Colombian court rules against man who claimed author used his life story for main character in Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
By Tom Phillips
On the day they were going to kill him, Cayetano Gentile Chimento got up oblivious to his impending murder. Within hours the dashing Colombian medical student was dead, repeatedly stabbed for allegedly deflowering another man’s bride.
Few would today remember the 1951 murder, but for the intervention of one of Latin America’s best-loved authors. The killing served as the inspiration for Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold – a 1981 classic that cemented the author’s reputation as a literary master.
But Márquez’s blend of fact and fiction also led to accusations that he had unlawfully misappropriated the life-story of another man and prompted a lawsuit by Miguel Reyes Palencia, who claimed that Márquez had based the novel’s main character, Bayardo San Román, on his life.
This week those accusations were finally dismissed as a supreme court in the Colombian city of Barranquilla ruled that Palencia had no right to compensation. The case against Márquez was first brought in 1994, when Palencia claimed that the 1982 Nobel literature laureate had unlawfully used his life story as the basis for Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Palencia demanded 50% of the book’s royalties as well as a co-author credit.