Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

The Sound of Things FallingThe Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 The story is set in Bogotá, Colombia and the reader learns that much of the city is recovering from severe PTSD. Citizens who lived through the Eighties in the time of Pablo Escobar have symptoms not unlike war veterans, having spent a decade living in fear, not going out to public places, restaurants, cafes, etc. and never knowing when a family member or friend would go missing. The narrator grew up in the era and suffers irrational fears and despair after he is wounded while walking with his friend Roberto who is shot and killed, leaving him obsessed with trying to understand the death from the man's surviving daughter. The book becomes a mystery tale and spurs the reader on to discover what happened. The writing is beautiful in translation. Kudos to Anne McLean - I want to read more of her translations and am looking at The Anatomy of a Moment: Thirty-Five Minutes in History and Imagination. One memorable setting of the ruined and abandoned animal park/zoo owned by the drug lord is so real you can hear the squeak of a broken sign hanging by one hinge in the oppressive ever-present heat. The pace is almost dreamy for the first section of the story but picks up rapidly moving forward to other events, further puzzles.
A favorite quotation from the book:
"There is just one direct route beween La Dorada and Bogotá...You turn south and take the straight road that runs by the river that takes you to Honda, the port where travelers used to arrive when no planes flew over the Andes. From London, from New York, from Havana, Colón or Barranquilla, they would arrive by sea at the mouth of the Magdalena and change ship there...long days of sailing upriver on tired steamships...From Honda, each traveler would get to Bogotá however he could, by mule or by train or in a private one has able to explain convincingly, beyond banal historical causes, why a country should choose as its capital its most remote and hidden city. It's not our fault that we Bogotanos are stuffy and cold and distant, because that's what our city is like, and you can't blame us for greeting strangers warily, for we're not used to them."

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