Friday, April 10, 2009

Slices of guilt


Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(Penguin, 1981) 122 p.

A small, anonymous Latin American town. Innocence lost or squandered. An accused who knows not what he has done nor the reason he is being hunted.

The woman is a new bride, Angela Vicario, who is discovered to have lost her virginity - shock! - before committing to marriage. To avoid humiliation she accuses Santiago Nasser, of stealing her most sacred gift. The narrative draws inevitably towards Nasser's death, at the hands of Angela's butchering twin brothers; and the reader is but a powerless spectator.

This is a story so revolting it is difficult to look away. So silly in its violence. How could a town be swept up in this meaningless witch hunt? The townsfolk try to explain from each of their perspectives, and each seeks to rationalise the death in their own way. They are bystanders but just as culpable as the murderers themselves. As they received adequate warning but did nothing, theirs is a moral omission.

I don't know if Marquez if culpable either. I want to blame him for his depictions, but I can't, he is hiding behind the protective veil of 'the author'. C'mon Gabriel man, this dying is a serious business, and you make light of it at every turn!

[For an excellent exposition of the changes in style from Marquez's earlier to later works and the similarities to Kafka, see this post at (Mis)readings.]

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