Thursday, February 9, 2017
Great start to Juan Gabriel Vasquez's novel Reputations
Juan Gabriel Vasquez is part of the new wave of Latin American novelists; from Colombia (or at least living there), he obviously lives w/in the shadow or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but he's found his own voice and pathway. He's not a magic realist - although his previous novel, The Sound of Things Falling (sp?), had a nod toward the supernatural, if my memory serves. Mostly, he's interested in the convoluted politics of LA countries and the difficulty of maintaining artistic and journalistic freedoms in a country a war w/ itself. His "new" (2013 original pub date in Spanish) novel, Reputations, obviously precedes the recent peace accord with the Colombian rebels, but does never the less feel contemporary, and it could probably take place in many other countries w/ emerging economies. As Vasquez establishes in the first section of this relatively short novel, the story concerns a 60-something political cartoonist, Mallarino, in Bogota who is widely known and recognized across the country (like no current American cartoonist, but maybe Herblock in his day, as one example); he's in late-career, obviously, the the story opens w/ his arrival at a state-sponsored celebration of his career, which of course makes him uneasy (as it would, or should, for any journalist). Not a lot happens in the first section other than establishing his character and a bit about his life, about how he began his career as a cartoonist (he'd wished to become a great artist, a painter). The most intriguing part concerned a threatening letter he received early in his career - we know where you live, we know where your daughter goes to school, etc. - though JGV doesn't build upon this, except to have one of the characters remark that you're not a real journalist in Colombia until you've received a threat. At the end of the section, a young e-journalist (i.e., a blogger) visits Mallarino in his somewhat remote home in the hills - and at the end of her interview reveals she's not a journalist, it was a scheme to get into his house. We don't (yet) no why. Took JGV a while to get there, but it's a great start to a story.