Juan Gabriel Vasquez, born in Bogota in 1973, is a highly acclaimed Colombian writer and translator. Vasquez was educated in Barcelona and in Paris at the Sorbonne. He currently lives in Barcelona with his wife and daughters. The Sound of Things Falling is Vasquez' third novel to be translated into English and has already won major awards in Europe.
The title of the novel is exquisitely apropos for the events and the setting, adequately encapsulating the significance of the text. The title foreshadows all the action of the novel. The Sound of Things Falling is the fictional story of Antonio Yammara and Ricardo Laverde knitted within a framework full of the ignoble history of the Colombian drug violence in the last half of the twentieth century. Vasquez' setting is real, drawn from history and contains details of actual historical figures such as drug czar Pablo Escobar. Vasquez captures the manners and social conditions of the people and the times in the story, with detail and fidelity.
Anton�o is a young professor of law whose life is good, he has a nice apartment, a beautiful girlfriend and a baby on the way. He becomes acquainted with Ricardo Laverde whom he meets in a Bogota pool hall. Rumor has it that Laverde has spent the last twenty years in prison. Laverde is quiet and unassuming and offers no insight into his past.
Antonio's contented life is shattered when one afternoon as he and Laverde are walking on a city street they become victims of a drive-by shooting. Laverde is killed and Antonio is gravely wounded physically, mentally and emotionally. Antonio slowly heals physically but his psyche is crushed by excruciating post-traumatic stress.
Completely consumed with his stress and fear, Anton�o becomes engrossed in his search for the history of Valverde and why he was killed. Antonio discovers the chimeras and deceptions of the people of Valverde's generation when the thriving marijuana market gave way to that of cocaine and the "war on drugs" was declared by the president of the United States.
This book explores various themes such as the drug commerce in Colombia and how the actions of one person can have ramifications that effect many others for generations. The story touches on how it feels to be vulnerable, even helpless in a time when innocents are shot down in cold blood, planes fall from the sky and intense memories of the past come out of nowhere to terrorize and immobilize those who lived through the experience.
The English translation done by Anne McLean is impeccable. McLean manages to translate Vasquez' Spanish prose into beautifully written English. McLean has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize twice.
I highly recommend The Sound of Things Falling for its gripping telling of a personal aspect of the horrific events that occurred in Columbia during its most dreadful era. Juan Gabriel Vasquez surpasses expectations in this unforgettably tragic tale.
I purchased my copy of this book with my own funds and received no compensation for the review.
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