"The Paratactical Nature of Time: Chronicle of a Death Foretold" by Ria Gupta

A novella by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ is a work exemplary of his stylistic and thematic writing. The book was published in 1981 as a pseudo-chronicle of the death of a certain Santiago Nasar by the Vicario brothers (Pablo and Pedro). The murder is decided when the men’s sister Angela, returned by her husband on account of being already deflowered, names Santiago responsible for her state. The finality of their decision is what lends an air of inevitability to the whole account, which the narrator balances with an eerie suspense vitalized by an oscillation between the events that take place through a long period of time.

As the anonymous narrator brings the tragic event into context, the importance, as well as the ambiguity of time, is brought to light. Setting to the task almost three decades after the murder, he expresses the vision of an apocalyptic end result right in the first sentence he pens down: ‘On the day they were going to kill him Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming in’. The fact that the “death” has already occurred gives the narrator ample space to constantly deviate (in chronological terms) from the trajectory of events, taking time to acknowledge the unmistakable elements of an inevitable environment. He artfully brings out such elements, such as the dream Santiago has on the morning of his fated end. Another clear symbol of the temporal and narrative relation is the ill-fated Monday, the day of the murder that is still talked about twenty-seven years after its occurrence. Monday is generally considered as a day of doom, as not only the beginning of the workweek but also the day which comes after the weekend. One may see this double meaning as an insight into the head and tail of the event itself; not only was the murder the end of a life, but it also served as the purpose for the beginning of a literary quest. The fact that the “death” is announced before it is executed gives the narrator reason to embark on this journalistic venture into history. The narrative structure of “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” thus finds a complex nature as it traces the path to an inevitable end, in this case foreknown not just by the narrator but by all the people that inhabit the setup of the novel. As the author zigzags between events before, during, and after the death of Santiago, he raises questions about the imminence of fatality, and whether or not foreknowledge can possibly play a role in its reprieve. Marquez as a writer was known for his comprehensive expression of the apocalyptic theme, nuanced in this particular novel by the paratactical nature of time. However, what he always comes back to is the end, repeatedly imposing the inevitability of death on the reader’s mind amidst tongue-in-cheek narration of another related event every now and then. This is also possibly what also keeps the suspense escalating, as the gruesome details of not only the events leading to the death, but of the death itself, push the readers further and further toward wishing for the stalling of Santiago’s end in some way, if maybe just to save them from their own understanding that an end is destined to be. Such weaving of time and material relations is rather signature when it comes to Marquez, however, in this particular novel he also goes on to draft the same out from his journalistic perspective. By chronicling the events relating to the murder, the journalist/narrator hopes not only to make sense of it, but also to in some way be able to change the future by sorting out the happenings of this precedent. However, the way he plots it into writing clearly suggests that a trajectory of events does not offer insight when studied chronologically, but when it is studied holistically. The narrator opens his account with a description of how Santiago spent his last few hours alive, but quickly jumps to the story of how Angela and Bayardo met, and the following details which lead to the faulty murder. From there he leaps to the years following the murder, giving not only details but also a sense of suspense. 

It is precisely the act of “after-telling” the death that lends a privilege to the narrator. Studying the events from outside gives him a bird-eye view of the physical and metaphysical forces at play. What he might repent though, is the inevitability of it all, and one may be led to believe that in transcribing this experience Marquez as an author succeeds in placing the eternal nature of knowledge and art in balance with the transience of mortal life.

Editorial: Woven in the 'signature' language of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the present review-essay of his masterpiece novella "Chronicle of a death foretold" talks about certain aspects of the same which make it unique. The first paragraph briefly introduces the work, the second paragraph goes a little deep into three major thematic concerns of the work namely the narrative techniques employed, the treatment of time, and the journalistic approach of the narrator. In addition to others, a major point that is made, is that time, in the novella, is treated paratactically. There is no chronology of time. Time is not even cut into pieces. Rather Marquez splices the time into a disorder and cruises through it without looking for an end or a beginning, or a connection between them. The novel begins with its end. We already know about the certainty of death. Two dissimilar pieces of "time" are placed side by side the journalist narrator, and the reader is left to 'discover' the meaning for herself, which is more like an 'invention'. This is what Ria means by paratacticity (sic) of time. (Keta Nachi)

Ria is a believer of the heart. An artist finding her way to creative self-expression, she is driven by passion and boundless imagination. Ria is in the final year of pursuing a graduation in English Literature, and hopes to someday steer a new perspective on life through her writing.