Updated: Mar 21, 2019
Antonio Yammara teaches law and spends his spare time playing billiards. It is at the club where he plays that he first meets Ricardo Laverde. After inviting Laverde to a game the two become, not friends, more billiard associates, and they start playing together regularly. One day Laverde asks Yammara if he knows of anywhere that he can listen to a cassette tape that he has on him. Yammara knows of a place and takes him there. He waits while Laverde listens to the tape. and is surprised when Laverde breaks down, crying while rushing out of the shop. Yammara chases him and is caught in the crossfire as a pair of black helmeted riders on a motorbike gun Laverde down. Yammara catches a bullet and comes close to death from loss of blood. However, it’s the psychological damage that is inflicted which is destroying him slowly, perniciously from the inside. He develops Post Traumatic Stress and agoraphobia and an unhealthy obsession with Laverde’s death. He knew that he had been imprisoned for twenty years and that he was a pilot, but why was he killed in execution style in the middle of the street? What was on the tape? With his marriage slowly disintegrating, he tracks down Laverde’s daughter, Maya, to find out Laverde’s story. With Maya introduced to the story, we are taken into the past world of bombs, assassinations, and the ubiquitous violence that permeated society when Escobar and his drug cartel warred against the state in Bogota.
All of this takes place in Yammara’s memory, his past. He ponders how his life was changed simply by meeting Laverde, and it’s a theme that Vasquez explores. How much control over our lives do we really have, when our life can take a divergent path after a chance event, encounter or meeting? This book is translated from Spanish by Anne McLean and I can only assume that she has done a wonderful job because the writing is excellent. A great read. 4 Stars.
Juan Gabriel Vasquez was born in Bogota in 1973. He studied Latin American Literature at the Sorbonne between 1996 and 1998, and has translated works by E. M. Forster and Victor Hugo, among others into Spanish. He was nominated as one of the Bogota 39, South America's most promising writers of the new generation. His other books include The Informers, which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and The Secret History of Costaguana, which won the Qwert y prize in Barcelona. His books have been published in fifteen countries worldwide.
There is an interview in English at bookaholic.ro , here is the link = https://www.bookaholic.ro/interview-with-the-colombian-writer-juan-gabriel-vasquez-writing-novels-gives-you-the-freedom-to-be-somebody-else.html