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De kolonel krijgt nooit post by Gabriel…

De kolonel krijgt nooit post (original 1961; edition 1984)

by Gabriel García Márquez

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2,193262,960 (3.58)59
Title:De kolonel krijgt nooit post
Authors:Gabriel García Márquez
Info:Amsterdam Meulenhoff 1984
Collections:Your library

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No One Writes to the Colonel: and Other Stories (Perennial Classics) by Gabriel García Márquez (1961)


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English (14)  Spanish (7)  Dutch (2)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (26)
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Original post at Book Rhapsody.


Unmagical Realism

No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories consists of one novella, which is the title story, and eight other ones. These are dense with the seemingly insignificant lives of people living in a South American village. The unnamed villagers, each portrayed separately among the stories, are portrayed as despondent people who could either be hanging on to hope or resigned to utter hopelessness. After every story, the mood seems to get bleaker, but the compassionate writing of one of South America’s best writers makes the reader go until the end.

Readers familiar with the Nobel laureate’s books, particularly One Hundred Years of Solitude, will find this a strange departure from the regular Marquez oeuvre. Elements from the school of magic realism are rarely found and, in fact, only present in one of the stories. Readers who are looking for those must prepare themselves to prevent disappointment, but this collection will not go as far as that.

Cross out magic and you get realism. People and places are depicted as they are seen by the naked eye. In fact, the reader could perspire with the characters as they walk around the town under the sweltering heat of the sun, not to mention the pangs of hunger that they try to ignore and the troubles that tug their hearts.

The postmaster delivered his mail. He put the rest in the bag and closed it again. The doctor got ready to read two personal letters, but before tearing open the envelopes he looked at the colonel. Then he looked at the postmaster.

“Nothing for the colonel?”

The colonel was terrified. The postmaster tossed the bag onto his shoulder, got off the platform, and replied without turning his head:

“No one writes to the colonel.”

Most of the stories deal with people struggling through lives strained by poverty. The characters’ situations are both touching and funny wherein the former is considered with a heavy sigh as the last trace of smirk is gone from the reader’s face. Consider an unlicensed dentist extracting the tooth of another without anesthesia in One of These Days. Consider a man stealing billiard balls for nothing in There Are No Thieves in This Town. Consider a man giving away an ornate bird-cage that’s supposed to bring food to their tables in Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon. Consider a priest repetitively saying that he has seen the devil in One Day After Saturday.

There is dark humor bubbling at the surface of each, but as we digest each story, we dissect the characters to a get a taste of the intentions behind the things that they do. In my favorite story here, One of These Days, the patient who gets the painful extraction is a corrupt government official. He intimidates the dentist into taking out the rotten tooth despite the latter’s efforts to hide from him. He does so, but not without vengeance. No anesthesia due to an abscess. He proceeds to pull the tooth out of the official’s mouth with a silent aggression that screams of triumph.

In a book discussion that I attended for this, it was pointed out that the pulling of the rotten tooth is a metaphor for the wiping out of corruption through quiet violence. It could be, and that is the beauty of it. One can interpret the actions of Marquez’s characters in many ways and no one will be incorrect.

And this story is just four pages long.

In the title story, the colonel patiently waits for his pension for a decade and a half. He keeps visiting the post office for any letter from the government only to come back to his wife empty-handed. They have nothing; they even pretend to cook by boiling stones just to the neighbors wouldn’t find out that they do not have anything to eat.

But they do have a rooster. The colonel starves himself and his wife just so the rooster could eat. They wage everything on that rooster; who knows it might bring them a lot of money on an auspicious day in a cockfight. But there are mouths to feed and health problems to treat. What are they going to do? What are they going to eat?

The story was inspired from the writer’s grandfather, a colonel who also never received any pension. It was also boldly published shortly after the civil war in Colombia between the 1940s and 1950s. The political turmoil going on in the country is reflected in this collection; fragments of a corrupt government are depicted on the pages. In the last story, Big Mama’s Funeral, people clean up the garbage off the streets right after Big Mama, an absolute power, was buried. This collection will remind people to keep sweeping away any trash on the streets. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Un viejo coronel retirado vive esperando el aviso de que le han concedido la pensión a la que tiene derecho por los servicios prestados a la patria. La espera dura ya quince años, y el coronel ha ido todos los viernes al puerto a esperar la llegada de la lancha que trae el correo, y siempre ha vuelto de vacío.
  BibliotecaLardero | Apr 22, 2014 |
The problem I have with short stories are they're short. I'm still warming up to it, dipping my toes into the story then it was finished. I do not get to love them as much as I would love if it was a full length novel. This novella/short story was actually pretty good. It was heartbreaking. Nothing happy about this and I think that was the point, Columbia was an unhappy place back then especially for the poor people because of corruption and censors. This was different from other Marquez stories I've read. None of the magic I was accustomed to but a lot of realism. This is real. This happened somewhere in time. A short masterpiece by Senor Marquez! ( )
  krizia_lazaro | Mar 11, 2014 |
Un clásico de García Marquez. Corto de leer y muy interesante. Si quieren leer un libro acogedor, fácil y corto pero con todo lo que García Marquez significa, este es el indicado.
  juanjaimes99 | Aug 20, 2013 |
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. ( )
1 vote StevenTX | Mar 13, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
García Márquez, Gabrielprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alin, KarinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bernstein, J. S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cicogna, EnricoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leiva Wenger, AlejandroForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puccini, DarioForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stentvång, EvaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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El coronel destapó el tarro del café y comprobó que no había más de una cucharadita.
The colonel took the top off the coffee can and saw that there was only one little spoonful left.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060751576, Paperback)

Written with compassionate realism and wit, the stories in this mesmerizing collection depict the disparities of town and village life in South America, of the frightfully poor and outrageously rich, of memories and illusions, and of lost opportunities and present joys.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:19 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

'The colonel took the top off the coffee can and saw that there was only one little spoonful left' Fridays are different. Every other day of the week, the Colonel and his ailing wife fight a constant battle against poverty and monotony, scraping together the dregs of their savings for the food and medicine that keeps them alive. But on Fridays the postman comes - and that sets a fleeting wave of hope rushing through the General's aging heart. For fifteen years he's watched the mail launch come into harbour, hoping he'll be handed an envelope containing the army pension promised to him all those years ago. Whilst he waits for the cheque, his hopes are pinned on his prize bird and the upcoming cockfighting season. But until then the bird - like the Colonel and his wife - must somehow be fed.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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