No One Writes to the Colonel

This story may not be the one that many Gabriel Garcia Marquez fans talk about, but a very short story, No One Writes to the Colonel is a raw tale of poverty and desperation. They say this book contains none of the magical realism that Gabo is known for, and it’s true. And it’s because this story had to ring true in every aspect, to portray the tragic situation an old couple find themselves, and the colonel who is desperate for his luck to change.

The story centres on a Colonel and his ailing wife, and have lost their only son. The Colonel had fought in the Thousand Days’ War, an armed civil conflict in Colombia. It’s been fifteen years that he has been keeping a keen eye on the mail launch, hoping for his pension that was due to him. The group with which he was aligned, had lost. The title of the book is the crux of the story. The Colonel who religiously waits for his letter, keeps waiting. And how every Friday, he follows the postmaster from the launch, and how every time, the postmaster announces there is no letter for the Colonel, the latter is left ashamed. And every week, the same scene plays out. No one writes to the colonel, and despair mounts.

With no money, they’ve taken to selling their possessions and are now left with just a clock and their son’s fighting rooster. They hold on to it as a last item that belonged to their son, while the Colonel must protect the rooster to ensure it can win any of the forthcoming fighting games. The Colonel must feed three souls, and it’s getting difficult to feed even one.

It’s a rather short story, but packed with rich descriptions. Marquez magically writes and depicts such realistic scenes – be it scraping the end of the coffee tin or the colonel shaving himself by touch, since he didn’t have a mirror – the book is a feast for the senses. It is a world is a constant state of decay. It is not based on politics, but rather reflected through the lives of the protagonists and the state of affairs. The story begins with a funeral attended by many townsfolk, however, due to the martial law that was to clamp down rebellion of any kind, the burial is unable to pass before the police barracks.

The story also showcases the ruthlessness of the lawyer, engaged in fighting for the Colonel’s war pension. And even though fifteen years have passed, the lawyer continues to come up with newer excuses. The old couple gets help from nowhere, and yet every day the Colonel goes about his daily chores with a stoic expression looking into a bleak horizon, prepared to even eat shit having pinned his hopes on his prized rooster.

This post is part of the eighth annual A to Z Challenge that takes place in the month of April. The theme for this month is ‘Between Pages’. It’s my second attempt at this. Feedback is most welcome, constructive criticism, even more. Share your experiences and let’s enjoy this month of fabulous blogging.

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