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Although short, this novella manages to incorporate much of the malaise which affects South America, and particularly, Columbia. The unnamed colonel, who lives in poverty with his asthmatic wife, has been waiting for years for his military pension; the letter he goes to fetch each time the postal boat comes in never appears.
Political and religious repression hang over the small town and we learn that the colonel's son lost his life as a result of this. The only hope of redemption for the couple is to sell the champion fighting cock left to them by the son. In fact, the main thrust of the novella revolves around the colonel's attempt to get a good price for it.
Written outside the tradition of magical realism for which he is known, Márquez presents us with an engaging story, brimming with humanity and atmosphere; we can almost feel the stress of the population, as the heat builds.
In short, it is a rather accessible novella, which will serve to introduce students to a Nobel prize-winning author.