Thursday, 26 October 2017

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel García Márquez – Book Review

Imagine going on a voyage on the sea and your ship capsizes, your fellow sailors drown and all you have is a raft and a few oars right in the middle of the sea. This was the reality of the Colombian sailor, Luis Alejandro Velasco, in the year 1955 and he stayed on that way for ten days. Years after his ordeal, he was interviewed by the then Colombian journalist who later on went to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gabriel García Márquez who weaves an interesting novella from the perspective of the sailor Velasco.

On February 28, 1955, eight crew members left Mobile, Alabama, United States towards the Colombian port of Cartagena aboard the destroyer Caldas. En route, the chip capsizes and one of the sailors survive and make it to Colombia, surely, everyone would want to know his story but that is where the complications arise. Colombia was under military dictatorship back then wherein the regime declared all the sailors dead because of a storm. However, there was no storm and in fact, the ship was overloaded with contraband leading to a major factor for the accident and the government didn’t want the shortcomings exposed.

The story has a lot of parallels with that of the Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, however, there were some significant differences. Crusoe had Friday as his companion, Velasco had none; Crusoe had arable lands, Velasco’s sources of food was minimal. But then, both deal with the survival instinct and that aspect was brought in well wherein Velasco, desperate for food, commits the cardinal sin for a sailor, which is killing a seagull.

In this quest for survival, there were a lot of other things that were happening to Velasco, wherein, though he didn’t have Friday like Crusoe, he hallucinated a friend and indulges in conversations with him. It also gets him thinking about Caribbean islands with cannibals and starting to feel safer at the sea than land. Despite the fear, he was overjoyed when he did arrive at land and saw a fellow human being and shout for help. That was an aspect that this novella lacked a little, wherein, his arrival and first interactions back in land could have been described better.

The author also brings out how Velasco being celebrated as a hero and his sudden increase in marketability (considering his endorsement deals) started to lack meaning to him, as, if he had supplies in the raft, his story wouldn’t have been half as popular. The story did have a price, for Velasco, though, with the truth exposed, he was forced to retire into oblivion by the military regime and was soon, forgotten.

For once, I had a relatively light read from Gabriel García Márquez and I think this book does a very fair job in bringing out the story for a novella. I would award the book a rating of seven on ten.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,

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