The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor


Status: Read from Feb 20 to Feb 21, 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 106
My rating: 5star/5
Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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In 1955 eight crew members of Caldas, a Colombian destroyer, were swept overboard. Velasco alone survived, drifting on a raft for ten days without food or water. Marquez retells the survivor’s amazing tale of endurance, from his loneliness and thirst to his determination to survive.

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor was Marquez’s first major work, published in a Colombian newspaper, El Espectador, in 1955 and then in book form in 1970.


I have a couple of books by this author in my collection, but had never read any. I brought the books after reading the good reviews online as his works have achieved significant critical acclaim. And many of his books had been adapted to movies with major commercial success. I have watched the movie ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ which was adaption of the book with same title. So when I saw this book which is over 100 pages, I grabbed it, so that I can finish reading it in one sitting. And believe me, it’s amazing. I totally got immersed in the world this book creates; the ocean, the winds, the sharks, the seagulls. This story resembled a lot with The Life of Pi. But this is a true account of the happening of Feb 1955, when eight crew members of the Colombian destroyer, Caldas, were swept overboard.

Marquez can make you smile by mere title. This book has a sub-title which reads as:

who drifted on a life raft for ten days
without food or water,
was proclaimed a national hero,
kissed by beauty queens,
made rich through publicity,
and then spurned by the government
and forgotten for all time


Turn over the page and the prologue will greet you as “The Story of This Story”.

This book is journalistic reconstruction of the true life experience of the lone survivor Luis Alejandro Velasco, in ocean on a life raft for 10 days.

In early 1955, eight crew member of a Colombian destroyer, Caldas, were thrown overboard and disappeared during the storm in Caribbean Sea. The ship was travelling from Mobile, Alabama, in United States to Colombia. Seven were drowned ending at the bottom of the ocean. Only one, Velasco, survived by clinging on to a life raft and drifting towards the shore. The ten days of his endurance in the vast ocean, on an ill-equipped raft, without food and water, facing the hot sun rays burning his skin tells the story of his bravery. His battle with the sharks over a succulent fish, his capture of a seagull which he was unable to eat, his hallucinations almost convince him that he is going to die. When he could see the land, he was not ever sure, if it’s true or its one of his hallucinations. But once he confirmed he gathered all his strength to leave the raft and swim to the shore which was almost 2 km away. In normal condition he could had completed this distance in less than an hour. But how long can he swim without eating anything for 10 days, with body covered by blisters and an injured knee. But it was his last chance to survive. He could not leave it to the winds to drift him till the shore where he could stand and feel the land under his feet. The last part deals with Velasco’s strange fame and almost heroic status.

The last chapter reads, “My Heroism Consisted of Not Letting Myself Die.”

Marquez narrated the story as first person, and the style is simple, sharp and crisp. Narrating a real story and its events as it happened requires great talent. It was originally published as a fourteen consecutive day series of installments in El Espectador newspaper in 1955. This was later published as book in 1970.

After reading this I feel more excited to read more of his books in my collection.

About the Author:


Gabriel José de la Concordia Garcí­a Márquez (6th March 1927 – 17th April 2014) was a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist. Garcí­a Márquez, familiarly known as “Gabo” in his native country, was considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. In 1982, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

He studied at the University of Bogotá and late worked as a reporter for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador and as a foreign correspondent in Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Caracas and New York. He wrote many acclaimed non-fiction works and short stories, but is best-known for his novels, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). His works have achieved significant critical acclaim and widespread commercial success, most notably for popularizing a literary style labeled as magical realism, which uses magical elements and events in order to explain real experiences. Some of his works are set in a fictional village called Macondo, and most of them express the theme of solitude.


5 thoughts on “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor

  1. ThePandaBookBlog says:

    Hi! New book blogger here! Followed your blog! Do you mind checking mine out and maybe follow me back? Thanks! 🙂


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