The sounds of things falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
Spanish title El ruido de las cosas al caer
Translator Anne McLean
Source Review copy
Jean Gabriel Vasquez is a Columbian writer ,This is his third novel ,he studied law ,after getting his degree he lived in france in the late 1990’s then Belgium finally settling in Barcelona in Spain .I have previously reviewed his second novel the secret history of Costaguana which was on the IFFP list two years ago .
The first hippopotamus ,a male the colour of black pearls weighing a ton and a half ,was shot dead in the middle of 2009 .He’d escaped two years before from Pablo Escobar’s old zoo in the Magdalena valley ,and during that time of freedom had destroyed crops ,invaded drinking troughs ,terrified fishermen and even attacked the breeding bulls at a cattle ranch .
the opening of the novel .
So I have read his previous two novel both set in the past ,as is this his latest but this is set more in the present past than his previous two .This is a close look at his homelands distant past .This book deals with the horror of the drug trade and its effects on people .I was struck by the opening of this book that sees a Hippo that has escape from the zoo that was owned by the notorious drugs baron Pablo Escobar ,this reminded me of the novella down the rabbit hole by Juan Pablo Villabos which saw a young boy wanting a pygmy hippo he was actually the sone of a Mexican drugs baron .Anyway back to this book the shooting of the hippo was read by Antonio Yammara now a teaching law ,but his has a Proustian moment reading this and is brought back to the mid 90’s and the hieght of the drug cartels stranglehold on Columbia .Yammara was a young lawyer not overly happy with his lot and spent afternoons in a pool hall this is where he meet Ricardo Laverde ,this guy is a pilot and is maybe mixed up with the wrong people but is someone the young Yammara made a connection with this guy he has spent time in prison and gives Yammara a tape and then is shortly gunned down ,This tape and his wanting to find out more about Ricardo Laverde and how he end up gunned down ,in doing so we see the start and the rise of the drug trade in Columbia .Added to that Ricardo’s daughter and a love story in a way you get a lot in this book.I saw this quest as Yammara trying to find himself as well as what happened and maybe find his place in the world .
A black cassette with an orange label .On that labe a single word BASF
“it is just side A ” ,Consu told me “when your finished listening to it ,leave it all beside the stove .There where the matches are .And make sure the door’s closed properly when you leave ”
The tape from Ricardo that sets Yammara on his quest .
Well this book gives you a real insight into how Columbia fell apart and is slowly dragging its self out of the dark times .I felt in parts this was a personnel story Vasquez was telling a story of his homeland and its distant past through his eyes in a way he did study law and in some ways you could see Yammara as maybe an alternate Vasquez had he stayed in Columbia and not gone to France.What we get is an unflinching portrait ,we all remember the names of people like Escobar ,but until I read this I had not seen the newtons cradle like effect of the drugs trade on every one in Columbia .As ever you can’t pick fault with the twice IFFP winning translator Anne Maclean work on this book it won the Premio Alfaguara on of the best regard and richest literary prize for spanish language fiction other recent winners include Santiago Roncagliolo and Andres Neuman both of which are under review here at winstonsdad .
Have you read Juan Gabriel Vasquez ?