A Book, Read – #5/2016 – García Márquez, Gabriel – News of a Kidnapping


Well, I never got around to reading a book by Sartre. But I suppose I will.

Instead, I used a different tactic to choose my next book.  I have something of decision paralysis when it comes to what I will read next, and this is mostly due to the fact that I have too many books.  Far too many.  It’s a nice problem to have, but nonetheless it leads to me either not reading, or rereading.

At any rate, a few days back I decided to life up a notebook that I had placed on a stack of books, and read the top book on the stack.  And that was García Márquez’ News of a Kidnapping.  And so, I read it.

I read, and was briefly obsessed with, both Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude.  This would have been back in 2004-05.  And then I kind of fell away from García Márquez, and I never really went back.  I read a novella here or there over the years, but I didn’t really like them, and that, for me, justified not going back to either of his big novels, or any new, meaty works of his that remained unread.  But I owned them, and they have been hanging about.

News of Kidnapping comes from interviews, diaries, newspaper articles, etc, relating to kidnappings in Colombia conducted under the watchful eye of Pablo Escobar.  The material was source by García Márquez over the years and thus the book is effectively a novelistic examination of this heady time.

It’s largely told from the perspective of the men and women who were kidnapped, and their immediate families, the majority of whom were influential in politics and journalism.  I was and am largely unfamiliar with Colombian history, but I have, of course, heard of Pablo Escobar.  This was a sufficient hook to bring me into the book.

But it turns out I didn’t really need that.  García Márquez has a sensitivity to the feelings and thoughts of strong-minded men and woman, and he is able to convey that effectively here.  These people were all important and influential during this time, and, for those kidnapped in particular, the shock to the system to find that they can have their lives overturned, is handled rather well.  The times nearing the end of the book when the captured and their families are reunited are so euphoric for the return and sad for the months lost that I read them, without shying away from this truth, with a lump in my throat.  It was powerful writing.

Less effective – and this could be because I am not very familiar with Colombia or its history – are the final thirty or so pages where the intricacies of Escobar’s surrender are detailed.  García Márquez was writing for an audience who would no doubt be aware of what happened next in this story, and while I was vaguely of the impression that he eventually left prison and was shot to death while running along rooftops, that’s really the entirety of my knowledge.  Consequently the book runs the risk of losing readers who aren’t as familiar with Escobar or Colombia, and as the years progress, that number will grow (To test this – ask a twenty year old if they know who Escobar is.  I suspect they won’t).

But I liked it!  And it chipped away at my reluctance to return to García Márquez’s writing.  I knew and have known for a long time that my reluctance was entirely a problem of my own making, and had no real grounding in García Márquez’s stature, importance or quality of writing.  But for whatever reason the problem grew and grew, and now, I think, it’s gone.

The Books, Read page contains a list of all of the books I have read over the years.


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