Chronicle of a Death Foretold

by Gabriel García Márquez

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Critical Overview

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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 adulation) 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 stones.

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 Garcia Marquez'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.

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Critical Context


Essays and Criticism