No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel García Márquez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gabriel Garcia Marquez' masterpiece "One Hundred Years of Solitude" is one of my most favorite books. His "No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories" is certainly not of the same caliber, although - to me - one of the stories is a gem that redeems the whole collection.
The plot of the title novella takes place during troubled times in Colombia - the 1950's La Violencia that claimed lives of more than 100,000 people. The novella presents a grim and extremely sad story about an elderly couple: the colonel has been waiting for over 15 years for the pension that is due to him because of his participation in the Thousand Days' War almost 60 years ago (1899 - 1902). The colonel and his asthmatic wife have no means of support except for a very promising rooster that they plan to sell when the cockfighting time arrives. Colombia is under martial law and curfews. The bells in the tower ring out the censor's movie moral classification and most movies are "unfit for everyone". It is a captivating story, yet I find the ending cheap and trivializing.
There are several other stories in the collection, and the last one, "Big Mama's Funeral", is totally charming - one of the best short stories that I have ever read. Subtle wit, humor, generous doses of magical realism transcend the skillful storytelling and raise the story to a high level of literary art. "At dusk the resonant pealing of St. Peter's Basilica mingled with the cracked tinklings of Macondo. Inside his stifling tent across the tangled reeds and the silent bogs which marked the boundary between the Roman Empire and the ranches of Big Mama, the Supreme Pontiff heard the uproar of the monkeys agitated all night long by the passing of the crowds."
Three and three quarter stars.
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