No One Writes to the Colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Book Review

No One Writes to the Colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Book Review

No One Writes to the Colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

No One Writes to the Colonel

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Fridays are different. Every other day of the week, the Colonel and his ailing wife fight a constant battle against poverty and monotony, scraping together the dregs of their savings for the food and medicine that keeps them alive. But on Fridays the postman comes – and that sets a fleeting wave of hope rushing through the Colonel’s ageing heart.

For fifteen years he’s watched the mail launch come into harbour, hoping he’ll be handed an envelope containing the army pension promised to him all those years ago. Whilst he waits for the cheque, his hopes are pinned on his prize bird and the upcoming cockfighting season. But until then the bird – like the Colonel and his wife – must somehow be fed. . .

Review by Clive

This book was the first I had ever heard of Gabriel Garcia Marquez which is very remiss of me as he is probably Colombia’s foremost novelist and was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. He was a journalist who wrote short stories until his breakthrough novel One Hundred Years of Solitude was published in 1967; going on to sell over 50 million copies and translated into 46 languages. The tenth anniversary of his death takes place the day after I write this review.

No One Writes to the Colonel was one of Marquez’s many published short stories, just about long enough to be called a novella. It is written in a very atmospheric style with more unsaid than is actually included. For example, we never learn the names of the main protagonists, merely “The Colonel” and “the woman”. We know that he was a colonel in the civil war about 50 years earlier but have no idea of what work he did after that. We know they are mourning the loss of their son, have no income and are at the end of their savings. The Colonel is stubbornly clinging to the hope that the long promised pension will be awarded and that his cockerel will win during the fighting season. He has no alternate plans.

His wife, between regular, serious asthma attacks, does her best to feed them on what little she can find. Her attempts to get her husband to face reality are ignored. Although they are known to many people in the town I sensed that there are none that are acting as true friends. Whilst the tale is thought provoking it is also melancholy.

Reading No One Writes to the Colonel has been an interesting experience and if I were to read more of his work I could well become a fan. As a standalone experience I would think twice about investing £9.19 (price at time of writing this review) in this 80 page book, however evocative it may be. I have awarded four stars.

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a short-story writer, novelist, journalist and a screenwriter from Colombia. He was a reporter for a Colombian newspaper, El Espectador, and also a foreign correspondent stationed in New York, Rome, Paris and Barcelona.

Marquez is the author of numerous popular novels and short stories. He is well known for his unique literary style known as magical realism, in which he describes reality through magical events and elements. His most popular novels include Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.

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