Chronicle of a Death Foretold

by Gabriel García Márquez

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Critical Context

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Because many characters reappear in his works, because many of the works are set in Macondo (unnamed here, but recognizable as the fictional counterpart of his birthplace, Aracataca), and because of the persistently fabulous nature of his Magical Realism, García Márquez’s novels and short stories may be said to constitute one grand fiction, of which Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a significant part.

García Márquez’s treatment of isolation and solitude in previous work extends to this novel. Macondo’s search for a way inland to other villages in One Hundred Years of Solitude is ended here with the coming of the railroad, on which many of the characters will leave following the murder. The novel also is linked by contrast with the short story “El ahogado más hermoso del mundo” (1972; “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World,” 1972), in which a drowned man is taken in by the inhabitants of a stagnant town after he washes up on shore, becoming a source of community pride. Care for the drowned man removes the villagers from their individual and collective solitude, as contrarily the community’s witnessing the death of Nasar jolts its members out of their “linear habits” and into an obsession with their guilt. Where in El otoño del patriarca (1975; The Autumn of the Patriarch, 1975) the aging dictator is isolated by his tyrannical power, here the villagers are cut off from one another by their failure to use their power to prevent Nasar’s death.

In interviews, García Márquez has often equated his fiction with journalism (he began his career as a journalist in 1948) and has said that the fantastic elements in his work are merely the reality of Latin America, faithfully transcribed. In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, he has written an investigative report of the circumstances of a murder. Yet he turns the genre of the mystery novel inside out in order to create his own convoluted, cyclical form of storytelling. It begins when the victim rises and ends one hour later with his death, but in between the narrator retraces the impossible labyrinth of circumstances and chance and the unwinding of its terrible consequences. Thus, the artist triumphs over the journalist, as García Márquez’s humanity prevails in the foolish beauty of his unfortunates, and in their resilient good nature that struggles with fate to an outcome somewhat better than a draw.

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Critical Overview