Sunday, February 14, 2010

No one writes to the colonel

No One Writes to the Colonel: and Other Stories (Perennial Classics)
My room was so quiet it bordered on being suicidal. At the same time I figured studying for an upcoming exam was the least I had wanted to do, I went straight outside. After getting some things from school, I went strolling in the mall nearby. The throng of shoppers was overwhelming, so I retreated to Powerbooks where I surveyed books I'd probably read in the future. I had time to kill, I thought, so I grabbed No One Writes to the Colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It's a novella—its length is halfway between a full-blown short novel and a long short story—and I figured I could finish it in no time.

It's about a colonel, probably in his seventies, who lives with an asthmatic wife. He's been waiting for his pension which was supposed to have arrived some 15 years ago. Their current state is isang kahig, isang tuka. They have to sell heirlooms from their household just to get by.

However, they have in their possession a fighting cock. It's famous in the entire province, and the colonel heard it would cost 900 pesos, enough to sustain them for three years. The colonel hesitates to sell it because it's the same cock their dead son particularly took care of. The wife would hear nothing of it. She constantly eggs her husband to sell it, or else they'd starve.

The book is powerfully engaging. The statements are calculated. Every word is weighty. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was said to have revised this story nine times, hence the sense of strictness to the prose.

And the ending. Oh, the ending. It's downright hilarious. If you haven't read Marquez yet and are intimidated by the length of his longer books, No One Writes to the Colonel may be a good place to start.



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