Book Review: No one Writes to the Colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


I love Marquez’s novels. I like the way he builds a story’s structure, plays with it, makes fun with the reader, keeps it simple but impressive and mocks us with his surreal characters.

When we were discussing with a Mexican friend he told me “I do not understand why they call Marquez surreal. The characters that he brings to life are very real for us.”

His characters are a part of Latin American beliefs, culture and history which my Middle Eastern side does not find hard to believe. Also as a sociologist, I like the way how Marquez narrates common reactions of his society to certain events. For instance, in Chronicles of a Murder, he follows a person who is going to be murdered in streets of a Columbian city. Although everyone knows (even we know from the first sentence of the book till the end) this guy is going to be murdered, people prefer to keep silent. This is not because they hate this guy but because most of them thinks that someone else will take responsibility to tell him about his fate.colonel

In No One Writes to the Colonel, we observe a waste expectation of a Columbian colonel for his retirement salary. While time passes, poverty, illness and hardships of life overcomes colonel’s and his wife’s expectation for this salary. Everyone loses their belief in his chances to get his salary while colonel keeps his faith in it.

Colonel’s long expectation reminds us that emptiness in age’s heroic sacrifaces. Although Colonel had given much for his country, as is presented tragic comic way, his efforts are not appreciated in return. This short novel is also a literal critique of the day’s politics and corruption.

Dostoyevski’s Demons

Photo from Daily Telegraph
Photo from Daily Telegraph

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Luke 8:26-39


This brilliant novel can be introduced as Dostoyevski’s anti-nilihist anti-socialist work. It can be considered as a harsh critique of both of these ideologies which rejected affects of religion and church over people at the time. While providing ideological critique, Dostoyevski points out the following parts as negative aspects of these movements:

*A common war against tradition and values of the society in which they flourish

*Common European roots of the ideology which hampers them to understand realities of Russian culture at the time

*Their inevitable tendency to violence as means to reach their objectives

*Their mobilization of workers as another means to arrive certain ends

*Their unorganized, and rootless character which lacks a certain belief system

*Certain leader’s abuse of common people for their different aims.

Russian Atheism has never gone further than making a joke.

On the other hand, Dostoyevski does not avoid to criticize conservatism too.

Man is unhappy because he doesn’t know he’s happy. It’s only that.

Conservatism’s failure to deal with modern revolutionary ideals is also underlined via different characters in the book. City governor’s day-dreamer mood during times of revolutionary break troughs is worth to mention as a representation of conservatism’s position against people’s seek for more democracy and power. Also, day’s elite’s lust for luxury and high social standards is criticized as blindfolding them towards newly appearing movements in the country.

 One must really be a great man to be able to make a stand even against common sense.

The touching quote from Bible at the beginning of this piece takes place in Demons’ first page. As I read thoroughly, I realized this possessed man represents Russian Empire which is poisoned by foreign ideologies as Dostoyevski claims. Dostoyevski also points a finger to sacred (or conservative) truth which he believes Russian Empire’s only independence lies within. For me, Dostoyevski as an idealist conservative tries to tell us that exported ideologies are mortal unless they are fed by realities, beliefs and culture of the society within which they appear. Otherwise, as is repeatedly said “revolution devours its own children”.