No One Writes to the Colonel Critical Context
by Gabriel García Márquez

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Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

García Márquez has said in interviews that his characteristic storytelling style is the style of his grandmother, and that some of his best characters are patterned after his grandfather, whom he calls the most important figure in his life. Discussing literary influences, he has acknowledged his debt to Franz Kafka, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway—all of whom lie behind the style of No One Writes to the Colonel.

Although García Márquez is a novelist, working within that genre’s basically mimetic pattern, his style is that of the modern romancer; it is lyric rather that realistic, highly polished and self-conscious rather than concerned only with mere external reality. His characters exist not in an “as-if” real world, but rather in a purely fictional world of his own making—a combination of the folklore conventions of his South American heritage and the realism of the great modernist writers. The result is that reality is seen as more problematic and inexplicable than everyday experience would suggest.

That his fictions take place in a political culture that seems unstable and adrift is not so thematically important as the fact that this unorganized social world makes possible his exploration of reality as governed by inexplicable forces. Thus, his characters, deprived of the props of established social order, have only their most elemental and primal virtues to sustain them. He is a metaphysical and poetic writer, not a propagandist or a social realist.

García Márquez, primarily because of the popular and critical reception of One Hundred Years of Solitude, is perhaps the best-known writer in the Latin American explosion of talent that has taken place since the 1960’s. Others in this modern tradition are Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, and José Donoso—all of whom have created their own version of a Kafkaesque modernist world which has fascinated general readers and critics alike. No One Writes to the Colonel is a minor masterpiece in this tradition, a precursor to the complexity and control of One Hundred Years of Solitude.