Magdalena: River of Dreams

Knopf. Sept. 2020. 432p. ISBN 9780375410994. $30. ANTHRO
For most Americans, the image of Colombia is one of drug cartels and violence. For Davis (anthropology, Univ. of British Columbia; Into the Silence), while he fully acknowledges that part of Colombia’s history, the lifeblood of the country is the Rio Magdalena. At the darkest times, the river served as a mass graveyard for those victimized by violence. Yet, it also gave birth to music, literature, and religion in the country. From the time he was a teenager, Davis has had a love affair with Colombia and Colombians, culminating in this project to explore all aspects of the Magdalena, the commercial and cultural center of the country. By exploring the river, Davis uncovers stories of this unique place and the people shaped by it. He also offers a glimpse of the hope that the river provides to a country seeking to define itself in peace after decades of conflict.
VERDICT Shifting seamlessly from travelog to history to nature writing, Davis weaves together a fascinating story of the geographical and cultural diversity of the Rio Magdalena, a diversity that characterizes the spirit of Colombia. Recommended for those who enjoy good writing, and all interested in a new perspective on personal narratives.

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