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La forma de las ruinas A sweeping tale of conspiracy theories assassinations and twisted obsessions the much anticipated masterpiece from Juan Gabriel Vasuez The Shape of the Ruins is a masterly story of conspiracy political obsession and literary investigation When a man is arrested at a museum for attempting to steal the bullet ridden suit of a murdered Colombian politician few notice But soon this thwarted theft takes on greater meaning as it becomes a thread in a widening web of popular fixations with conspiracy theories assassinations and historical secrets; and it haunts those who feel that only they know the real truth behind these killingsThis novel explores the darkest moments of a country's past and brings to life the ways in which past violence shapes our present lives A compulsive read beautiful and profound eerily relevant to our times and deeply personal The Shape of the Ruins is a tour de force story by a master at uncovering the incisive wounds of our memories

  • Hardcover
  • 528 pages
  • La forma de las ruinas
  • Juan Gabriel Vásquez
  • 23 February 2016
  • 9780735211148

About the Author: Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Estudió Derecho en su ciudad natal en la Universidad del Rosario y después de graduarse partió a Francia donde se instaló en París 1996 99 Allí en La Sorbona se doctoró en Literatura Latinoamericana Luego se mudó a un peueño pueblo de la región de Ardenas en Bélgica Después de un año de vivir allí Vásuez se instaló en Barcelona Actualmente vive cerca a su ciudad natal en ColombiaVá

10 thoughts on “La forma de las ruinas

  1. Glenn Russell Glenn Russell says:

    Bogotá Colombia epicenter for Juan Gabriel Vásuez's sprawling masterpiece The Shape of the RuinsAssassinations conspiracy theories obsessions friends family births deaths memorials literary references they're all here most especially books and writers since the narrator of this multifaceted saga is none other than Juan Gabriel Vásuez that's right the Colombian author has written himself into his own novel Readers are in for a special treat for three reasons 1 translator Anne McLean renders the Spanish into clear fluid English; 2 many photos and documents mentioned in the story are included; 3 appeal of the book itself large trim size readable print uality paper Thank you Riverhead BooksRight in the opening chapter we're served a sumptuous feast of major players important themes and key ideas that will be expanded and embellished upon as we move through the tale's 500 pages among their numberCarlos Carballo It's 2014 and Juan Gabriel watches the TV screen flash a news headline Carlos Carballo arrested at the former home now museum of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán for attempting to steal the serge suit the liberal politician wore the day of his assassination a suit on display in a glass case Unlike thousands of TV viewers Juan Gabriel isn't at all surprised since the 41 year old author first met Carballo face to face ten years ago and is well aware of Carballo's obsession Like a match set to a keg of dynamite the arrest of Carballo ignites Juan Gabriel's memory enough explosive recollections to propel the author to chronicle the story we're about to read Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Charismatic firebrand political leader loved by the people and the man likely to become Colombia's next president Gaitán was assassinated while walking down a busy sidewalk in Bogotá on April 9 1948 This event proved monumental resulting in not only riots mass killings and the burning of much of the city but for ten years thereafter the political scene in the country spiraled down into a bloodbath known as La Violencia which in turn was one of the factors that led to guerrilla insurrections death suads and those horrific Pablo Escobar years Fiery Jorge Eliécer Gaitán 1903 1948 Assassin Juan Roa Sierra pictured in the upper right Juan Roa Sierra The assassin who shot and killed Gaitán was a young Colombian by the name of Juan Roa Sierra Ah those demented loners who strike out on their own But wait could things possibly be complex? We'll never know because Sierra was attacked and killed by a mob within minutes Why? Well as reported by none other than Gabriel Garcia Máruez who happened to be in vicinity on that fateful April afternoon a tall man wearing an irreproachable gray suit as if he were going to a wedding incited the crowd to bloody violence and then was picked up by a new car as soon as the assassin's corpse was dragged away And from then on that tall well dressed man appears to have been erased from history forever Garcia Máruez recollects many years later that it occurred to him the man had managed to have a false assassin killed in order to protect the identity of the real one Does the fate of Gaitán's assassin ring any bells? How about Lee Harvey Oswald? Many Colombians particularly a conspiracy fanatic like Carlos Carballo have not failed to make the connection and that's understatementFrancisco Benevides A friend of Juan Gabriel a physician whose father was the man who conducted the forensics on Jorge Eliécer Gaitán's corpse Francisco Benevides and Carlos Carballo go back Benevides isn't exactly as obsessed as Carballo when it comes to conspiracy theories but it's close Benevides is also a lover of literature and thus has many reasons to cultivate Juan Gabriel's friendship Hospital Drama In the opening pages of the novel Juan Gabriel recounts his time at a hospital with his dear wife who must be cared for since she will be giving birth prematurely to twin baby girls True Juan Gabriel loves his family however the swirl of conversations and revelations in his home city of Bogotá acts like a powerful magnet and Juan Gabriel uickly succumbs to its force At one point some weeks after leaving the hospital Juan Gabriel's wife confronts him directly What's happening to us is important You have to pay attention We still haven't come out the other side there are still lots of things that could go wrong and the girls depend on us I need you to be with me concentrated on this and you seem interested in what a paranoid madman says Did I mention Juan Gabriel's tale contains a layering of many dimensions back there? Oh yes the following eight chapter detonate with a fiesta of themes and threads historical political social cultural literary personal Here's a pair I found especially captivatingNovelist Narrator In the course of his narrative Juan Gabriel refers directly to his past novels about a woman from Germany The Informers his novel about Panama The Secret History of Costaguana about the Pablo Escobar years The Sound of Things Falling the novel he was working on Reputations Juan Gabriel also alludes to a string of other novelists and their books Georges Perec Vladimir Nabokov Julio Cortázar Juan Rulfo Juan Carlos Onetti F Scott Fitzgerald Malcolm Lowry and freuent inclusion of Gabriel Garcia Máruez and Jorge Luis Borges for example Then I remembered The Modesty of History an essay by Borges that I'd always liked and that there in that man's apartment seemed to acuire a mysterious pertinence for in it Borges sustains that the most important dates in history might not be the ones that appear in books but other hidden or private dates This literary element adds real sparkle and depth to the tale not only to have a literary man as narrator but to have Juan Gabriel himself a zesty enhancement Rafael Humberto Moreno Durán Juan Gabriel attends the memorial service for one of the most notable novelists of his generation a writer known to his friends Juan Gabriel among their number as RH Following the service still in the church guess who pops up? Carlos Carballo collars Juan Gabriel and insists on telling him how RH spoke in an interview about Orson Wells' visit to Bogotá and how he Carballo proposed a book to RH a book that could be written when he Carballo fed RH tantalizing information revolving around the assassination of Gaitán Carballo goes on to say that RH agreed to write the book but couldn't because of his illness Carballo continues speaking relating that RH told him he knows the writer who could and should write the book Juan Garcia Vasuez Now the plot really thickens twists and begins dancing the cumbia Colombian novelist Rafael Humberto Moreno Durán 1945 2005So the uestion poses itself Did Juan Gabriel Vásuez finally agree to write the book proposed by Carlos Carbillo a fictional character of his own creation? The answer is 'yes' our narratorauthor did write that book a book in the form of a novel the very novel under review a novel entitled The Shape of the Ruins Read all about it the tale is spectacular or in Spanish espectacular Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásuez born 1973

  2. Roman Clodia Roman Clodia says:

    Delighted to see this now on the MBI 2019 long list there are truths that don't happen in those places truths that nobody writes down because they're invisible There are millions of things that happen in special places they are places that are not within the reach of historians or journalists They are not invented places they are not fictions they are very real as real as anything told in the newspapers But they don't survive They stay there without anybody to tell them This is a marvellous book but strangely for me it's hard to put my finger precisely on what makes it so powerful and ultimately moving Straddling that contested area between fact and fiction where the narrator shares the name of the author this certainly has the postmodern feel of Eco's Foucault's Pendulum crossed with the historical self consciousness of Binet's HHhH I'm confident that readers better versed in Latin American literature than I am will spot other influences and literary relationshipsOn one level this narrates key episodes in the C20th history of Columbia via especially two assassinations of Leftist leaders Alongside this however are richer veins that meditate on history and story telling on the interpenetration of past and present on inheritances in personal national and even wider terms Vásuez writes unflashy precise and intelligent prose a shout out too to the translator and the stories that unfurl are uietly gripping Inevitably this isn't linear but Vásuez keeps his histories circulating through levels of narratives stories embedded within stories not doing that cheap trick of flitting around between time periods that every other novel seems to performThe way this is put together is masterful as we finally along with the narrator see the shape of the book we've been reading But it's also exceptional at the local level 'they are simply human remains ruins yes the ruins of noble men'Deeply political deeply humane deeply literary a nexus of ideas meld together to form a narrative of distinction and significance In some ways the conclusion could be profoundly pessimistic 'because nothing has changed here in centuries of existence and never will change' and yet the very power of words serves to undermine that desolation 'he wanted me to make a mausoleum of words where his father could dwell and he also wanted the last two hours his father lived to be documented just as he understood them because that way his father would not just have a place in the world but would have played a part in history'Many thanks to uercus for an ARC via NetGalley

  3. Maxwell Maxwell says:

    I can honestly say I've never read a book uite like this It's a mix of historical biography meta fiction and literary mystery The author inserts himself—or at least a fictional version of himself—into the narrative and describes how he allegedly got sucked into researching investigating a conspiracy theory about the assassination of a high profile Colombian leader in the 1940s The novel's structure is a bit like a maze with different twists and turns not just plot wise but also shifting in and out of different genres I would be lying if I didn't say the middle section was uite arduous to get through and yet I didn't ever want to give up It was a very rewarding read but I wasn't expecting a book that at one point was a straight up account of 20th century Colombian history It isn't a bad thing at all just a very different experience than I was expectingThere were so many passages I underlined or noted during my reading and I actually could see myself revisiting this one again in the future I was tempted to start it over again once I finished not necessarily because I loved it but because by the end I had such a better grasp on the book that a second reading I presume would be easier to follow and even rewarding But maybe someday I will come back to this one again and I will definitely check out of this author's work

  4. Paul Fulcher Paul Fulcher says:

    I’m sorry to spoil your theories but someone had to tell you one day that Santa Claus was your parentsThe Shape of Ruins translated wonderfully as ever by Anne McLean from Juan Gabriel Vásuez's La forma de las ruinas is based around two pivotal assassinations in 20th Century Colombian political history and the conspiracy theories that swirled around each There are two ways to view or contemplate what we call history one is the accidental vision for which history is the fateful product of an infinite chain of irrational acts unpredictable contingencies and random events life as unremitting chaos which we human beings try desperately to order; and the other is the conspiratorial vision a scenario of shadows and invisible hands and eyes that spy and voices that whisper in corners a theatre in which everything happens for a reason accidents don’t exist and much less coincidences and where the causes of events are silenced for reasons nobody knows “In politics nothing happens by accident” Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said “If it happens you can bet it was planned that way” This phrase which I haven’t been able to find uoted in any reliable source is loved by conspiracy theoristsIn 1914 as the Great War raged in Europe itself triggered of course by an assassination by Gavrilo Princip In October of the same year but on the other side of the world a man who was not an archduke but a General and a senator of the Republic of Colombia was assassinated not by bullets but the hatchet blows of two poor young men like Princip Rafael Uribe Uribe veteran of several civil wars uncontested leader of the Liberal Party in those days when being a liberal meant something was attacked at midday on the 15th by Leovigildo Galarza and Jesús Carvajal unemployed carpentersAnd three decades later the assassination by a lone gun man Juan Roa Sierra on 9 April 1948 of the great Liberal caudillo Jorge Eliécer Gaitán hero of the people and future president of the Republic of Colombia although in a later account of Gaitán in the closing pages of the novel he comes across as something of a dangerous populist in his tactics if not his policies freely borrowing from the cult created by MussoliniThis last killing eerily foreshadowed the assassination 15 years later of John F Kennedy with the reputed killer himself killed shortly afterwards albeit here at the hands of an angry mob followed by a wave of conspiracy theories and reports of a second gunman Like all Colombians I grew up hearing that Gaitán had been killed by the Conservatives that he’d been killed by the Liberals that he’d been killed by the Communists that he’d been killed by foreign spies that he’d been killed by the working classes feeling themselves betrayed that he’d been killed by the oligarchs feeling themselves under threat; and I accepted very early as we’ve all come to accept over time that the murderer Juan Roa Sierra was only the armed branch of a successfully silenced conspiracyAlthough Kennedy's death can be seen as the start of a wave of political violence that characterised the 1960s in the US the effect of Gaitán's death was dramatic On the day itself it triggered ten hours of rioting and retaliatory violence from the authorities with up to 3000 people believed to have been killed an event referred to as the Bogotazo the grandilouent nickname that we Colombians gave to that legendary day a long time agoAnd this was followed by a ten year civil war leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths and with repurcussions such as the drug gang violence from Pablo Escobar's Medellín Cartel in the 1980 1990s Colombians don’t agree on many things but we do all think that Gaitán’s murder was the direct cause of the Bogotazo with its three thousand casualties as well as the opening shot of the Violencia that would end eight years and three hundred thousand deaths laterApril 9 is a void in Colombian history yes but it is other things besides a solitary act that sent a whole nation into a bloody war; a collective neurosis that has taught us to distrust each other for than half a centuryThe book draws some interesting links between these events and the great Colombian novelist Gabriel García Máruez In the interviews with Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza documented in the book El Olor de la Guayaba The Fragrance of the Guava García Máruez reveals that the character of Colonel Aureliano Buendía in One Hundred Years of Solitude was loosely based on Rafael Uribe Uribe And in his autobiography Vivir para contarla Living to Tell The Tale García Máruez hints at conspiracies behind the Gaitán murder in particular a shadowy figure reputed to have incited the mob to take revenge on the alleged killer Many years later in my days as a reporter it occurred to me that the man had managed to have a false assassin killed in order to protect the identity of the real oneThe novel is narrated by a Colombian novelist called you've guessed it Juan Gabriel Vásuez As the novel opens his wife is about to give birth to two very premature babies as happened in the real author's life and he also encounters a surgeon who turns out to have parts of the post autopsy remains of Gaitán in his personal possession inherited from his father who performed the autopsy things that really happened in the author's life the real life doctor is called Leonardo Garavito Juan Gabriel Vásuez explained his reason for this auto fictional approach in an interviewWell the reason had to do with the circumstances in which the novel was born I met this surgeon who invited me to his place and showed me the human remains right? a vertebra that belonged to Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and then a part of the skull that belonged to Rafael Uribe Uribe This happened in September of 2005 That was the same moment in my life in which my twin daughters were being born in Colombia in Bogota Now they were born very prematurely at 6 12 months which is a complicated situation that led to my wife and me spending a lot of time at the hospital while the girls recovered in their incubatorsI saw myself immersed in this very strange situation in which I went to this guy's place to take in my hands the human remains of two victims of political violence in Colombia and then I went back to the hospital to take my own girls into my handsAnd the situation was so so potent with me that these uestions began taking shape very slowly in my head What relationship is there between the two moments? Is my country's violent past is that transmissible? Will that go down generation after generation to reach in some way the lives of these girls that have just been born? How can I protect them from this legacy of violence? I have always been aware that my life has been shaped by the crime of Gaitan for personal reasons family reasons sociopolitical reasons It has shaped my whole country and the life of everybody I know And so I thought will that happen to my girls?And so I realized that inventing a narrator inventing a personality different from myself would in a way diminish them or rather undermine the importance these events had for my life So making a narrator up would remove me from these events these anecdotes And I didn't want that to happen I wanted to take moral responsibility as it were for everything that I was telling in the novelfrom His fictional alter ego makes a similar point I swear that I thought after finishing The Sound of Things Falling that my personal accounts with the violence it had fallen to me to live through were settled Now it seems incredible that I hadn’t understood that our violences are not only the ones we had to experience but also the others those that came before because they are all linked even if the threads that connect them are not visible because past time is contained within present time or because the past is our inheritance without the benefit of an inventory and in the end we eventually receive it all the sense and the excesses the rights and the wrongs the innocence and the crimesAlthough much of the novel is fictional particularly the creation of an conspiracy theory obsessive Carlos Carballo a protege of the surgeon's father Within minutes of meeting him Carballo has explained to our narrator what really happened on 911 and with Princess Diana before turning to his favourite topic the April 9 1948 killings and the suspicious similarities with Kennedy's death and 911 What did Juan Roa Sierra and Lee Harvey Oswald have in common? They were both accused of acting alone of being lone wolves Second they both represented the enemy in their historic moment Juan Roa Sierra was later accused of having Nazi sympathies I don’t know if you remember Roa worked at the German Embassy and brought Nazi pamphlets home everybody found out about that Oswald of course was a communist ‘That’s why they were chosen’ Carballo told me ‘because they were people who wouldn’t awaken solidarity of any kind They were the public enemy of the moment they represented it they incarnated it If it were now they would have been Al aeda That makes it much easier for people to swallow the story’ Third both assassins were in turn murdered almost immediately ‘So they wouldn’t talk’ Carballo told me ‘isn’t it obvious?’In another neat García Máruez link Carballo claims to be a years younger than he actually is so that his birth date can coincide with the events of 1948 García Máruez had done something similar for many years he maintained that he was born in 1928 when he was actually born a year earlier The reason? He wanted his birth to coincide with the famous massacre at the banana plantation that became one of his obsessions and which he described or reinvented in the best chapter of One Hundred Years of SolitudeAnd as Carballo strings him a succession of increasingly fantastical stories about himself the narrator also recalls Sebald I hadn’t made such a marvellous discovery since the day in 1999 when I opened the strange book of a certain WG SebaldA page of The Emigrants came to mind in which Sebald talks about Korsakoff syndrome that disease of the memory that consists of inventing memories to replace true ones that have been lost and I wondered if it weren’t possible that Carballo suffered from something similarAt one point another character tells the narrator Conspiracy theories are like creepers Vásuez they grab onto whatever they can to climb up and keep growing until someone takes away what sustains themBut of course that is not really true conspiracy theories often have such tangled roots that even with the lack of any sustaining source and the removal of their underpinning in the 1948 case the autopsy proved that the bullets all came from one gun the theories still flourishMuch of the story to around half way relates the various encounters of the narrator and Carballo over the years culminating into a visit to his house where he reveals some of his treasures in particular a now obscure but once famous book written on the Uribe Uribe killing by one Marco Tulio Anzola who forms a role model for Carballo's own exhaustive investigationsIn a rather odd editorial decision over two hundred pages 40% of the book is then devoted to an exhaustive and factual not fictional examination into the Uribe Uribe murderIn real life a young man Marco Tulio Anzola was commissioned by the General's family to mount a private investigation into the death and after several years produced a detailed account which in contradiction to the official judicial view claimed to reveal a widespread conspiracy as well as inevitably a third killer who escaped the scene It was published as a book Asesinato del general Rafael Uribe Uribe uienes son? The Assassination of General Rafael Uribe Uribe Who Are They? in 1917 and caused a sensation at the time Anzola being permitted to call various witnesses to the trial of the alleged sole murderers but his account while compelling as a story failed to reach judicial standards of proof As a newspaper reported at the time It is a simple and very easy labour to suggest in any sort of matter vague and sinister complicities; the popular spirit is very fertile soil for those kinds of seeds; in it suspicion catches even the most absurd marvellously fast; however that wasn’t what was expected of Señor Anzola but proof and concrete accusations and the country was left waitinghis case collapsed and he was discredited and eventually arrested for attacking a police officer and faded into obscurityIn the novel our narrator is pressured by Carballo into reading the book I opened Who Are They? and flipped through pages without disguising my boredom There were three hundred pages of cramped typeand while he ultimately finds the account fascinating it is also highly confusing and easy to lose track of exactly why being able to prove such and such a person was in a particular place at a certain time is uite so key “Emilio Beltrán” I said “Rings a bell but I don’t remember who he was”The problem for the reader of The Shape of the Ruins is that Juan Gabriel Vásuez essentially rewrites a second had version of Who are They? which if it is 'only' 200 pages not 300 still produces very similar sensations of boredom at times and confusionI felt some sympathy to Anzola as a person but entirely unconvinced of his findings the former was surely the author's intention but the latter possibly wasn't The theories of Who Are They? are built on the usual sources of crackpots publicity seekers and delusional and contradictory witnesses where in fact the only sources of agreement are those entirely consistent with the official account And yet Anzola believes that too is a conspiracy the witnesses have been bribed to undermine their own credibility At one point he even accuses the key figure in the whole conspiracy another senior General of causing the death of his own mother to avoid a court appearanceAnzola uses the press to give public voice to his accusations launching these difficult contentions from the tribune of the free press But as the author has said in the aforementioned interview one of the perfidious effects of 21st century conspiracy theories as a tool used by political populists see Brexit the Labour left Trump is to undermine the free press not by suppression or censorship but simply by destroying belief in any objective authoritative truthIt is all fascinating in many sense but this section rather uses a sledgehammer to the reader's patience to make its pointThe novel does however end strongly The narrator gives us Carballo's back story and we and the narrator come to have some sympathy with what drives his obsession The narrator also presents a balanced rationale for the competing cock up versus conspiracy theories of the chaos that seems to govern our lives Carballo argues He understood that Vásuez he understood that terrible truth that they were killed by the same people Of course I’m not talking about the same individuals with the same hands no I’m talking about a monster an immortal monster the monster of many faces and many names who has so often killed and will kill again because nothing has changed here in centuries of existence and never will change because this sad country of ours is like a mouse running on a wheelOverall an extremely impressive novel This is my fourth Juan Gabriel Vásuez novel and I think the best Middle section aside this could have been 5 star territory but a good 4 stars and a strong shortlist contender for the MBI

  5. Kathleen Kathleen says:

    Man Booker International Prize Longlist 2019 Vásuez has written an impressive historical novel that explores the ramifications of two important assassinations in Columbian political history On October 15th in 1914 Rafael Uribe Uribe the leader of the Liberal party General and Senator of the Republic of Columbia was assassinated by two disaffected carpenters Leovigildo Galarza and Jesús Carvajal with hatchets The second spectacular assassination occurred on April 9th in 1948 when Juan Roa Sierra shot Jorge Eliécer Gaitán the liberal populist and future President The death of Gaitán triggered riots that resulted in roughly 3000 deaths when the authorities were brought in to uell the violence and called Bogotazo It was followed by a 10 year civil war that caused thousands of deaths and the rise of Pablo Escobar’s drug gang violence during the 1980s and 1990sThese two significant assassinations were impenetrable chaotic events where facts were hard to discern This led to numerous conspiracy theories—often convoluted and intricate Hard evidence and hearsay were given eual weight Public rumors refuted documentation and third hand accounts influenced the recollections of first hand accountsUribe’s brother had hired Marco Tulio Anzola to find the truth about Uribe’s killing and its perpetrators Anzola recorded his efforts in a book that Vásuez came across Anzola clearly had become obsessed with Uribe’s assassination and this account fascinated Vásuez The author pulls heavily from the book in this offering to help explain Uribe’s deathThere was no similar account for Gaitán’s assassination so Vásuez created the character Carlos Carballo that is conspiracy theory obsessed Carballo’s search for the greater truth follows labyrinthine pathsIn probing these two deaths in his novel Vásuez illuminates how conspiracy theories are tools used by political populists to undermine the free press by destroying belief in any objective truth The result is that history becomes less based on facts and instead is ‘the shape of the ruins’ Recommend

  6. SAM SAM says:

    I discovered the existence of this book in a review by the Guardian I had no prior knowledge of the author or of Colombian history but the review was so well written and the book synopsis so intriguing I added it to my ever growing to read list The Shape of the Ruins focuses on two keys events in Colombian history the 1914 murder of General Rafael Uribe Uribe and the 1948 assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan Vasuez combines fact with what I'll call speculative fiction because although the murderers in both cases are known this book looks at possible conspiracies and shady goings on in the higher echelons of the government and other powerful organisations  The facts are utterly fascinating especially as other than Pablo Escobar I was ignorant of Colombia's past Gaitan is seen as a JFK type figure and a great deal of similarities are drawn between them Both wanted change and both attracted the wrong kind of attention April 9th 1948 in Colombia is as infamous as 22nd November 1963 in the USA although the fallout in Colombia was marred by blood and violence The speculation as is usually the case is far interesting than the recorded facts The author draws on the theories of Carlos Carballo whose research into April 9th 1948 has become his life's obsession and Doctor Benavides who comes across as a little less fanatical than Carballo Both have their opinions and both are able to offer spine shivering intrigue with their theories The author also gives us an insight into his childhood whilst growing up amidst the warring cartels including a couple of violent acts perpetrated by Pablo's faction These chapters are brief but eually as interesting as the main subject There's a passage where he describes putting masking tape across his windows to dull any sharp edges resulting from bomb blasts I could go on about this book but nothing i say will do it justice It's just the best book i have read this yearHere's a link to the review i read

  7. Eliza Rapsodia Eliza Rapsodia says:

    45REVIEW IN ENGLISH NO SPOILERS I need to read colombian authors because my comfort zone is not the literature of my country Thanks to a book swap this book came into my hands And it was a very good decisionJuan Gabriel Vásuez 1973 is a lawyer columnist writer and translator from Bogotá; who emigrated very young to Europe and spent than a decade residing in Barcelona He has several novels translated into english if you want to read them Juan Gabriel was one of those authors that you saw his face in banners at book fairs so he is way too promoted by this publishing house I have my doubts but now I can firmly say that this book is goodClick below if you want to continue reading 3 No spoilers inside view spoilerJuan Gabriel returned to Bogotá after living 16 years in Barcelona It took him some time to become accustomed to his country The novel starts when he tells us his story in the past and in the present when he met a man named Carlos Carballo Also the nature of his relationship of admiration scorn with him and why Carballo got himself imprisoned later onThis is a novel that navigates between being autobiographical a piece of historical novel and a detective story Also it navigates between reality and fiction something Juan Gabriel trully defends The aforementioned Carlos Carballo the heart of the novel and the author himself as protagonist All of this woven with conspiracy theories and historical memory ¿Who are the ones responsible for the death of illustrious men?Carlos Carballo is a man tormented by his past and faithful defender of conspiracy theories He believes that there is always someone behind assassinations of important men such as Rafael Uribe Uribe Jorge Eliécer Gaitán including John F Kennedy himself His life is spent studying and analyzing cases to discover the truth The murders in Colombia distanced by 34 years of difference the first in 1914 and the second in 1948 have a prophetic meaning for Carballo and so the murder of two illustrious men obsess his life How are these murders related? Is it the same people ordering them? Both cases had an executor and it was condemned or murdered but is there someone behind? Who are they?From Juan Gabriel's perspective we know the circumstances of his relationship with Carballo how this man affected his life and we also get to know the story of the murders which marked the life of the author and Colombia in general What Juan Gabriel does here is a interesting and powerful reflection of Colombian history in times of polarization and internal conflictAs a Colombian We all tend to think that we are always suffer the same misfortunes that is a cycle that does not end But we fall again into the same misfortunes in the same hopelessness Juan Gabriel talk about his youth his aspirations about his life in Europe and describes in a brilliant way through Carballo and himself the story of two murders happened in a country that NEVER seems to learnJuan Gabriel tell us about these men and their ruins and he wanted to exorcise his mind as well I confess that I felt very identified by the proximity of our violence the situations that we have lived directly or indirectly and that can really leave a mark on usI am really impressed and satisfied with this novel Will you read it? Because it's worthy of your time hide spoiler

  8. Neil Neil says:

    Or are you going to tell me that known history is the only version of things? No please don't be so naive What you call history is no than the winning story Vasuez Someone made that story and not others win and that’s why we believe it today Or rather we believe it because it got written down because it wasn't lost in the endless hole of words that only get said or even worse that aren’t even spoken but are only thoughtThis book revolves around two assassinations In October 1914 General Rafael Uribe Uribe was hacked to death by two men He was the indisputable leader of the Liberal party senator of the Republic of Colombia and veteran of four civil wars Almost 34 years later on 9 April 1948 Liberal presidential candidate a potential Colombian JFK Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was shot and killed by Juan Roa Sierra who was immediately beaten to death by a mob most notably for this book before anyone could learn anything about his motives or any associates he may have had In the first part of the book we are gradually pulled into a world of conspiracy theories of men whose motives we are unsure of Benavides seems OK but we begin to wonder is he pulling strings than we can see? Caraballo is obsessive a fanatic he sees links between the assassinations and the death of John F Kennedy Is he paranoid is he mad? Is he right?Vasuez sets himself as the narrator of the book we learn about his previous novels the birth of his daughters and skilfully sets about merging fact and fiction to build a story that draws the reader in We are presented with uotes from various Spanish language writers most freuently Gabriel Garcia Maruez we are shown photographs of key moments or pieces of evidence But we know that not everything we are being told is fact And this is partly the point of the book I think Vasuez tells us that history isn’t just facts everything we call history is an interpretation of what remains after the event the shape of the ruinsAs Vasuez gets sucked into Caraballo's orbit I too found myself being sucked into the story and keen to know how this auto fiction detective thriller was going to play outFor me things took a bit of a down turn just over a third of the way through At this point the narrative switches to a prolonged I want to say interminable description of Uribe’s assassination It is an important part of the book but it lasts for at least 200 pages feels like and the book is only just recovering from it when it reaches the final page I would be the first to acknowledge that my reaction might be completely different were I Colombian and invested in the history being toldBe that as it may this is overall a fascinating novel that intertwines two key events and investigates the political machinations of a country that I know very little about It’s another turn of the screw in the relationship between history and the novel The novel is becoming the great instrument of historical speculationHaving recently re read DeLillo's Libra and Munoz Molina's Like a Fading Shadow I find myself agreeing Much of this is an engrossing story and it’s only my struggle with the length of the middle section that makes me mark it downMy thanks to uercus Books via NetGalley for a review copy in exchange for an honest review

  9. David David says:

    Esas ruinas humanas eran memorandos de nuestros errores pasados y en algún momento fueron también profecías p 541These human remains were memories of our past mistakes and in some moment they were our prophecies tooThis line from the end of Juan Gabriel Vásuez's latest book sums up the challenging theme of the past comes back to haunt us Vásuez a Colombian who lives mostly in Barcelona digs up the dirt on Colombia's past or in his own words no podía dejar de pensar en mis crímenes colombianos p 544 I relistened to a podcast interview done around 2012  He admits that Colombia's past 100 years is a time of almost constant conflict He reflects his own personal drama in  during the cartel wars of the 1990s  in The Sound of Things Falling and the Nazi connection during the Second Wolrd War in The Informers So it didn't surprize me that in La forma de las ruinas Vásuez takes a front seat and starts telling an almost autobiographical role as one of the main characters His connection to Carlos Carballo a man introduced in the first pages after being caught trying to steal the suit from a museum of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán is alarming Gaitán was a leading political figure murdered in 1948 which cause unrest in the country His death had some speculating a conspiracy and uickly Vásuez adds in the Kennedy assignation and the book is off to conspiracy heaven To be honest the first 240 pages are riveting Then the book jumps back in time to the murder of Rafael Uribe Uribe in 1914 Vásuez spends a lot of time in this section underlining and connecting dots to his thesis of mis crímenes colombianos and I was starting to get a little overwhelmed The connection to a now lost book uiénes son by Marco Tulio Anzola was baffling and arresting at the same time Time buries things and Vásuez shines light on some of those books hidden away in the dustbins of history In true Vásuez fashion he brings everything back together they never really were gone He begins with an absolutely mesmerizing thesis on the past in the chapter called La forma de las ruinas Ruina can mean ruin or remain and his pondering about finding the remains of a person in history or anyone including one day his own rremains is shear brillianceYes Colombia has a dreadful past Vásuez left his country to raise his daughters in Spain and yet he also muses whether this is good for them Will they know his past; their heritage What does it mean to escape one's past especially when it is full of violence? He visits Colombia often and always finds stories to uncover This one is remarkably strong and unlike a straight historical novel makes one think about things I have so much respect for this writerread in Spanish

  10. Gumble& Gumble& says:

    I read this book due to its inclusion on the 2019 Man Booker International Shortlist a list I have found distinctly underwhelming particularly when its seems a common view from those who follow translated fiction prizes closely that the shortlist this year was much the best pick of a weaker longlistPaul has already written an extremely comprehensive review of the book here which gives much of the historical context to the novel as well as explaining its structurehttpswwwgoodreadscomreviewshowThis excellent review in the LA Review of Books sums up some of my issues with the bookhttpslareviewofbooksorgarticlerI read the book in a single sitting which I think should work to the book's benefit as it makes it much easier to follow the two main assassinations to spot the links between them to be able to pick up the various witnesses and alleged incidents around the Uribe Uribe assassination and to immerse oneself in the world of conspiracy theoriesIn practice it was not an experience I particularly enjoyed I do not find conspiracy theories appealing and too much of the first part of the book took place in them and the lengthy section of the novel which effectively ends up as a fairly ordinarily written reproduction of a historical account of the supposed truth around the Uribe Uribe murders was simply tediousWhile there may be lots to like in this novel the decision to include this section has cost it 4 stars in my view

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