
Donoso, Jose, The Boom in Spanish American Literature, translated by Gregory Kolovakos, Columbia University Press, 1977.
While this author asserts that the term "the Boom Generation" is misleading, he acknowledges that the novels and novelists coming out of the period deserve their notoriety. In addition, Donoso explains the origin of the term.
Gonzalez Echevarria, Roberto, Myth and Archive: A Theory of Latin American Narrative, Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Echevarria provides an extensive bibliography from which he has culled his ideas for his theory of how and where the Latin American narrative started and how it fits in with the modern novel.
Gabriel García Márquez and the Powers of Fiction, edited by Julio Ortega, University of Texas Press, 1988.
A book of critical essays on the works of Gabriel García Márquez, this collection provides insight on Márquez's style through various scholars' viewpoints.
Landmarks in Modern Latin American Fiction, edited by Philip Swanson, Routledge [and] Kegan Paul, 1990.
The "Boom" period in Latin American literature provides the backdrop to this compilation of essays that pertain to key texts written during the era.
Martin, Gerald, Journeys Through the Labyrinth: Latin American Fiction in the Twentieth Century, Verso, 1989.
Beginning with the 1920s and continuing through the 1980s, the author presents a view of Latin American literature seen through the perspective of themes and historical periods. He presents new works and authors as well as a list of primary texts and a critical bibliography.
Wolin, Merle Linda, "Hollywood Goes Havana: Fidel, Gabriel, and the Sundance Kid," in The New Republic, Vol. 202, No. 16, April 16, 1990, p. 17.
This article describes the internationally known Foundation for New Latin American Cinema and film school located in Cuba that are headed by García Márquez. The school receives contributions from such recognizable people as Robert Redford and offers the typical courses needed to learn the art and craft of filmmaking.