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Reviewing Gabriel Garcia Marquez's No One Writes to the Colonel

By Will Clark



Although Gabriel Garcia Marquez is famous for his book One Hundred Years of Solitude, Marquez believed that his best book was No One Writes to the Colonel, even stating that he: “had to write One Hundred Years of Solitude so that they would read No One Writes to the Colonel” (Mantilla). In the book, a retired colonel (a veteran of the liberal side of Colombia’s thousand days war) perpetually waits for his pension. A few months previously his son was killed by the police for agitating against the conservative government, leaving behind a fighting rooster. The hopes of the colonel’s impoverished friends lay in the rooster’s fighting abilities. As the story progresses, we see the Colonel’s hopes rise and fall with the arrival of the Friday mail. Each week he goes to the post office in the hopes of receiving his pension, and each week the money he and his asthmatic wife live on gets shorter and shorter. He debates back and forth with himself, and his wife, about whether they should sell the rooster or keep up the costly feeding and training, placing their hopes on it winning in the ring. As their money becomes tight, they have to choose between feeding themselves, or feeding the rooster. The Colonel’s pride conflicts with his wife’s reminder that they have no food. At this point they nearly close on a deal to sell the rooster, to the disappointment of their neighbors.

The story ends on a sentiment of hope. There is still conflict within the family, and the food remains short. However, although the victory of the rooster in the upcoming cockfights is not guaranteed, the colonel sides with the belief of his neighbors: that the rooster represents the hope of all of them and is not his to sell.

 

Mantilla, Alfonso, ed. García Márquez habla de García Márquez. Bogotá: Rentería Editores, 1979.

Márquez, Gabriel García. No one writes to the colonel. Penguin UK, 2014.

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