Gabriel Garcia Marquez began his professional life as a journalist and, like most who have been trained to report the news, he developed a straightforward style of presenting a story. While he is celebrated as an author of fiction for such works as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, he is also a highly-respected chronicler of his native Colombia and the troubled, violent history he has studied and observed. His nonfiction writing, especially News of a Kidnapping, about the toll drug trafficking was taking on Colombia, are well-written and thoughtful ruminations on his nation’s culture and history. Chronicle of a Death Foretold is Garcia Marquez’s merging of the straightforward journalistic style of writing he perfected with the surrealistic sense he developed for the violent and misogynist culture from which he sprang.
A substantially true story of the murder of a 21-year-old in a small, coastal town, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is related in the journalistic style characteristic of Garcia Marquez, while utilizing the surrealistic images characteristic of certain cultures in which spirits, superstitions and dreams play a prominent role. In what is basically a detective story, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, utilizing the unseen, unidentified narrative style, blends multiple forms in a coherent whole.
The importance of dreams to Garcia Marquez’s book is established right away. The victim whose murder is examined throughout by a myriad of personalities and perspectives, Santiago Nasar, experiences a series of dreams in the days leading up to his murder. Neither he nor his mother, Placida Linero, respected as an interpreter of dreams, can figure out the meaning of these particular dreams, all of which involve trees. As Garcia Marquez writes:
“She had a well-earned reputation as an accurate interpreter of other people’s dreams . . . but she hadn’t noticed any ominous augury in those two dreams of her son’s, or in the other dreams of trees he’d described to her on the mornings preceding his death.”
Other than the presence of trees, there does not seem to be a common thread tying the dreams together, and their relevance only becomes apparent in retrospect, as Placida confided in her friend regarding an incident that occurred right before her son’s death, and following a wedding at the center of the story:
“Pura Vicario had fallen into a deep sleep, when there was a knocking on the door. ‘They were three very slow knocks,’ she told my mother, ‘but they had that strange touch of bad news about them.’ She told her that shed’ opened the door without turning on the light so as not to awaken anybody and saw Bayardo San Roman in the glow of the street light, his silk shirt unbuttoned and his fancy pants held up by elastic suspenders. ‘He had that green color of dreams,’ Pura Vicario told my mother.”
Bayardo San Roman is the man whose marriage to Angela Vicario is terminated immediately upon his discovery that his bride is not a virgin, thereby casting dishonor upon Angela and her family – the revelation that triggers the murder at the center of the book. By telling his story in retrospective style – or through flashbacks – while injecting into the narrative the diversity of perspectives made famous by Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa in his 1950 film “Rashomon” and emphasizing the importance of mysticism in the culture he depicts, Garcia Marquez makes an otherwise routine detective story a work of art.