13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2003
Marquez has done it again, to weave a story of pathos and vividness which, even a gifted painter would find it difficult to portray. Set in a small Mexican town, the world of the Colonel and his wife along with the memories of his lost son and his parting rooster, become a symbol of defiance, a triumph of human spirit amidst the ruin and the debris that has come to haunt the Colonel in all possible forms.A pension that never comes, an asthma of his wife that never cures and a life that does not have enough food, confront the world of the exploiter.The memories of the Colonel's dead son and his rooster become the living example of bravery which may have deserted many hardened Colonels. This bravery unfolds itself as the Colonel defies everything in life, even the approaching depriviation and death, as the Col. zealously protects his honours and values. The sale of his rooster, possibly his only option for continuance of his life, is heroically opposed, despite a clear possibility of stark and naked death knocking at his door. In thus defying death the Col.has sought to immortalize his life and possibly all that life stands for - hope.
A million such examples abound. What is brilliant is that the pathos of a lonely life, devastated by a crumbling world, and the undaunting spirit of a man fighting against everything from insensitivity to disease has been so movingly portrayed in the novella. Beneath this brilliant portrayal of human pathos lies a subtext that is deeply political and social. Politics of the country and its victims are most tellingly described through the Col. and his travails. Marquez is a writer who is a dreamer and an activist too. In his Col.who is both the hero and the anti-hero, Marquez has punched politics and sufferings in a brilliantly conceived character and has invested him with a realism that transcends nations and nationalities and speaks a language which is moving and absorbing.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2004
This story, about an old, sad Colonel who spends his time waiting for a pension that, deep down, he knows he will never receive, is simply heart-breaking. Every paragraph is laced with sadness - sadness that his circumstances are how they are and sadness that it won't ever really change, not even in the promised January when the rooster will finally pay off for him and his wife and they can finally put the memory of their dead son behind them.
It was a short story, only ~60 pages long, so I'd highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read something quickly. It is rather depressing, probably made more so by the fact that the Colonel is a dignified man and that he knows that the misfortunes of his life are not his fault at all. Unfortunately, even at the end, there isn't any real hope. It does end with a great last line, but there is no retribution, no deliverance, no satisfaction to be had for the Colonel and his wife. I think that if Marquez had solved all of the Colonel's problems, it would have been a weaker story, so I'm not too upset about that.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2010
A set of short semi linked stories set in and around the wonderful Latin American Kingdom Maquez created in '100 Years of Solitude' including the novella of the Colonel, who fought in the revolution and has been betrayed;relying on a Cock to win him some money to keep starvation at bay.
This is a superb collection, each tale in some way telling of the futile revolutions that never end up benefiting the people; the stiffling bureaucracy, the corruption, nepotism and autocracy of Latin American politics and life in a small town.
Stand out stories ; 'There are no Thieves in this Town' where a pointless theft of the billiard balls from the pool hall affects the whole life of the town and reaps an innocent victim;the lyrical fable 'One Day After Saturday' and 'Montiels Widow'; a Town changes when the local tyrant dies...
But the whole book is superb. Garcia Marquez just doesn't do 'average' and reading him is a pleasure.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2009
Every time when I'm feeling lonely, I always say "No one writes to the Colonel". That's the feeling that you take away from this book, I def would not recommend this book if your standing on the edge of the rooftop cause you probably will jump (then again i don't recommend reading on edges of rooftops either). The book tells a story of a aging, dying, old man, who fought alongside General Buendia in his heyday, who is waiting for pension from the war day after day. He lost his son, his wife is dying everyday from asthma, he sold all his belongings to pay for food including his son prize fighting cock, all he have left is the hope that one day all his troubles will end when finally receive his pension.
One of the central theme in this book is "money isn't everything unless you don't have any".
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2001
Although there are a few minor events in Marquez's muted novella - a funeral, a trip to the casino, the arrival of a circus, a cockfight trial - the story is more concerned with the mundane fact of the colonel's repetitive everyday existence, his domestic rituals, walks, conversations, his waiting for the official letter confirming his pension that never comes. Details about the region's political situation and history filter through gradually, and despite a shortage of exterior detail, there is some local colour - the postmaster drinking pink froth as he makes his way through harbour stalls to meet the launch; the priest who gives movie censorship details by bell-ringing, spying on the cinema to note the disobedient.
'No-one writes to the colonel' is a portrait of old age, that period when physical decay conflicts with still-alert mental pride; the dependence on others with the unreliability of family, friends or the State; increasing poverty with forlorn attempts at gentility; the dreadful trauma of outliving your children; the perhaps worse fate of seeing your ideals and efforts fail, the world constituted in someone else's image.
Your pleasure in this story will probably depend on how you take the colonel, from whose point of view it is almost entirely narrated - he has no interior life, there are no accounts of his feelings or opinions beyond what he says to others, so revelation of his character must be gleaned through movement and the things he notices. The focus on mundane objects, conversations and rituals takes on a spiritual force, but can come close to sentimentality as Marquez over-eggs the colonel's dignity; although it is just as easy to see the hero as a kind of moral monster in the way he treats his wife so that he can uphold his dubious honour.
'Colonel' is written in that Hemingway-esque style which is always called 'deceptively simple': there are few of the heart-quickening flourishes that made Marquez's masterpiece '100 Years of solitude' so magical - a brilliant funeral scene where the wilting Colonel is addressed by the corpse; a crisp December morning in which the privy livitates, if only for a milimetre.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2010
The part that made me the most happy was how "One-Hundred years of Solitude" got referenced. This is a collection of short stories that is an easy read. The writing style is such that you can "see" what the author is saying. This may also be one of the most strange banterings between man and wife I have seen.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2014
The short story itself is quite typical of Marquez - wonderful writing and evoking in great detail, the atmosphere of a faraway culture in times past. However, this is a short story which is sold at the price of a novel, albeit padded out with pages of descriptions of all Marquez's other writings. I would have been happier if there had been more than one short story, but as it stands, it seems to be cashing in on the passing of a great writer.
on March 6, 2011
In No One Writes to the Colonel, G G Marquez explores one of his typical character themes--stubbornness. Florentino Ariza would not give up after 50 years of pursuing Fermina. Amaranta would not take back Pietro, despite that fact that she loved him deeply, because he had insulted her ego by choosing her sister first.
In this story, tragic-comic in style, the unnamed main character, whom you may never forget, an 80 year old colonel, refuses to see past his ego and pride. He lives in the memory of his revolutionary days, where he was a big shot, who "broke his back to save the republic." But now, after 15 years of waiting for a pension yet to come, he is still waiting, going to the post-master every Friday in vain. All of his military peers had died without ever receiving it.
His wife, an asthma sufferer, begs him to sell the fighting rooster for money, since they are flat broke and go to bed oftentimes without eating. He, however, refuses to beg his friends, since his ego wants to maintain a strong image of himself.
The false hopes of his pride and the refusal to give up the memories of his revolutionary days disillusion him from reality. The rooster is a symbol of his undying pride.
Even at the brink of starvation, his wife calls him "willful, stubborn and inconsiderate." He nearly comes to his senses of selling the cock, until his pride chimes in with a sort of bottomless sweetness: "The rooster is not for sale."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2008
As usual, Garcia Marquez delivers. Serious social commentary - all of us know about folks who serve their country in wars, to live in poverty and neglect when they return home - but great story!
on April 7, 2014
The novella and eight short stories in this collection share the same setting, some of the same characters, and the same themes, but each story is independent. The setting is in or near Macondo, the imaginary town representing the author's Colombian birthplace in many of his works.
In No One Writes to the Colonel, a retired officer and his asthmatic wife wait for years in poverty for the Colonel's promised pension. As they near starvation, the only thing of value left to them is a fighting cock that once belonged to their now-dead son. They sell their last possessions to feed the cock while they, themselves, go hungry.
The other stories are similar depictions of people who are impoverished and powerless but not without pride and hope. In "One of These Days" the local dentist gets his revenge on behalf of the people when the town's mayor develops an abscess. In "There Are No Thieves in This Town" a desperate man with a pregnant wife tries to rob the local pool hall but comes away with nothing but three billiard balls. And in "One Day After Saturday" a strange plague of dying birds convinces the local priest that the end of the world is at hand.
With just a hint of the magical realism that would soon become his trademark, these stories would be a good introduction to the work of Gabriel García Márquez.