News of a Kidnapping: Garcia Marquez’s Lost Gem

Synopsis: Drug baron Pablo Escobar and his acolytes are threatened of extradition to the United States for a harsher penal sentence.Determined to push the government to a u-turn,Escobar has ten relatives of Colombian politicians abducted and held hostage in the winter of 1990.

Some books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the new Penguin edition were on sale on Amazon last year in September.He was an author I had been planning to read for long,so I jumped on the occasion to buy the books,even if I had no immediate longing to read them.

I started reading News of a Kidnapping only in mid-April as a result of unlikely circumstances; on a whim I decided to diminish my huge pile of books in my uni room.Oddly enough it turned out to be one of my best reads this year.Here are some reasons why:

News of a Kidnapping
is a narrative non-fiction,and in that respect,Garcia Marquez’s approach to the book was particular impressive.Everything was reported in the traditional journalistic style,yet he had the knack to include those little facts that would sizzle his report.He was well aware of the lush Colombian folklore he had at hand and fully exploited it to meet his purpose.For instance,the Colombians’ beliefs and superstitions provided the book with a sort of exoticism which reminded me of one of my favourite movies of all time: The City of God.The fact that such people living in such a violent place are so religious was very intriguing and somehow tragically poetic.Likewise there are many other characteristics of the Colombian folklore that landed the narrative a certain warmth and vividity.Delving into the most infamously iconic era of Colombia was pure indulgence.

Garcia Marquez’s genius
Even though Colombia is in itself a country full of stories,the book wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s lyricism.Some scenes were of such poetry that it was hard to believe they really happened.Gabbo would look for and include in his book these little details that give life the airs of a tale,like moments of sheer coincidence or luck.In this respect,News of a Kidnapping holds the right balance between sublime factual narration and strict journalistic report.The narration also bears the Colombian’s unique flamboyant touch.

Pablo Escobar
Surely we’ve all at least once heard of Pablo Escobar.Though the book is more about the hostages and the hell they and their families go through (with the politics in the backdrop),Escobar’s shadow is so oppressive that he steals the spotlight by the end of the book.The thing with Escobar is that he was so paranoid that he rarely devised up plans that contained loopholes.As a result,we tend to see him as an uncrackable gangster,more so than Al Capone.Moreover he was a very charismatic individual.A simple look at one of the letters he wrote to the government is enough to grasp why some Colombians considered him a saint.I think Escobar is partly why this book is so great in my eyes: he is a villain in every sense of the word,yet you can’t help but admire him for always coming up with ideas that put the government’s back to the wall.

The Empathy
All parties concerned in the kidnapping were interviewed prior to the writing of the book,so though it is always narrated in the third person,the feelings are very palpable and we gain true knowledge of what it means to be kidnapped or to have our relatives kidnapped.So,yes,I really liked how Garcia Marquez managed to land so much empathy to his readers.There’s a particular scene which can help illustrate what I mean.When one of three hostages is murdered,the other two are somehow relieved – sure,they were totally devastated upon learning about their friend’s execution,but they also instinctively were relieved because there was more space and more air to breathe.That was powerful.This is the hell of being kidnapped; your primal instinct takes over,and you lose that sense of humanity.

Final say: News of a Kidnapping is such an important read,because it is written by arguably one of the greatest authors of all time and moreover revolves about one of the greatest schemes ever put up by perhaps the greatest gangster of all time.I think if you’re patient enough,this book will be hugely rewarding.I can’t think I can say anything more,so I’ll finish this post with two reviews:

‘Marquez uses his novelist’s instinct for emotional drama to give the reader a wonderfully immediate sense of his subjects’ ordeal:their spiralling hopes and fears,their fantasies of escape,their desperation and despair.’  The New York Times

‘Few will put News of a Kidnapping down without a sense of understanding the situation,and a sense of having a country,somehow,explained .’ Spectator


2 thoughts on “News of a Kidnapping: Garcia Marquez’s Lost Gem”

  1. It sounds powerful! I don’t know why I haven’t heard of this book yet. You made me want to read it! I’ve read a few other books of him and they have all been very moving. He’s my mother’s favourite author and I’m so proud to be half-Colombian ❤

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