Rulfo: Chronicle of a death concealed

It was during the dog days, the season when the August wind blows hot, venomous with the rotten stench of saponaria blossoms.
The road rose and fell: «It rises or falls depending on whether you’re coming or going. If you are leaving, it’s uphill; but as you arrive it’s downhill.»
−What did you say was your name? −I heard him ask me
−Santiago Nasar, señor −I replied
−And what’s your business in Comalá?
−I came to meet my father
−And how does your father look like, if you don’t mind my asking?
−I never knew him −. I told the man −I only know his name is Pedro Páramo
−Uhm! that so? Pedro Páramo’s my father too.
−That so? And what’s your name?
−Juan −he said. But he was too far for me to hear his last name.

The murmurs make Juan Preciado inquire into his past, and he ends up finding out about the past of an entire town, embroiled and disordered,  but undeniably tied to the tyranical  whims of Pedro Páramo. On the other side we have Santiago Nasar, unreached by the rumors about his own death. He seems to be the only one in the whole town who doesn’t hear them on that morning in which the circumstances conspire to keep him ignorant.

It takes Preciado time to understand he’s dead because he has «the eyes with which she [his mother] saw these things» and with them a swarm of murmurs that pull him into others’ lives and away from his own. Meanwhile, has no eyes to see what approaches, because the rancor that the Vicario brothers hold against him, and the honor they supposedly want to restore, have nothing to do with him. Before dawn he has become a scapegoat and a ghost. A few people try to warn him as soon as they realize the threat is real, but fatality has already made him invisible, just as the judge writes on his case file.

A multitude of elements separate one story from the other: 26 years pass between the publication of Pedro Páramo and the publication of Chronicle of a Death Foretold. García Márquez, as a journalist, recounts the events using a strict chronology that marks hours and minutes whenever it’s possible; meanwhile, Rulfo’s story fluctuates between the first and third person, without counting hours and minutes. The geographical location, the landscapes and the mores of the towns also differ between one story and the other. Despite this, the comparison seems unavoidable: Both of them bear a concealed death. There’s a cloud of extraordinary events between them and realization.

Juan Preciado stands in front of the mirror. On the other side he sees himself running across the public square, on his way home. The door closes just as he’s about to come in. He knocks on it repeatedly but no one opens. He feels stung all across his body; in the palm of his hand, the flank , the back, the armpit, the belly, the thigh…
Nasar stands in front of the mirror as well. On the other side he sees himself reaching the town square full of fear, leaning against the pillar of an entrance hall. He doesn’t see anyone but hears murmurs alike those of a lot of people in a marketplace nearby. He feels a whispering tight as a swarm coming closer and circling around him, until he makes out some words empty of noise: «Pray to God for us.» At that moment he feels his soul freezing.[*]

* Having read Jorge Volpi’s Contagious Lies, where he imitates the style of some authors and change their stories to make his essays more enjoyable, I thought I should give it a try. Let me know whether you enjoyed it or not and your opinions on this authors in the comments.

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