Thursday, 28 May 2009

News Of A Kidnapping

By Gabriel Garcia Marquez

(I'm still playing catchup. Coming soon, some Schopenhauer, 'The Leopard', more Bible, a science book and much much more. Stick around...)

I'm a Marquez fan. One Hundred Years Of Solitude and Love In The Time Of Cholera are both marvellous, marvellous books and I highly recommend both.

Marquez was also once a journalist and occasionally forays back into journo-land. A few years ago I read a book called The Story Of A Shipwrecked Sailor by Marquez where he interviewed, you know, a shipwrecked sailor, and that was pretty cool so I thought I'd give this a try.

It was okay. It was interesting, though all those Colombian names became a blur after a while. It was set in the time that Pablo Escobar the drug baron was being hunted by the US, and he knew that if he was caught they'd execute him. So, he was offering to hand himself over to the Colombian authorities in return for immunity against extradition to the US. He and his drug baron mates called themselves 'The Extraditables' and were hoping to reverse this position, but of course, the Colombians were under presuure from the US to hand him over.

Whilst the Colombian authorities were trying to deal with it constitutionally, Escobar was dealing with it by kidnapping and occasionally killing prominent people. Journalists, relatives of politicians and so on.

This book is a re-telling of the stories of those who were kidnapped and were lucky enough to get out (some after two years of captivity).

Marquez does a very good job bringing the scenario alive (he had access to all the captives, as well as former Presidents and Ministers to help write this book). We learn all about the drug trade, Colombian constitutional nuances, and most importantly, he expertly and vividly portrays the trials of being under captivity. You can smell it in the holding cells. The tedium, the good guards and bad guards, the food, the endless TV watching because there was little else to do.

The most interesting bit concerned an old celebrity Catholic priest, Father Garcia Herrero, who is clearly mentally-ill and talked gibberish, but for many years he was on Colombian TV every night delivering a one minute sermon and he was a national treasure. He made it his goal to secure the release of the prisoners, and Escobar, being a Catholic drug baron, did indeed give the Priest an audience. Even drug barons are lured by celebrity.

Also interesting is that on Colombian TV, relatives of people kidnapped aired messages to the captives, and the captives were allowed to watch!

So all in all, it was an interesting read, and if you're Colombian or a constitutional lawyer, an important read, but really, all it is is a very well written piece of journalism and my advice is: Wait for the film.