Paperback, 170 pages.
Read from January 16, 2018 to January 19, 2018.
Márquez has been on my TBR list for way too long. This novel was a gift and a perfect way to start reading this phenomenal author. Márquez won the Nobel prize for literature in 1982 and has been praised as one of “the most significant authors of the 20th century“.
An elderly and unnamed colonel and his wife live in a small village in Columbia during the 1970s. Columbia is in the midst of a civil war that spans nearly a decade and is called the “La Violencia Era” and the country is being governed by martial law as result. The novel opens with the colonel attending the funeral of an older man who has died of natural causes, an event that has not happened in a while, making the funeral a somewhat happier and noteworthy event. The colonel spends his days waiting for his pension that he earned during his service in the military. Each day he checks with the postman to see if it has arrived but to no avail, with the country in upheaval, pensions are not a top priority.
Unfortunately, as he and his wife are elderly, they need that money in order to survive as their funds are slowly dwindling. His wife begins to sell their prized possessions to make ends meet and to make matters worse for the couple, their son is believed to be dead as a result of the current war. The colonel has been taking care of his son’s fighting rooster as there is a fight scheduled in the near future. The wife wants the colonel to sell the rooster but the colonel cannot part with it. He claims it is because there is a lot of people who have bet money on the upcoming fight and that they might make some money if the rooster wins but, in reality, the colonel has not given up hope that his son will return.
The story of the colonel is a mix of tragedy and the awful realities of war but ultimately it is about hope. The colonel has lost his purpose in life but has not given up hope that things will turn around. He has to, as hope is all he has left. The rooster becomes the colonel’s metaphor and symbol of his hope. Even at the end when he and wife have next to nothing he still insists on feeding and caring for the rooster, much to his wife’s dismay.
Márquez has a distinct, brusque and masculine style of writing that lends itself well to the emotional subtleties of his characters and the bitterness of a setting stricken with the pains of war and poverty. Indeed, Márquez’s prose is gorgeous, even in translation. If you are not paying attention to this carefully worded story, however, you may misplace or not understand the colonel’s attachment to the rooster and thereby not see or enjoy the beautiful pinnacle of this story.
This book is a quick read and seems like a good place to start if you have not read anything by Márquez, as some of his works, like One Hundred Years of Solitude, are quite lengthy. One Hundred Years of Solitude will be my next read by Márquez as this short novel has given me a desire to read more of Márquez’s outstanding writing style.