This enigma pushes us to rethink our pasts and redefine our histories.
In his novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez plays the detective and reconstructs the events associated with the murder of Santiago Nasar, a rich Arab who lived in the Caribbean town where the author grew up. The murder that happened 27 years ago is reconstructed as a story from various focus points that tries to find the onus of the act. The author seemingly strings together the different pieces that he gathers from the memories of his townspeople. It is strange but brilliantly conceived. The author accumulates various data through the course of the story- dreams, weather reports, gossip, and philosophical speculation – and makes a record of what happened first, second, third, etc. In short, a chronicle.
This is the simplistic understanding of a text that holds much more for the reader to understand than just the cause-effect relation of the murder.
Marquez might be the narrator-investigator persona in the text but there’s no whodunit about this plot. In the first line the reader is told that Santiago Nasar was to be murdered. In a few pages further the why and who of the plot is revealed. The question that remains unanswered is that how the murder was never prevented when the whole town knew about it. The town tries to understand the motive of the murder- the supposed code of honour for which the murder is committed is both hypocritical and outdated. The murderers repeatedly try to get someone to stop them before deed is done. The honour code is the fundamental alibi for the collective inaction of the town.
“But most of those who could have done something to prevent the crime and still didn’t do it consoled themselves with the (excuse) that affairs of honour are sacred monopolies with access only for those who are part of the drama.”
The honour code inextricably linked to male domination is always comfortable in so far as it always reinstates the familiar. This unofficial law in practice which is upheld by the official law establishes the status quo – male domination – which ironically leads to the killing of a male in a higher social class.
“The lawyer stood by the thesis of homicide in legitimate defence of honour, which was upheld by the court of good faith.”
The societal code enables male characters to act, but it is precisely the male characters (with the ambiguous exception of Vicario twins) who do not act. It is as if each individual character lacks the will to act and therefore converts into a collective, collaborative agent. Thus the killing is both senseless (the honour code) and inevitable (lack of will to act), and the paradox is never resolved.
From the sociological point, it is a condemnation of the violence and machismo prevalent in Latin American Society.
Then, how far is the reality from fiction? From the Euro centric cultural point of view, the “facts” of the investigation are mediated through memories. These memories offer a subjective view, each story retelling the experience of the murder as they witnessed it. There are too many focus points and no single concrete “fact”. For example – Nobody can say how the weather was the day Santiago Nasar was murdered. Also, there are indicators in the text in relation to Santiago, symbolic of course, that hints at the inevitable murder (The episode of the feeding of the dogs and Divina Flor’s description of Santiago Nasar’s hand as a “dead man’s hand”). In addition to this subjectivism, there is no linearity in piecing together these memories. The non-linear narrative mode creates ambiguity by providing details concerning irrelevant matters on the one hand, and vagueness about points of real importance. The basic structure is like that of journalism which abounds in detailed facts, but fails to provide a broad structure of events at hand. This results in a series of questions unanswered ( the weather, the real perpetrator).
The text’s structure as an unresolved enigma is supported by its lack of surrendering to meaning, the meaning in the story. In his text, the idea of story and the story itself goes above and beyond the storytellers who relate them, the narrative in which they are told, and the language. The stories exist in a continual space where they can be remodelled and retold. It is not encumbered by the myth of originality. Thus, magic realist mode of narrative is used to present the real and the possible. It is used to focus on a society’s need for self-description. This realignment of history as discoverable facts and history as a field of diverse human and cultural possibility showcases the potential and creative abilities of his culture. This polyphony of voices and experiences is to tell the reader that the world is open to change and it is not necessary to foreclose a single meaning.
Therefore lack of linearity and the concept of fact-fiction structure the text as an unresolved enigma. This structure is not just used to interrogate but somehow also to absolve from being questioned. It rejects to be scrutinized by openly not surrendering to its meaning.
It tells the story of a society that is struggling to redefine its history.