Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia, in 1928, the eldest of sixteen children. After graduating from the University of Bogota, he worked as a reporter for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador and as a foreign correspondent in Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Caracas, and New York. His most famous work, One Hundred Years of Solitude, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold occupies a unique place among Márquez's works because the narrative is both journalistic and fictitious. García frequently uses journalistic techniques in his fiction. For example, in most of his novels he creates a high level of interest in the very first line of the text, and employs many journalistic details based on close observation throughout the entire novel. Márquez himself said that he became a good journalist by reading literature, and that journalism in turn helped him maintain contact with reality, which he considers essential to writing good literature.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the Latin-American novel did little besides realistically portray of regional or national life and customs. In terms of narrative technique, this fiction functioned within the realist tradition of the nineteenth century. In the late 1940s, Latin-American novels changed, as they had been influenced by the modernist novels of Woolf, Joyce, and Faulkner. Such modernist novelists were well-known among Latin American intellectuals by the 1930s.
Along with contemporaries such as the Cuban Alejo Carpentier, the Guatemalan Miguel Angel Asturias, the Mexican Agustin Yanez, and the Argentine Leopoldo Marechal, Gabriel García Márquez contributed novels that insisted on the right of invention. The books were concerned with the construction of new realities, not the reflection of existing themes. One technique that came into being in this fiction is magic realism, which is the incorporation of fantastic or mythical elements matter-of-factly into otherwise realistic fiction. Alejo Carpentier was the first to use the term when he recognized the tendency of his region's authors to illustrate the mundane by means of the extraordinary.
Colombia prides itself on being a stronghold of Spanish tradition. Gabriel García Márquez became part of a coastal group that wanted to leave Bogota and the conservative attitudes prevalent in much of Colombia. Coastal towns like Barranquilla were more supportive of innovative and imaginative literature. Márquez and his contemporaries involved in this coastal movement were called the "Group of Barranquilla." Márquez's first novel, Leafstorm, strongly reflects Faulkner's influence in its structure and narrative point of view. In the 1940s, Márquez read and learned from Faulkner's novels. Márquez, who was originally planning to study law after graduating from university, said that when he first read Faulkner, he knew he had to become a writer.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold showcases Márquez's skills as a journalist rather than as a novelist. After the publication of the novel, journalists poured into Sucre, the town where the real murder that inspired the book took place, in order to interview the surviving characters. In a strange twist, real life replicated the novel—the novel tells the story of a the narrator's return to the Colombian town to resolve the details of a murder twenty years after it had taken place.
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