Chronicle of a Death Foretold | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Gabriel García Márquez | Biography

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Early Life

Gabriel García Márquez was born on March 6, 1927, in Aracataca, Colombia, and lived in his maternal grandparents' house for eight years. Aracataca was a village "where everybody knew everybody else." García Márquez's memories inspired the setting and events of Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

As an adult, García Márquez returned to the village with his mother to sell his grandparents' house. On this trip, inspired by everything, nostalgia "caught [him] by surprise." García Márquez describes returning to Aracataca as a major influence on his literary life. Not only did he gain his mother's blessing for his writing career during the trip, but he then, at age 22, viewed the village as if "everything I saw had already been written," and his only task was to sit down and record it.

García Márquez modeled his characters after important people in his life. It is likely that many of the characters in Chronicle of a Death Foretold were modeled on people García Márquez knew as a child. The event at the center of this novella actually occurred.

Writing Career

A political advocate for the left wing, García Márquez started writing stories for a local newspaper when La Violencia—a 10-year violent political civil war between the liberal and conservative parties in Colombia fought primarily in rural areas—erupted. By the mid-1950s after penning political criticism, García Márquez's journalism career exiled him from Colombia to Paris and then to New York through the early 1960s. This geographical and psychological distance from the conflicts of his homeland influenced his thinking about Latin American politics. As a critic of elitism and imperialist influences in Latin America, García Márquez saw his writing as a means for creating "a Latin American identity" by drawing attention to Latin American culture.

Journalism not only supported García Márquez before he achieved literary fame, it also influenced his literary writing as well. The style he uses in Chronicle of a Death Foretold is journalistic, replete with interviews of people involved in a key incident in the past. García Márquez describes the level of detail that makes Chronicle of a Death Foretold successful as a "journalistic trick," a technique that highlights the ambiguity surrounding memory and truth.

In Chronicle of a Death Foretold the unnamed narrator, very likely García Márquez, has the role of an investigative journalist who is trying to understand a decades-old murder of a young townsman. The book is based on an actual murder that occurred in Sucré, Colombia, in 1951. In that case a friend of García Márquez, Cayetano Gentile Chimento, was murdered "in broad daylight by two brothers who knifed him to death in the town's plaza." The brothers who killed him were avenging the supposed lost honor of their sister, a town schoolteacher who had been friends with Cayetano, although no physical relationship is known to have occurred. In his autobiography García Márquez wrote, "It seemed to me that the subject [of a crime of passion] was eternal and I began to take statements from witnesses." Although this novella is a fictionalized version of this event, some incidents are true to life. For example, the author states that "two of the teacher's brothers had pursued Cayetano when he tried to take refuge in his house, but Dona Julieta [his mother] had hurried to lock the street door because she believed that her son was already in his bedroom. And so he was the one who could not come in, and they stabbed him to death against the locked door." This incident is reconstructed in the novella.

Success and Legacy

Chronicle of a Death Foretold was written over a decade after García Márquez's most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), which contains far more magical realism than the more surrealistic Chronicle. Among his other famous and lauded novels are Leaf Storm (1955), In Evil Hour (1962), Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), and The General in His Labyrinth (1989).

In 1982 García Márquez won the Nobel Prize in Literature, primarily on the strength of his 1967 narrative One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel regarded around the world as a literary masterpiece and the best-known work of magical realism. García Márquez continued to write, publishing pieces in journalism, a memoir, and pieces in fiction, including Chronicle of a Death Foretold. García Márquez died on April 17, 2014, after suffering from lymphatic cancer and dementia. Months after his death, the University of Texas's Harry Ransom Center purchased his archives. He is considered one of the greatest literary minds of his time.

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