In the past months, Colombia’s anti-government demonstrations have grown to historic proportions in many of its major cities. Citizens have maintained a national strike for weeks, seeking social justice and the end of inequality. Unfortunately, violence isn’t something new in Colombia’s history – people have suffered for decades, caught in a war between the government and the guerrilla fighters, and dealing with the monstrous effects of paramilitarism and narcoterrorism. Writers that have reflected the inner consequences of these events in their novels and essays have become classics of Latin-American literature, like Gabriel García Márquez’s News of a Kidnapping.
Here are our suggestions for books to help you understand the events leading up to the current Colombian social uprising:
News of a Kidnapping
Written in the mid-1990s, News of a Kidnapping is a nonfiction book written by Gabriel García Márquez. He narrates the kidnapping of ten well-known Colombians by a group of narco-terrorists led by Pablo Escobar. Nobel Prize winner García Márquez defined himself more a journalist than a writer, and News of a Kidnapping is definitely one of his finest works as a reporter. It’s a good choice if you want to understand the lineage of the current violence in Colombia.
The Divine Boys
In 2016, a seven-year-old indigenous girl was kidnapped and murdered by a high-class 38-year-old architect in Bogotá. The incident shocked society and inspired Laura Restrepo to write this heartbreaking novel. In this work, Restrepo, a prominent Colombian writer, relates how men and especially rich men tend to protect each other. The Divine Boys also reflects upon the abysmal distance between social classes in the country and how the powerful people perceive the underprivileged ones.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree
Ingrid Rojas Contreras made her debut with this acclaimed novel inspired by her own life. Fruit of the Drunken Tree is a bildungsroman about the relationship between two women from different social backgrounds during the most turbulent years of narco-violence in Bogotá.
The Dispossessed: Chronicles Of The Desterrados Of Colombia
Journalist and writer Alfredo Molano had in-depth experience with Colombian guerrillas in his life. His books are a must-read in the quest to understand Colombian conflicts throughout the last few decades, with a focus on how they affected the most vulnerable people in rural areas. While he was exiled in Europe to avoid the paramilitary menaces, he wrote The Dispossessed: Chronicles Of The Desterrados Of Colombia, which eloquently explains how he felt during his exile.
Oblivion: a Memoir
Oblivion: a Memoir is a classic of Colombian literature and a must-read in most schools in the country. Héctor Abad Faciolince retraces the steps of his father’s murder by a group of paramilitaries in Medellín. Abad’s father was a prominent doctor and a human rights advocate. Although it is a sorrowful tale, Oblivion: a Memoir is also full of love, laughs, and hope.
The extremes of violence and inequality have led many Colombians out of their country. Published following the success of her book Fish Soup, Margarita García Robayo’s Holiday Heart traces the complex experience that immigrants have with their motherland. Using the story of Lucia and Pablo, two Colombians living in the US, García Robayo highlights the pressure they feel as they try to be perceived as successful immigrants. The author is one of the most outstanding young writers in the country.
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