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.



Andy Pants said...

Haven't read anything by Marquez. Maybe I'll start with the two titles you mentioned. I've got to get through Pride and Prejeduce and Zombies first though. So many great books in the world, so little time.

Melba said...

I adored Love in the Time of Cholera. Adored. If I had to choose a top 10 or 20 it would defo be in there. I have A Hundred Years but haven't read it yet.

I'm torn when great writers do non-fiction. The question always presents itself: is this something they've done to earn a crust or is this something they're passionate about? I suspect it is and then it dilutes it for me. Of course Hemingway was a reporter as well, he did both well I think. Hm, interesting.

Melba said...

[just popping in with a chicken casserole and some bread rolls.]

squib said...

OMG!! You've got the zombie one Andy??!! I'm so jealous

I think Marquez is overrated

Andy Pants said...

Yes, it's great. It actually surprisingly adds a lot more depth to the story, even if it is failry incoherent at times. When are you going to start blogging again?

squib said...

I'm too busy at the moment. I'm throwing two space parties soon (LittleSquib is going to be dressed as a dalek, soooooo CUTE) and I've just finished 15 poems... When are you going to start blogging again?

Perseus said...

Just a reminder Squib that you have the keys to TSFKA, even if you just want to report on the space party.

squib said...

I'll remember that. You should see these invitations, the invite part comes out of the arse of a rocketship and it has 3D paint rivets and everything

Andy Pants said...

You wouldn't want to read my blogs squib. It's all just your typical rants in stilted flowery poetic language that teenagers with low self-esteem write. I'm thinking of starting a new one based on something actually worth reading about. It'll probably mostly be based around my songwriting with the occasional half-assed political essay / opinion piece and book review thrown in. Have to find a decent place to host it first though and I'm crap with designing stuff, even in HTML.

Perseus said...

Andy - I couldn't design a straight line with a ruler.

Google does it for you.

squib said...

I'd LOVE to read your blog, Andy

The code stuff is very nasty - one dash in the wrong spot and there goes your whole blog