Gabriel Garcia Marquez – News of a Kidnapping

11Jul09


Background:

This is another one for the Take A Chance Challenge, hosted by Jenners at Find Your Next Book Here: Public Spying. I commute for a couple of hours daily, and loads of people around me are reading something or the other; some books that I’m intrigued by, and some books I see and go: Meh. I saw someone reading this book, and my curiosity piqued. I love Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works, but surprisingly, I hadn’t stumbled upon this one before. So, I made a mental note of it. With a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one can’t go wrong, right?

Review:

This non-fictional book traces the last few months of Pablo Escobar’s freedom, as he used every trick in the book to ensure he wasn’t extradited to the United States. Kidnapping important socio-political figures, like journalists and family members of politicians in high places, Escobar attempts to leverage his bargaining power with the President/Government of Columbia.

This book follows both, the life in captivity (relationships with each other, the guards, their fears, and hopes) for the ten hostages, as well as the struggle their family went through, trying to get them released – from trying to convince the President, to avoiding an armed raid, lest it led to someone innocent dying. While the President is pressured by the families and the media to take a stand that will ensure the hostages’ release sooner, he sticks by what he believes in.

The Constituent Assembly, shrouded in uncertainties, would meet in the next few days, and he could not allow weakness on the part of the government to result in an amnesty for the drug traffickers.

As he says:

“The real threat came at those moments when we faced the temptation or risk, or even the rumor of a possibility of an amnesty” – in short, the unthinkable danger that the conscience of the Constituent Assembly would also be taken hostage.

This book is scary, it reminds us of the devil Escobar was, and how all of Medellin was in his hands; a result of the charitable works in the marginal neighborhoods where the spent their impoverished childhoods.

Luck and a clandestine life had left Escobar in charge of the hen house, and he became a legend who controlled everything. … At the height of his splendor, people put up altars with his pictures and lit candles to him in the slums of Medellin. It was believed he could perform miracles. No Columbian in history ever possessed or exercised a talent like his for sharing public opinion. And none had a greater power to corrupt. The most unsettling and dangerous aspect of his personality was his total inability to distinguish between good and evil.

The story is gripping, haunting and fantastic. It is an insight into Columbian history, Escobar himself, and the trials and tribulations of the hostages and their families. Despite being a work of non-fiction, not being grossly exaggerated, and despite knowing what happens to Escobar eventually, the book still reads like fiction, with one caveat: by the style of writing, it was easy to tell which hostages had been killed, and which survived, from the very beginning.

What makes this book very ‘real’ is that Marquez interviewed all the protagonists he could, and then retold their stories. In fact, Maruja (one of the hostages) and Alberto Villamizar (a Columbian politician) approached Marquez to write about her sixteen month captivity. The book itself has minimal exaggeration, as Marquez weaves his magic making all of us hope that something like this never befalls anyone ever again.

If you’ve ever wondered about the enigma that is Escobar, read this book, for a combination of Marquez’s style of writing, and the story itself makes this book simply unputdownable.

Rating: 5

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6 Responses to “Gabriel Garcia Marquez – News of a Kidnapping”

  1. I think I’m going to have to put this one on my wish list – it sounds like the sort of thing I’d like and I need to find some more South American books for my map!

    • 2 uncertainprinciples

      You should give it a shot. I think you’ll like it. Plus, in my opinion, it’ll be an easy introduction to the world of Marquez.

  2. Hi!

    I just stumbled upon your blog by accident (randomly looking at people’s BTT entries about their TBR lists on my day off), but I wanted to tell you it looks like you have a nice thing going here. I started reading the Spanish version of García Márquez’ book about a week or two ago, but I had to set it aside temporarily since I want to get through some longer reads at the moment. Your enthusiastic review has made me question the wisdom of my decision. Cheers!

    • Thanks :)

      It depends on what your other reads are. I want to learn Spanish, just to read One Hundred Years of Solitude in its original language, so. I hope you enjoy the Spanish version of News Of A Kidnapping as much as I did the English version.

  3. WOW! What a great find for you. And I would never associate Marquez with a book like this — it seems to me an odd mix (but I think that may be because I only read one of his books). I’m glad this worked out for you … sounds like a powerful, fascinating book. It would almost make me want to try and befriend the person who you saw reading it!

    • It was very different from his fiction works, but the writing style remains as lyrical as ever, without bordering on hyperbolic. I’ve always been fascinated by Escobar as well, so, this book captivated me completely. It was a tremendous find, and yeah – if someone can recommend a book like this to me, I can’t help but wonder what else they have stacked up. Time to see faces, not jackets (book jackets) on the tube.


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