No doubt inspired by my coming holiday in Colombia I recently read Juan Gabriel Vasquez’s new novel ‘The Sound of Things falling’
It’s a fascinating read if like me you are interested in the effect the drug trade had on the country.
In the past I’ve read Mark Bowden’s ‘Killing Pablo’, a superb non-fiction account of bringing Pablo Escobar to justice, as well as a book about the production of cocaine. It tells appallingly tales of how ‘stompers’ specially employed to stomp the cocoa leaves eventually lost toes or feet as the leaves were covered with a mixture of sulphuric acid and kerosene to help break them down.
‘The Sound of Things Falling’ attempts to investigate the nation’s dark recent history in the form of a mystery.
The plot involves a young man Antonio Yammara who befriends Ricardo Laverde in a Bogota pool hall. This friendship is cut short in the most violent way possible, when Laverde is shot dead on a street corner and Yammara wounded in the attack.
Yammara’s investigation to find out the reasons why then drives the narrative and takes back to time before cocaine turned the country into a living nightmare.
It is fitting that it is an act of violence that should be the catalyst for his investigation for as he digs deeper we find a world where death and decay are never far from the surface. Everything seems to be on the verge of collapse, whether it be planes falling from the sky or marriages hurtling towards dissolution
Interestingly as Vasquez investigates the past he reveals a fascinating theory that American hippies in the Peace Corps where among the first to start the export of drugs from Colombia in the form of marijuana, which they’d fly into the USA.
In various ways the complex relationships between Americans and Colombians are at the heart of the book.
Laverde’s ex-wife is American and their daughter acts as a way to pull Yammara ever deeper into the roots of his country’s drug wars.
If you’re looking for a sensationalist account of the cocaine trade this is not the book for you, but if you’re looking for a deeper understanding of the how’s and why’s you couldn’t do better than read this excellent piece of fiction