Saturday, October 07, 2006

book of books - No One Writes to the Colonel

This is the first slim book I have chosen to digest over my lunch break and it took less than two hours to get through this story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Plot Summary
The novel is essentially about two people – the colonel and his wife – plus an animal, the rooster that was left after their son died. Their son was shot for distributing clandestine literature in a town that is ruled by the authorities. The signs of the repressive regime include the curfew and the cinema being banned. The 60 odd pages cover the struggle the husband and wife have to get food on the table as they wait, as they have done for 15 years, for his war pension to turn up. Each Friday the mail boat comes in and each week it is empty of his letter leaving the postman to comment: “No one writes to the Colonel”.

Is it well written?
For such a short book it is able to get across the location, the sense of repression, the stress of a struggle against poverty and the relationship two people have after many years of marriage in the face of adversity. Against a wet and cold October the tale starts to unfold but the boldness of the style here is that there are numerous questions left unanswered that means you continue to think about the book and the characters long after putting it down. For instance apart from the main question of whether or not they will survive you are also left wondering if his pension will ever come in, whether or not he will tell his wife he still gets notes from his son and if the rooster will win its fight. It is unusual for novels not to tie up the loose ends and in that sense it is only the depth of the writing that enables Garcia Marquez to get away with it.

Should it be read?
There is really no excuse for not reading a book that is so light it could not be seen as putting off the reader because of the page count. Plus there is something healthy about reading books from South America, which is off the beaten literary track for most people. This is different because life there is different and in that regard it meets the requirement of reading to broaden the mind with ease.

Leads to
More Garcia Marquez including the most well known Death in the Time of Cholera and One Thousand Years of Solitude but my first port of call will be Chronicle of a Death Foretold, which will be my lunch time reading for the early part of next week.

Version read - penguin paperback


Anonymous said...

Agustin is not literally writing to the Colonel. It is code for the clandestine literature. In a way it's sad but vital as the rooster is to the town's hope and spirit that they use such a term because I imagine it evokes strongly emotional thoughts in the characters.

Anonymous said...

The first Anonymous is right. Agustin is already dead. The colonel still recounts memories of his son. That is all.

Anonymous said...

I've just started reading this book for some school work and I must say that you do give a thorough and mostly accurate account of the story. It's the first book by Márquez that I have read, but it captures the imagination. You raise some points about questions left unanswered, and all in all, your review is first class. Well done!

moin said...

did sabas every buy the cock?

Jessie Spielvogel said...

I am taking a class called "Magic Realism in the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez" and this is the latest story we were assigned. It is a slow moving story and it doesn't seem to follow his usual pattern when it comes to the magical aspect...but it is very interesting as are all of Garcia's works. This is a great summary of this short novel...Thank you!