Are you just putting a check mark on your list? That was the ridiculous first question most asked when I told them I was going to Colombia for three weeks. It’s been twenty years since the country was embroiled in cocaine, violence, and conflict, yet that’s all many people know about it. So much has changed and journalist Tom Feiling set out to document the changes in Short Walks From Bogotá.
Feiling documents series of excursions specifically to areas that are just beginning to open up after years of conflict. My favorite parts of the book focus on the everyday lives of people who are desperately searching for stability (Colombia has the highest number of internally displaced people behind Syria). He also notes the glaring divisions among the country’s 46 million people – the white-skinned 10% controls 80% of the country’s wealth.
After experiencing Colombia I wanted a look into the lives of ordinary Colombians and this was a decent read with insights into a country that remains mysteriously dangerous to many. For those that know nothing about Colombia’s history other than Pablo Escobar – this would be a nice introduction.
Almost everything I read about Colombia prior to my trip there was about the narcos, drug trafficking and Pablo Escobar. I have read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but was looking for a novel set in every day, true life stories of Colombians. Juan Gabriel Vásquez was the first name that came up other than Marquez when I did a search of Colombian authors and I am so glad I decided to pick up his novel The Sound of Things Falling.
The novel is set in Bogotá and centers around Antonio Yammara. The entire story is tied closely to Colombia’s past and how it effected past and current generations of children. It’s a deeply personal story that makes you almost feel uncomfortable at times. When Antonio’s life changes after witnessing a friend – Ricardo Laverde’s murder (and getting injured in the process), the novel takes you on a harrowing journey through his PTSD, grief, the past, and lives falling apart. The tale takes you through Laverde’s past – one that Antonio is compelled to uncover.
A review I read said it perfectly: This is a quiet novel depicting the solitary interior life of a ruined generation. It’s intimate and eloquent. Heartbreaking and so lonely. One can’t help but feel melancholy after finishing this book. It gave me the story of Colombia’s people (in fiction) that I was craving. I’m looking forward to reading more of Vasquez’s work that is already awaiting me on my bookshelf.
Happy 2016! Yes, I know it’s three weeks into the new year, but I swear I have a good reason for the delay. The past couple weeks were spent traveling through Colombia in what turned out to be an amazing trip (more details coming soon). Among the many wonderful things about the trip was the music. Everywhere we went cars, restaurants, bars, and more were full of lovely music.
I already have a deep love of Latin music and today’s song of the day, Nota de Amor, was something I had already heard prior to this trip. However, what I didn’t know was that one of the singers, Carlos Vives, is one of Colombia’s most famous artists. It felt as if Nota de Amor was following us and pretty much became the soundtrack to the trip. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. Now that I’m back in rainy cold San Francisco, whenever I listen to it I smile and think of those wonderful weeks in Colombia. I hope you enjoy it as well!