Culture & History

Language Usage: The Chronicle of a Cliché Foretold

A versatile phrase which occasionally makes the rounds uses the title of a book by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez

Reading a book

A versatile phrase which occasionally makes the rounds in social and journalistic circles uses the title of a book by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez —Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada— or “Chronicle of a Death Foretold.”

Often when something happens that was or might have been predicted, a commentator, writer, or speaker somewhere will refer to their version of the event as “the chronicle of a ______ foretold.”  So we have had chronicles of soccer matches foretold, chronicles of election outcomes foretold, and if worse comes to worst, we may have chronicles of a credit ratings downgrade foretold.

This use of the “chronicle” puts the title up there with “to be, or not to be,” which people considering dilemmas far removed from outrageous fortune will yet utter as if that solved the problem, and A Tale of Two Cities, practically any dichotomy being prone to the epithet “A tale of two … ”

The late García Márquez, probably the best known contemporary Latin American author, lived in Mexico for many years before his death in Mexico City on April 17th, 2014.  Both he and his works are very popular here, and people could be forgiven for thinking him Mexican.

A traveler on the Mexico City Metro was once overheard explaining to a friend one of “Gabo’s” books.  Not only was that work brilliant, he said, but so were all the others.  The enthusiasm was so contagious that before the train reached the terminal, the friend had stated his intention to buy one at the next opportunity.

This was instructive for the eavesdropper who had become bored after only about 30 years of solitude and laid the book quietly aside, and whose subsequent reading of The Autumn of the Patriarch was abandoned in a second attempt because the author kept messing around with the clocks.

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