After I read Murakami for the first time last year, I gained a renewed interest in magical realism. The hint of magic, the strong emphasis on an unseen power and more such ideas had me enthralled. I went on to hoard some more books by Murakami, and I also went on to buy some books by Gabriel García as he is considered a master in this genre.
After much contemplation, I picked up Chronicle of death foretold by him as it is the shortest and somehow I was already overwhelmed by his aura – hence, I decided to pick something short to start with.
I picked the one published by Penguin (I am not too sure if any other publication houses also print it) and all his books come with a certain set of covers that make them a fine collection of books. This beautiful bright green cover has a gory image of a skull set in a dusty niche. This probably represents the story, and how the author who is also the narrator goes on to unearth the story of this killing.
Santiago Nasar is the man who is murdered by two brothers who seek revenge when their sister is returned home by her husband Bayardo San Roman who claims she isn’t a virgin. The other characters in the book are the author who is a friend of Santiago and the narrator, the victim’s mother, their maid and the daughter. Family of the murderers and almost the entire town!
The book sways between 27 years as it talks about the day of the murder and many years later.The author takes us on this strange journey which is his documentation of the murder of Santiago. Handsome and mysterious Bayardo comes to town, and takes a bride. The town is abuzz with festivities as the marriage is a lavish affair with the whole town on the guest list. Santiago is an active participant in the preparation of the wedding and is a young man living with his mother.
As the festivities die down with the night turning to day, the town is once again stirring the next morning, as the Bishop is making a visit. Amidst all this, the bride is returned to her family as she is not a virgin.When she is questioned as to who her lover is, she names Santiago. Infuriated and agitated, her brothers take their weapons and swear to murder him as revenge.
The book takes on through the before and after of the murder , leading to a climax is short, but such a striking blow that it has you reading it again and again to just let it sink into you. It takes one many years later , and shows how the lives of the key characters has changed.
The language is simple but with a hint of the local flavor. The narrative is done by the author himself, and it is a documentation of how different people give their different perspectives of the day of the murder, and the murder itself. The narration is rich with details about the customs and superstitions, and the local landscape. The events are repetitive and the same event is seen from varied perspectives. This causes an eerie feeling in the reader as the event is the same, but views fluctuate extensively – which possibly is one of the highlights of the book. It leaves you with a heavy unsettling feeling of being in the picture, and yet watching it from afar.
The writing is exemplary! I still haven’t found the right words to describe it even after a month of reading it, but there is something so enticing, and disturbing about the writing style. It is one of the few books that has me thinking of it days after I read it and every time I think about it, that uneasiness surfaces. The author goes on and on about the murder so much, showing how each person has a perspective and how in reality no body really cares – it tears you apart right there. The conflicting emotions that are evoked in you by the story take a while to ebb away.
A book like this, where the entire plot is clear to see may deceive you with the idea that they may be no climax, or that it is more about the entire narration than any peak points, but do not be fooled- there are certain places in the book the raise the bar so high, you just have to take a while to savor the queer taste it leaves in your mouth.
As I was reading the book I felt the events repeat too much, there were points when I thought to myself, “Yes,I know..get on with it already!!” but in retrospection it is that very thing that stands out about the book, because in the end as I closed the book I just sat there thinking, yes he repeated the event on and on, but to what end? There were so many people talking about the murder, but what did they really do?
There are very very few books that left me with a hurricane of emotions as this one did! It is almost surprising that a book this small can leave such a deep impact on a reader, but isn’t that the thing about good writing? The Author has left me a very overwhelmed and intimidated, and it’s going to be a while before I pick up another book by the legend- but surely I will!
Who do I recommend this to ?
An author of this stature should be read by EVERYONE!It is definitely not a light read , though a short read - but an intense one. So if you enjoy books that evoke an array of emotions , go on and pick this up.
He was healthier than the rest of us, but when you listened with the stethoscope you could hear the tears bubbling inside his heart.
“They’re perfect,” she was frequently heard to say. “Any man will be happy with them because they’ve been raised to suffer.”
The truth is that she spoke about her misfortune without any shame in order to cover up the other misfortune, the real one, that was burning in her insides.