Necropolis by Santiago Gamboa


Necropolis by Santiago Gamboa

Columbian Fiction

Original title Necropolis

Translator Howard Curtis

Source Review Copy

Well I had a load of long and complex novels last year but two I had left to mull over in my mind before reviewing .This was one the other being Laszlo Krasznahokai ‘s Satantango .So Santiago Gamboa is considered one of the rising stars of Latin American literature .He studied literature at Bogotá university before moving to Europe and settling in Paris where he furthered his studies studying Cuban literature .He published his first novel in 1995 aged 30 ,this Necropolis is his seventh novel and his first to be translated into English .The book won the  Premio La Otra Orilla award .

Dear writer ,in view of your work ,we have the pleasure of inviting you to the international congress on biography and memory (ICBM),to be held in the city of Jerusalem from 18 – 25 may

part of the invite that starts and is the framing device for the story .

So Necropolis is a novel is  about an unnamed Columbian  writer,who has been struggling for a couple of  years with his craft of writing and illness .But he is very intrigued when he receives a very strange offer from the ICBM (International Congress on Biography and Memory ),Now at first he wonders why but it seems legitimate so he says he will attend ,even thou he hasn’t in his mind written anything overtly biographical .So he sets off from his base in Rome to the conference which happens to be in Jerusalem.So he receives a copy from the ICBM OF attendees at the conferences and it is far to say apart from one man who also comes from Columbia like the writer these people have little in common .So we go to the conference and we see the first speaker talk this is mixed with our narrator as he meets his fellow delegates and listens to the talk by Jose Maturana ,this is about a church he became involved in and the collapse of this  cult like church and how the main man one Walter De la salle disappeared  .Next think is this guy turns up dead and we have what maybe a murder or a suicide ? then the action moves away from this to the other people and there stories at the conference an Italian  porn star ,a businessman who has been trying to deals with the Farc ,( a terrorist group in Columbia )  and a pastor each of these stories we hear are about fifty pages long  finally we return to find out what happen to Jose and was it murder ?

  The life story I am about to relate is a harsh and sometimes even macabre one, so I hope there are no young people in the room ,There are situations that the inexperienced or the innocent may find disturbing .I’m not sure on the conferences policy on this ,and I shall certainly go ahead and tell my story anyway .But it might be a good idea to check at the entrance that all members of audience are of legal age just for today .

Sabina telling her story to the conferences

Well that is  brief description of  this.It is very hard to grasp without getting  to in-depth with the story or stories .This book has a feel of ambition about it and scope .The book is set up really as a collection of stories and a murder story ,it has a feel rather like those classic tales of literature .In  a number of reviews I saw The Decameron is mentioned as one such  collection ,but I felt Canterbury tales could also work as the book is set round the conference it is a framing device like the trip the pilgrims took,  these people have been drawn together  at the king David hotel too essentially tell their stories .The tales we are told by the delegates are about love ,sex ,good and evil . Ambitious as you can tell ,it works and one feels the could be a number of other stories come from this one book in the future . Santiago Gamboa has assumed the mantel of writers like Marquez and Bolano .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite latin american work of fiction ?

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rebecca
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 18:17:14

    I’m trying to find Latin American crime fiction for a reading challenge, and this author popped up on my list. This sounds interesting if the individual tales are interesting. I haven’t really read Latin American stuff since I graduated in the mid-nineties, but my favorite then was Garcia Marquez. I liked Luisa Valenzuela and Clarice Lispector back then, but I can’t really remember their books after all this time.


  2. Heather
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 18:40:13

    My bookclub recently read Hyperion by Dan Simmons. the members of my club assure me that this sci-fi book reminded them of The Canterbury Tales. This one sounds intriguing as well. Thanks


  3. Tom Cunliffe
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 18:55:04

    Gosh, that sounds complicated doesn’t it. I’ve never heard of it. I admire your ability to take on such challenging world literature! This one would be a bit beyond me


  4. Brian Joseph
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 23:08:53

    Sounds very, very interesting. I love complex novels with odd plot features.

    I like your comparison with the Canterbury Tales.


  5. Tony
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 23:11:50

    I remember liking this one but with reservations. Like a lot of Latin-American stuff I’ve read, there’s an obsession with sex which verges on overkill (even though it is justified partially by the plot). Great ideas, but a bit too clever clever at times?


  6. Bina
    Feb 06, 2013 @ 20:37:55

    I’m really getting into latin American fiction, every time I finish one I wonder why I don’t read more. Haven’t heard of this one before, so another one for my list. And I only just got back from the library 🙂


  7. creativepalabras
    Feb 09, 2013 @ 09:50:23

    I’ve just finished reading in Spanish “Historias de Cronopios y de Famas” by Julio Cortázar and I also liked “Rayuela”, a novel where the Argentinian writer shows his mastership of language and his innovations in style. I would also suggest a Spanish author, Eduard Márquez. He’s from Barcelona, I had the pleasure to listen to his reading of his novel “The silence of the trees” in Verona, Italy. It’s a beautiful book about the healing power of words and music even during wartime.


  8. Geosi
    Feb 09, 2013 @ 20:00:13

    Have not read many latin american fiction but hope to read more. thanks for sharing. all best stu.


  9. Trackback: Sunday Caught My Interest « Reflections from the Hinterland

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February 2013


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