FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail