No One Writes To The Colonel – by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

NoOneWritesToTheColonelSynopsis: 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…

Title: No One Writes To The Colonel
Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 80
ISBN: 9780141032535

Rating4stars

Since reading A Hundred Years of Solitude years ago, I’ve been hesitant to delve into any more of Marquez’s books. I found it really hard to get into and follow. However, one of my fellow bookworms told me that I clearly hadn’t read it right and gave me this short story to get me going again.

My first impression of the book was one of déjà vu, I was sure I knew the story but was positive I had never read it before. It finally hit me, I had read the story in Spanish for my AS-level. Once the mystery was solved I was able to actually enjoy the book.

Now that I’ve finished, I find myself in two minds about it. On the surface, I found it to be a simple and enjoyable read but nothing to scream and shout about, it was simply too short to ‘wow’ me.

 But even as I type this, I’m unwilling in accepting my lack of enthusiasm for the book.  There’s something there that nags at me to dig a little deeper into the character of the Colonel. Here is a man who has waited years and years for a letter that will never arrive. He knows it, the whole town knows it, and yet the same ritual is followed every Friday when the mail arrives.

As heartless as it sounds, whilst reading the novella I was unmoved. After finishing, my opinion of him has changed a number of times: firstly I pitied him, then I became annoyed at his stubbornness and sympathised with his wife. And now? Strangely, now don’t think he’s stubborn at all, but full of dignity and pride. Our protagonist holds tightly onto his dream of getting the pension he is due, despite poverty and hunger.

The Colonel’s wife states ‘you can’t eat dignity’, but despite this, the old couple manage to stay alive against all odds. Dignity and hope may not be able to feed you, but without them, there is nothing left…

…I think I finally understand why my friend loves this book so much.

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