Juan Gabriel Vásquez has been hailed not only as one of South America's greatest literary stars, but also as one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. In this gorgeously wrought, award-winning novel, Vásquez confronts the history of his home country, Colombia.
In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar's Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia's streets and in the skies above. Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend's murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend's family have been shaped by his country's recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.
Vásquez is "one of the most original new voices of Latin American literature," according to Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and The Sound of Things Falling is his most personal, most contemporary novel to date, a masterpiece that takes his writing - and will take his literary star - even higher.
One Single Long Shadow
The first hippopotamus, a male the colour of black pearls weighing a ton and a half, was shot dead in the middle of 2009. He'd escaped two years before from Pablo Escobar's old zoo in the Magdalena valley, and in that time of freedom had destroyed crops, invaded drinking troughs, terrified fishermen and even attacked the breeding bulls at a cattle ranch. The marksmen who caught up with him shot him once in the head and again in the heart (with .375 calibre bullets, since hippopotamus skin is thick); they posed with the dead body, the great dark, wrinkled mass, a recently fallen meteorite; and there, in front of the first cameras and onlookers, beneath a ceiba tree that protected them from the harsh sun, explained that the weight of the animal would prevent them from transporting him whole, and they immediately began carving him up. I was in my apartment in Bogotá, two hundred and fifty or so kilometres south, when I saw the image for the first ...
Through the book, Vasquez wanted to “show how the drug trade affects somebody not involved in it, somebody who – like me – has never seen a gramme of coke in his life.” That is precisely what he achieves so eloquently in Falling. Antonio finds his life “molded by distant events” and the attendant feeling of disillusionment feels heartbreakingly real. The players caught up in the drug wars were not innocent, they were innocents. Vasquez writes, “I’m not sure you realize what a distance there is between the two concepts.” Thanks to this moving novel, we now do.
(Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
Full Review (1189 words).
If one of the first things that comes to mind when someone says the word "Colombia," is "drugs," that fault lies squarely on the shoulders of notorious drug mobster, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria. Born in 1949 to a school teacher and a farmer, Pablo Escobar grew up in the suburbs of Medellin (pronunciation) and turned to a life of crime early on. He was believed to have sandblasted tombstones for resale and committed a number of petty crimes before turning to drugs in the '70s. Escobar and his vast empire were the conduit for massive amounts of cocaine smuggled to North America. In the mid '70s it is believed that Escobar ordered the killing of a rival Medellin drug lord, Fabio Restrepo and with this one decisive move, Escobar cemented his ...
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