Riverhead. May 2023. 448p. tr. from Spanish by Anne McLean. ISBN 9780593539613. $30. F
In this latest from IMPAC award winner Vásquez (The Sound of Things Falling), director Sergio Cabrera is attending a retrospective film festival in his honor when he receives news of the accidental death of his father, the actor Fausto Cabrera. From there begins another instance of retrospection, as the narration jumps back to Sergio’s grandparents and their involvement on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. They escape across the ocean, ultimately settling in Colombia. Recruited to teach Spanish, the family moves to the China and embraces communism, working on a communal farm and in factories; Sergio and his sister Marianella train as underground guerrilla fighters, spreading their ideology to Colombia under deplorable conditions in the jungle. They ultimately abandon communism, disillusioned with its myopia, and the narrative is pervaded by a strong presence of the past and the power of memory that typifies Vásquez’s work. Despite the strong portrayal of apparently fictional characters, this is ultimately a work of autofiction closely based on the real lives of film director Cabrera and his thespian father, with Vásquez basing his narrative on interviews and other media.
VERDICT Here, truth really is stranger than fiction--or in this case, more “novelable”--and the retention of the photos and excerpts of Marianella’s diary from the Spanish text contributes to the veracity of an engaging work.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing