15 July 2009

Gabriel García Márquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, 1981

Based on an event he remembers from his youth, Márquez adopted a journalistic yet personal style for this novel as a speculation on what led a possibly innocent man to be murdered in a South American form of honour killing, after a Colombian bride’s doomed wedding night. It would be easy to fall into line and call this a masterpiece the way everyone else does, but that’s to overlook that the structure of this novel can at times be difficult, particularly in the early few chapters where Márquez’s rhythm is not at all easy to establish. The fact that he removes the mystery from the murder in the first few pages is what makes this book exceptional because he can still keep the reader interested in events with the way he ranges back and forth along the story’s non-linear timeline, well beyond the killing itself. It’s one of those books short enough (and OK, important enough) that it deserves to be read by everyone, if only to witness the non-intrusive hints of magical realism that he adds, the multiple viewpoints that illustrate how the whole town failed that day, and his complex composition which drives the point home that the story’s dénouement is actually as important as the story itself. An intimidatingly masterful read.   PY


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