Chronicle of a War Foretold


“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 on.”

This is how it begins. From the very first page, from the very first sentence, we know that they are going to kill him. Yet we continue reading. Why do we continue reading?

“He always slept the way his father had slept, with the weapon hidden in the pillowcase, but before leaving the house that day he took out the bullets and put them in the drawer of the night table.”

Santiago Nasar has been charged with a crime that can only be atoned through blood. That his guilt can be neither proved nor disproved doesn’t matter. That the only evidence against him is the word of his accuser doesn’t matter. The crime has been committed. Someone must be punished.

“They only thing they believe is what they see on the sheet,” they told her.

Angela Vicario has been returned to her family on her wedding night by her husband, Bayardo San Roman. “Her satin dress was in shreds and she was wrapped in a towel up to the waist.” Her husband doesn’t say a word. Her mother beats her for hours with a silent, relentless fury. When her twin brothers arrive they demand to know the name of her “perpetrator.” “The only thing I wanted was for it all to be over quickly so I could flop down and go to sleep,” she says. She produces a name. Her brothers collect their “pig-killing” knives and go back out to look for Santiago Nasar.

“We thought it was drunkards’ baloney,” several butchers declared.

On the day they killed him, almost everyone in the town of Riohacha knew that the Vicario twins were looking for Santiago Nasar. Some of them agreed that the price of honor had to be fulfilled. Others doubted that the twins were serious in their intentions. A policeman takes away their knives and sends them home. The twins return with two more knives and resume telling anyone who will listen that Santiago Nasar is a dead man.

“There’s no way out of this,” he told him. “It’s as if it had already happened.”

Later, a visiting magistrate will attempt to reconstruct the events of that fateful day. His inconclusive report runs for more than five hundred pages. The hasty trial is unable to produce a single witness who can corroborate Angela Vicario’s charge. “She told us about the miracle, but not the saint,” her friends testify. No one in the town is able to explain why the twins weren’t stopped before they killed Santiago Nasar. In the margin of one of the pages of the report the magistrate scribbles a handwritten note: “Give me a prejudice and I will move the world.”

“Everything that happened after that is in the public domain. The people who were coming back from the docks, alerted by the shouts, began to take up positions around the square to witness the crime.”

Why do we continue reading? Why do we continue to speak of it at all? Why, when we’ve known from the start that the outcome has been so clearly, so unequivocally, foretold? Perhaps there is some part in us that holds fast to the belief, knowingly founded on nothing but the faint hope of a respite from fate, that Santiago Nasar might somehow escape the inexorable hands of his executioners. Perhaps the sounds of our voices distract us while we attempt to unravel this “infinitely minute web” of motivations, propositions, intentions, conspiracies. Perhaps it comforts us, somehow, to imagine that by perceiving a pattern in events that we can somehow change them. Perhaps it is enough to repeat, along with the narrator’s mother, that there are “animals that can’t do anything that isn’t awful.” Perhaps that’s why we continue to read, why we refuse to stay silent.

In the end, it changes nothing.

All quotations from “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. English translation by Gregory Rabassa. Alfred A Knopf, 1982.

SHYAM OBEROI lives in New York and can be reached at shyam_oberoi@yahoo.com


December 01, 2015
John Wight
From Iraq to Syria: Repeating a Debacle
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: the Left Takes Charge
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Revenge? The Fight for the Border
Sami Al-Arian
My Ordeal: One of America’s Many Political Trials Since 9/11
Steffen Böhm
Why the Paris Climate Talks Will Fail, Just Like All the Others
Gilbert Mercier
Will Turkey Be Kicked Out of NATO?
Bilal El-Amine
The Hard Truth About Daesh and How to Fight It
Pete Dolack
Solidarity Instead of Hierarchy as “Common Sense”
Dan Glazebrook
Rhodes Must Fall: Decolonizing Education
Colin Todhunter
Big Oil, TTIP and the Scramble for Europe
Eric Draitser
Terror in Mali: An Attack on China and Russia?
Linn Washington Jr.
Torture and Other Abuses Make Turkey as American as Apple Pie
Randy Shaw
Krugman is Wrong on Gentrification
Raouf Halaby
Time to Speak Out Against Censorship
Jesse Jackson
It’s Time for Answers in Laquan McDonald Case
Patrick Walker
Wake Up Zombie, Kick Up a Big Stink!
November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism