Read Around the World: Colombia
Last month we converted our Read Around the World feature into a group challenge and invited you all to join us as we make our way around the world. We took nominations and used the randomizer to plan our itinerary. The first stop on our group reading tour was Colombia. Join us as we explore literary Colombia and find out which book I selected and which books our participants (across Litsy, this blog, and Instagram) read this month.
Fun Facts about Colombia
- Colombia is the only country in South America that has a coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean sea.
- Bogota is the second largest capital city in South America and one of the highest capital cities in the world
- It is a “megadiverse” country, ranking as the 2nd most biodiverse country in the worlds after Brazil. One out of every five butterfly species is found in Colombia.
- It is second on the “countries with the most national holidays” list (after India).
- Colombians have a special type of cheese that they dip into hot chocolate.
- Bogota has one of the largest network of bicycle routes in the world.
- Colombia has a rich literary tradition and was home to Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez.
Book Selected: Delirio by Laura Restrepo
Reason selected: I could have selected the obvious, a book by García Márquez, but wanted to demonstrate that Colombian literature is so much more diverse than magical realism and the works of Márquez. I opted to read a book by Laura Restrepo, a well-known and prolific Colombian author whose works are grounded in realism and blend political analysis with fiction. Laura Restrepo began her career as a journalist and spent many years in exile after receiving death threats for voicing her political views. Her novels are considered to be a blend of fact and fiction and include political and social commentary within the plot lines. Delirio (Delirium in English) is one of her most well-known works. It is set in Bogota and contains the blend of sociopolitical commentary and fiction for which she is so well-known.
Synopsis from Goodreads: In this remarkably nuanced novel, both a gripping detective story and a passionate, devastating tale of eros and insanity in Colombia, internationally acclaimed author Laura Restrepo delves into the minds of four characters. There’s Agustina, a beautiful woman from an upper-class family who is caught in the throes of madness; her husband Aguilar, a man passionately in love with his wife and determined to rescue her from insanity; Agustina’s former lover Midas, a drug-trafficker and money-launderer; and Nicolás, Agustina’s grandfather. Through the blend of these distinct voices, Restrepo creates a searing portrait of a society battered by war and corruption, as well as an intimate look at the daily lives of people struggling to stay sane in an unstable reality.
Jen’s Review: 4 stars. This was my first experience reading a book by Laura Restrepo and overall I really enjoyed it. I alternated reading this book in Spanish and English. I struggled a little with the original Spanish version because of the complex narrative structure and constantly changing perspectives (first to third perspective) and rapid switches between characters, sometimes occurring even within the same paragraph. Therefore I switched to the English translation to get my bearings then once I was used to the style I went back to the Spanish version.
One of the things I loved about this book was the way in which the stories of various characters intertwined and contributed to our overall understanding of Agustina and her delirium. The book was very much like a detective story in that we discover clues to Agustina’s current condition through analysis of her family history combined with current sociopolitical events and recent stressors. The story behind Agustina’s delirium is complex and there is no single answer or cause but rather a constellation of events and triggers. I didn’t entirely agree with the way Restrepo portrayed mental illness (as a psychologist, I’m particularly sensitive to how mental illness is portrayed) although I think much of it was pretty on point with respect to her messaging. Restrepo was able to inject a lot of depth into what seemed on the surface to be a pretty straightforward tale of madness. Restrepo includes sociopolitical commentary, gender role analysis, and highlights the role of family. The writing style is fairly informal and contains a lot of humor (more evident in the Spanish original than in the translation.).
I recommend the book and will be searching out more of this author’s work in the future.
If you want to try it for yourself, you can purchase your copy here: Delirium.
Colombian Authors to check out:
Juan Gabriel Vasquez
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
José Eustasio Rivera
This month those of you who joined us read quite a few books. Here is a selection of books that were chosen (and enjoyed) by other participants:
Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Delirium by Restrepo (read by multiple participants)
New of a Kidnapping by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memories of my Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (several people read this)
The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (read by multiple participants)
The Dispossessed by Alfredo Molano
Chronicles of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
If your book isn’t included, please let us know (in the comments) what book you read and what you thought of your book. If you have any other recommendations, let us know!
Next up for June: Thailand. Who will be joining us as we visit Thailand?