The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

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As many of you know, the Voyage Out is a regional book group. This means we pick groups of books, usually three to a group, and read them one after the other. Last meeting we chose a new region: Latin American Literature. We chose our first book: Roberto Bolano’s By Night in Chile. We will choose our next two books at this month’s meeting. Throughout the month, I will be highlighting possible choices.  If you want to highlight something, email me at thevoyageoutbookgroup@gmail.com or just write your thoughts in the comments section.

At this month’s meeting we will be discussing the third book in our Contemporary Female Novelists of England. The book is Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body. The meeting will be May 26th at 5pm. All are welcome!

Book Info:

Juan Gabriel Vasquez

The  Informers

Riverhead Trade

368 pages

Author bio:

Colombian born, Juan Gabriel Vásquez is both one of most promising Latin American writers and a very accomplished novelist, whose work has been received with great admiration and has been translated to several languages.  Aside from writing novels, short stories and essays, Vásquez, has translated works from E.M. Forster, Victor Hugo, and John Hersey into Spanish, is a regular contributor to various magazines and journals, and writes a weekly opinion column for the newspaper El Espectador.

Juan Gabriel Vásquez, an itinerant writer, received a Law degree from la Universidad del Rosario in Columbia and his Ph.D. in Literature from the Sorbonne in Paris. After finishing graduate school, he lived in Belgium and at the moment resides in Barcelona, but plans to return to Colombia in 2013.

About the Book:

Betrayals public and private collide in Colombian author Vásquez’s first novel to appear in the States, a crushing and beautifully tricky novel. Gabriel Santoro’s publication of a book about a family friend, Sara Guterman, a German Jew who arrived in Colombia with her family in 1938, unexpectedly enrages his father, a famous professor of rhetoric (also named Gabriel Santoro) who prefers that the past remain forgotten. When the elder Gabriel has a change of heart (after a health crisis), it coincides with a sexual relationship he begins with Angelina, his physiotherapist. But after Gabriel confesses to Angelina long-held past transgressions shortly before his accidental death, Angelina turns against Gabriel on national television while the younger Gabriel watches. The younger Gabriel then delves into Sara’s memories of wartime intrigue and anguish revolving around suspected Nazi sympathizers. But Gabriel’s lust for the truth makes him susceptible to committing harsh betrayals of his own. In Vásquez’s intricate narrative, morality is ambiguous and as treacherous as the early-1990s Bogotá backdrop, and its intelligence and unsparing tone will hold readers rapt through its many twists and turns.

Review that interested me:

“The Informers (2004), published in a translation by Anne McLean in 2008, nods to Conrad’s Under Western Eyes and The Secret Agent. A morally complex thriller set in the late 80s and 90s in Colombia, it looks back to the 40s and the second world war, when the government unjustly interned German nationals on the basis of murky blacklists and spying, during a period of zealous realignment with Washington. One character plagiarises Gaitán’s speeches, while, for a Jewish refugee, the Bogotázo riots are a terrifying echo of Kristallnacht. Vásquez’s interest is in exploring “dark corners of Colombian history that have made us what we are now.”
The novel was published in 12 languages; Carlos Fuentes admired its charting of that “grey area of human actions and awareness where our capacity to make mistakes, betray and conceal, creates a chain reaction that condemns us to a world without satisfaction”. Vásquez was named one of the Bogotá 39 – Latin America’s top writers under 40 – when the city was Unesco world book capital in 2007. For Mario Vargas Llosa, his is “one of the most original new voices” of the region.

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