Writer: Juan Gabriel Vásquez (translated by Anna McLean)
Publishing House: Riverhead Books
Date of Publication: September 20th 2016 (first published April 2013)
Rating: 5 stars
“The memory has a marvellous capacity to remember the forgotten, its existence and its stalking, and thus allow us to stay alert when we don’t want to forget and forget when we choose to.”
Javier Mallarino is a political cartoonist, revered and respected by the public of Colombia, and feared by the ones who bow down to corruption. His influence is immense, his art is a weapon against all that is rotten. Now, the time has come to be honoured as he deserves. But all is not well. One of his daughter’s friends from childhood comes to visit him. Her presence brings back memories that are too painful to be remembered. But Samanta WANTS to remember. She deserves to know whether she had fallen victim of a horrific act and Javier realizes that sometimes, a comic strip in a newspaper may have dubious repercussions.
Juan Gabriel Vasquez masterfully depicts the feverish desire and demand for justice, the nectar of acceptance by the public and the inevitable ‘’god’’ status within the community of a land where balance is sensitive and condemnation is so difficult and yet, so easy. The writer lets us into Javier’s mind and there we witness all his doubts, his fears and his satisfaction of helping an innocent soul find peace.
But is there peace? And where do the limits of criticism end? What happens when threats and fear enter your peaceful home because you are doing the work that the authorities are unable or unwilling to perform?
A magnificent novel by one of the most important writers of our times.
‘’It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.’’