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The Sound of Things Falling

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Juan Gabriel Vásquez has been hailed not only as one of South America’s greatest literary stars, but also as one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. In this gorgeously wrought, award-winning novel, Vásquez confronts the history of his home country, Colombia.

In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above.

Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.

Vásquez is “one of the most original new voices of Latin American literature,” according to Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and The Sound of Things Falling is his most personal, most contemporary novel to date, a masterpiece that takes his writing—and will take his literary star—even higher.

*Winner of the 2014 International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award

302 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2011

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About the author

Juan Gabriel Vásquez

69 books1,114 followers
Juan Gabriel Vásquez is a Colombian writer, journalist and translator. Regarded as one of the most important Latin American novelists working today, he is the author of seven novels, two volumes of stories and two books of literary essays, as well as hundreds of pages of political commentary.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,828 reviews
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,376 reviews12k followers
March 31, 2023

If The Sound of Things Falling, Juan Gabriel Vásquez's novel filled with sadness and beauty, were ever made into a film, Edward Elgar's Elegy for String Orchestra would make the perfect theme music.

The Colombian author told an interviewer he was stuck writing his story with allusions to Pablo Escobar and the drug world but then he read a newspaper article about an escaped hippopotamus from the zoo built by the cocaine king during the mid-1980s when Don Pablo enjoyed phenomenal wealth and power. Reflecting on the tragic incident proved the necessary impetus needed to finish his work. Appropriately, the novel opens with these lines:

"The first hippopotamus, a male the color of black pearls, weighing a ton and a half, was shot dead in the middle of 2009. He'd escaped two years before from Pablo Escobar's old zoo in the Magdalena Valley, and during that time of freedom had destroyed crops, invaded drinking troughs, terrified fishermen, and even attacked the breeding bulls at a cattle ranch."

The tale's narrator, Antonio Yammara, professor of law living in Bogotá, Colombia and rapidly approaching his fortieth birthday, recounts the critical events causing his life to take a dramatic shift, events occurring back when he was in his mid-20s, beginning when he struck up an acquaintance with an older man by the name of Ricardo Laverde.

The Sound of Things Falling is a novel so masterfully well-constructed in its interconnecting past and present, the lives of its characters and their families, historical events in Colombia and the United States, as reviewer, I'm hesitant to reveal too much thus depriving readers of all the many fresh discoveries and revelations made when turning the pages.

Therefore, rather than arc of plot, I'll turn the spotlight on a number of themes that contribute to making this one riveting, heartfelt story.

Personal Transformation - "I didn't yet know that an old Polish novelist had spoken a long time before of the shadow-line, that moment when a young man becomes the proprietor of his own life, but that was what I was feeling while my little girl was growing inside Aura's womb." So reflects Antonio when he joins dear wife Aura at the hospital for her ultrasound and he becomes fully aware he is now the proud father of a baby girl. At this point, little does Antonio Yammara realize his life will shortly undergo irreparable damage, that he will become the victim of extreme violence, caught in the crossfire of a drug gang's turf war.

And, of course, that Polish novelist is none other than Joseph Conrad. Prior to writing The Sound, Juan Gabriel Vásquez published his The Secret History of Costaguana, a novel playing off of Conrad's masterpiece, Nostromo. Also worth noting, The Sound is decidedly not a work of Latin American magical realism a la his fellow countryman Gabriel García Márquez but rather a tale of stark realism, for as the author has stated repeatedly, his literary influences have been European and American.

Multigenerational Identity - "But if you really want to know who Ricardo Laverde was, start there." Laverde's daughter Maya invites Antonio to read a magazine article about the time Ricardo's father, still a boy, joined his father (Ricardo's grandfather), a pilot, a much decorated hero of Colombia's Air Force, at a 1938 air show that unraveled into disaster.

Appreciating and understanding individual identity as part of an intergenerational fabric is very much within the Latin American tradition, much different than in countries like the US where the tendency is to separate, to pull away from one's family history in order to establish an independent, individual identity.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - Following the burst of violence on that fateful day on a street in downtown Bogotá, Antonio's life dips and dips again, leading him to a psychiatrist and eventually to wife Aura giving him a gift "for the both of us." A gift, really? Antonio opens the small package - a purple vibrator or what in Spanish is called a consolador. Antonio's sense of self-worth takes another nosedive.

Pablo Escobar & His Zoo - Like a stone dropped in a pond, the consequences of Don Pablo's cocaine kingdom and the subsequent war on drugs ripple out, touching Colombians for years, for generations. Antonio and Maya visit the former drug lord's now dilapidated zoo, their visit symbolic of much of grim post-Escobar Colombia: "The humid air filled with a dirty smell, a mixture of excrement and rotting food. We saw a cheetah lying at the back of its cage. We saw a chimpanzee scratching its head and another running in circles with nothing to chase. We saw an empty cage, the door open and an aluminum basin leaning against the bars."

The Power of Myth - Frequently men and women will address one another or speak of one another using both first and last names. Reading the novel and listening to the audio book over and over, I had the distinct impression such formality bestows a mythic, archetypal dimension to the tale, very much in the spirit of Ernest Hemingway's use of thee and thou in For Whom the Bell Tolls. For, as Antonio states, his story is one where "as they warn in fairy tales, has happened before and will happen again."

The Sound of Things Falling - The novel's title works on multiple levels: disillusion and dissolving of hopes, of dreams, even the expunging of life, an individual's life as well as the vital life of a nation. Since precise language fuels Juan Gabriel Vásquez's saga (special call-out to Anne McLean's superb English translation), it's only fair I allow the author to have the last word - this from Antonio's memory listening to a Black Box recording of a plane crash:

"There is a faltering scream, or something that sounds like a scream. There is a sound that I cannot or have never been able to identify: a sound that's not human or is more than human, the sound of lives being extinguished but also the sound of material things breaking. It's the sound of things falling from on high, an interrupted and somehow also eternal sound, a sound that didn't ever end, that kept ringing in my head from that very afternoon and still shows no sign of wanting to leave it, that is forever suspended in my memory, hanging in it like a towel on a hook. That sound is the last thing heard in the cockpit of Flight 965."

Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez, born 1973
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,968 reviews1,983 followers
October 11, 2020

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above.

Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.

Vásquez is “one of the most original new voices of Latin American literature,” according to Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and The Sound of Things Falling is his most personal, most contemporary novel to date, a masterpiece that takes his writing—and will take his literary star—even higher.

I received this ARC from the publisher as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program

My Review: To every rule its exception: This book is praised highly by a writer whose work I abhor, Jonathan Franzen; and ordinarily that means I will avoid the book so as not to read even a Pearl-Rule 46pp of something I'm bound to hate.

Ha ha ha, rules. I liked this book a lot. Well, "like" is a weird word for the emotional resonance of the book. I responded to the book like a tuning fork responds to a smack.

The fact is that I am a fan of Latin American literature because, like this book and author, most of the translated works are political and tendentious in their natures, and so are the authors. So am I. So it's usually a good fit.

This story, which feels as personal as the blurb suggests it actually is, made me very uncomfortable, as I watched Colombia's descent into warlord rule and civil failure. I suspect I'd feel the same fearful anger if I were to visit Montana or Idaho or Wyoming, places that white supremacist/apocalyptic christian cultists have claimed for themselves. When nutball extremists take over a place, it's a failure of civil authority, and that is a crime. The net effect is the same as the drug cartels' takeover of Colombia in the 1970s or the current failure of civil authority in Mexico today or the Cascadian separatist movement here.

These are not positive developments, they have tremendous costs in personal misery, and they are much to be deplored. Vásquez does his deploring by focusing tightly on the emotional and psychic costs of civil failure to a small group of friends, Antonio's friends and his good self. It's a sad, sad chronicle of horror and rage. And it's wrapped in beautiful words expressing solidly grounded truths:
Adulthood brings with it the pernicious illusion of control, perhaps even depends on it. I mean that mirage of dominion over our own life that allows us to feel like adults, for we associate maturity with autonomy, the sovereign right to determine what is going to happen to us next.

Translator McLean has done a marvelous job of making poetry in the English, and while I haven't read the original Spanish text, I can only say that she is unlikely to have made such handsome bricks without good, abundant straw.

If I must pick a nit, and I must, it's that the structure of the novel is a tad more complex than is strictly speaking necessary to tell the author's very involving story. It's not hard to follow, but it's just artificial enough to pop the reader out of the narrative flow. That's almost never a good thing. (Okay, it's never a good thing, but I've learned not to make absolute statements because some little twidgee or another will come along and say something tiresome about my opinions and frankly I'm over it.)

I hope, that issue aside, that you will all race out to your local bookeries and procure copies of this book. It's got something important to say to us in the USA about the incredibly high cost of allowing dissent to become dissolution. Colombia failed its citizens, and their agony only slowly passes. Mexico is mid-failure, and is much closer to us. And yet we allow our own idiot rebels a far freer hand in obstructing and undermining our governmental institutions and shredding our social fabric in the name of some illusory "right" they assert that they have to do this to us all.

Read the book. Learn the cost. The price of the right wing's version of freedom is too goddamned high, and Vásquez knows it first hand. Please listen to him.
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,460 reviews3,631 followers
June 7, 2022
The things that fall in The Sound of Things Falling are crashing planes and dead bodies…
There is a protagonist who recalls the past right from his first days of teaching…
There, standing in front of a wooden lectern, facing rows and rows of baby-faced and disoriented boys and impressionable, wide-eyed girls, I received my first lessons on the nature of power. I was barely eight years older than these inexperienced students, but between us opened the double abyss of authority and knowledge, things that I had and they, recently arrived in the world, entirely lacked.

And there is a man who became his curse… A hoodoo who has crucially changed his entire life…
What I do remember about that day is that he didn’t strike me as intimidating: he was so thin that he seemed taller than he actually was, and you had to see him standing beside a cue to see that he was barely five foot seven; his thin mousy hair and his dried-out skin and his long, dirty nails gave an impression of illness or laziness, like land gone to waste. He’d just turned forty-eight, but he looked much older.

There are those who twist their fate themselves and there are those whose life is mangled by a sudden twist of fate.
Profile Image for Adina .
888 reviews3,518 followers
March 28, 2023
A well written novel about the violent period in Colombia's past. The story of the narrator is triggered by an article he reads regarding the killing of a hippo escaped from Pablo's Escobar's zoo. This event leads to painful memories about the murder of a man he knew, Ricardo Laverde, by drug traffickers. Unfortunately, the narrator was a witness to the murder, being also hit by a stray bullet. Suffering from PDSD, he starts to investigate the attack and the reasons behind the hit. It is a complex novel but somehow it did not manage to impress me, to make a lasting impression on me. I cannot understand why exactly, I guess some books work better for some readers.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo (away on an island).
2,189 reviews1,813 followers
May 4, 2020


Le cose che cadono introdotte dal titolo sono un aereo passeggeri, uno di quelli grossi e affollati, che prima dell’atterraggio a Calì (Colombia) esplode perché Pablo Escobar vuole eliminare un avversario (uno dei pochi politici che non era riuscito a comprare).
Si può immaginare il rumore che fece cadendo.


Ma dal cielo, quello dell’innocenza, cade anche Ricardo Laverde, pilota di aerei che voleva compiere imprese eroiche come il nonno militare, e finisce invece per vent’anni in una prigione USA.

Da quel cielo d’innocenza cade anche Elaine Fritts, che di Ricardo s’innamorò e Ricardo sposò e a Ricardo diede una figlia: arrivata in Colombia giovanissima come volontaria dei Peace Corps finì col legarsi ai trafficanti, ai suoi stessi colleghi che per aiutare i contadini insegnavano la coltivazione della marijuana aprendo così la strada a Escobar (convinti, come possono esserlo solo due nuovi amanti, che dire quel che si vuole sia come dire quel che si è.)

L’ingresso della Hacienda Napoles, residenza di Pablo Escobar.

Le cose che cadono sono le vite che precipitano, spariscono nel nulla, e fanno rumore, probabilmente un ronzio simile a quello delle api che Maya coltiva a La Dorada (ero sola, ero rimasta sola, non c’era più nessuno tra me e la morte. Essere orfani è questo: non c’è nessuno davanti, si è prossimi in linea di successione. Il prossimo turno tocca a noi.)

A cucire tutto, Antonio, il protagonista, che parte da una storia privata, la sua, risale nel tempo, e va a incrociarsi con la storia pubblica.
La storia diventa la Storia. (mi stupiva con quanto accanimento frughiamo nei ricordi, esercizio dannoso che non ci porta niente di buono e che serve solo a renderci impacciati, come quei sacchetti di sabbia che gli atleti si legano intorno ai polpacci per allenarsi.)

Il volo Aviana 203 era un volo nazionale partito dall’aeroporto di Bogotá-El Dorado diretto all’aeroporto Alfondo Bonilla Aragón di Calì, Colombia: il 27 novembre 1989 un ordigno esplose 5 minuti dopo il decollo. La bomba piazzata vicino ai serbatoi del carburante esplose incendiando i vapori di carburante presenti in un serbatoio vuoto. L'esplosione divise l'aereo in due parti: la punta dalla coda, e le due sezioni caddero a terra in fiamme. Tutti i 107 passeggeri morirono nell'esplosione e altre 3 persone vennero uccise dai detriti caduti a terra. Secondo le investigazioni la bomba fu caricata all'interno dell'aereo da un uomo in giacca e cravatta, il quale era riuscito a portare la bomba all'interno della propria valigetta. Il candidato presidente César Gaviria, che Escobar voleva eliminare, non era però salito sull’aereo.

Tutte queste storie, grazie al notevole talento narrativo di Juan Gabriel Vasquez, per me bellissima scoperta di quest’anno (insieme al suo conterraneo Santiago Gamboa), scaturiscono una dall’altra come acqua di fonte, in modo naturale, fresco, pressoché spontaneo, crescono, diventano narrazione collettiva, una storia genera l’altra, gemmazione affabulatoria.

Pablo Escobar e il figlio Juan Pablo.

Gli US sono i più grandi consumatori di droga del mondo. E così, quando Nixon per combatterne il traffico decide di chiudere la frontiera col Messico, i consumatori non fanno altro che rivolgersi a nuovi mercati, più a sud: la Colombia che allora si limitava a lavorare la cocaina coltivata in Perù e Bolivia cambia la sua storia e diventa teatro di guerra quotidiana tra polizia, narcos, terrorismo, politici, per lo più sommersi da dollari e immersi nella corruzione. La vita in Colombia diventa un rischio quotidiano, un pericolo 24/7, la tensione è altissima, sfibrante, deformante. Escobar diventa uno dei cinque uomini più ricchi del mondo (entrando nella lista di Forbes), il suo zoo è attrazione nazionale, e trasmette una lezione che è tuttora difficile contraddire: il rispetto della legge è il più grande ostacolo per la felicità (Gabriel Garcia Marquez).

Antonio incontra Maya, una donna che al bacio rivela un fiato pulito e stanco, un fiato da fine giornata, e non credo si possa dire meglio l’amore arrivato tardi.

Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,100 reviews7,186 followers
June 15, 2023
First my thanks to David from Calgary who recommended this book to me.

A story set in Bogota, Colombia. The narrator is a young man who was severely wounded when his companion was murdered in a motorcycle drive-by shooting. The main theme of the book is how the violence of Pablo Escobar’s drug wars impacted not only the narrator’s life but that of a whole generation in Colombia mostly during the 1980’s. The narrator is hospitalized for a long time and ends up with PTSD and agoraphobia that severely impacts his relationship with his wife and infant.


The man becomes obsessed with wanting to know why his friend was killed. He learns about a secret cassette tape. His dead friend was an older man who used to be an airplane pilot and who came from a family of pilots. As he investigates, the story is interwoven with bits of true history involving recent Colombian air crashes. In one crash his friend’s wife had been killed. There are historical crashes such as one in 1938 where a daredevil pilot performing for a national patriotic celebration crashed into stands killing more than 50 spectators and almost killing the President of Colombia. (Thus the title.) Other true history is part of the story such as the zoo and hippos that drug kingpin Escobar maintained at his estate.

The author shifts the focus of the story around on us. We think it’s going to be mainly about the narrator. Then, as he starts investigating his dead friend, we think it will shift to the pilot. But then he gets in contact with his friend’s daughter and it kind of becomes her story. But in the end most of the focus ends up on his friend’s wife (killed in an airline crash) who was an American Peace Corp volunteer in Colombia back in the 1960’s.


His friend’s wife left a collection of letters and news articles that her daughter gathered. We learn quite a bit about the operation of the Peace Corps in Colombia and, to be honest, the book drags a bit at this point. The author creates a parallel between how Americans of that era marked time by dramatic events (Vietnam, Nixon’s resignation, Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, the Manson murders) with how Colombians did the same – “Where were you when that car bomb went off that killed 100 people?”


A good story (translated from the Spanish) that won the 2014 International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award. I also enjoyed another novel by this author, The Secret History of Costaguana a historical novel about the building of the Panama Canal.

Photo of Bogata from diana-aqua.com
Newsclip from ebay.com
The author from expansion.mx

[Revised 6/15/23]
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews99 followers
December 1, 2017
This is such profoundly sad book. A life stymied and stunted during the height of the drug wars in Bogotá. I will think about it for a long time to come.
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
849 reviews3,874 followers
February 15, 2021

4.5 stars. Ha, damn. Who knew it'd take such a quiet and introspective novel to break my heart.

I'm sorry because my fangirling probably won't help, but I found Juan Gabriel Vásquez's storytelling just wonderful. As often when I fall in love with a book - especially when none of my friends have read it, I've been feeling a little self-conscious and read a few reviews with low ratings. I... don't advise doing that, lol. In the end, I'm not able to acknowledge the flaws pointed there - too much telling rather than showing? - because I just did not see that. Shrugs.

My experience with The Sound of Things Falling was :
- opened the book
- started reading
- couldn't stop because really, how could I?!

It takes a great author to lift us out of our every day scenery and make us feel like we're there without smashing us under the weight of too heavy descriptions . In that aspect it was perfect - anecdotes, customs, I was soon absorbed in this Bogotá and was involved in the characters' story almost instantly. I couldn't stop reading - even exhausted, I couldn't put it down, even at 4 in the morning, I had to know, to devour it.

My heart in my throat, and the worry, the worry - the passion - brought me to this - albeit quite ridiculous, but not less valid at the time - epiphany when I wanted to yell that THIS WAS WHY I WANTED TO READ BOOKS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD (I did not. It was 4 in the morning. I am not an animal) My lassitude with US settings has never been so clear than then, when I wanted nothing more than learn again and again about another country, another history, even fictionalized.

Juan Gabriel Vásquez's talent for weaving the threads of his characters' lives - and attach the reader in the process - forcefully doomed me to care for his characters, no matter how great my disagreement with their actions could be - and disagree I did. That's okay. I quickly understood the role I was meant to take : I wasn't there to love them, I was there to slowly unpack their memories and maybe, maybe, above the solitude and nostalgia, find a little place in myself for them.

Spoiler alert : I did.

Antonio, Elaine, Ricardo - every one of these characters is flawed and unlikeable at times . I can see how their behavior could alienate some readers but in all honesty I understood them, especially Ricardo whose smile I'd protect with my life (MY HEART). As for the plot, I genuinely think that we should go in blind - as I did - that's why I won't develop it. I didn't even read the blurb, only picked it because it was part of my translated books list, and I could not recommend doing the same strongly enough.

I'd recommend this novel to every reader who loves family sagas whose secrets, no matter how trivial, shape the characters into these real people we care about. The Sound of Things Falling is not some action-packed journey getting us from point A to point B : this is rather a very character driven novel , a fucking train wreck where solitude and nostalgia pour through every page and I am not okay.

Not a perfect book by any means - Elaine's Americanism sure annoyed me a lot, for one - yet if you know me, then you're well aware that I can overtake a few flaws if I am certain - as much one can be certain of anything, that goes without saying - that the book I just closed will linger. Well I believe that I won't forget The Sound of Things Falling anytime soon. Oh, no.

TW : One scene contains cruelty towards an animal. Also, drugs.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Mohammad Hrabal.
294 reviews200 followers
August 11, 2022
نمی‌دانم یادآوری خاطرات چه گلی به سر ما می‌زند و چه سود و بلکه جزایی همراه می‌آورد یا آنچه تجربه کرده‌ایم با یادآوری دوباره چه تغییری می‌کند… جایی خوانده‌ام انسان باید داستان زندگی‌اش را در چهل‌سالگی بازگو کند. صفحه ۱۳ کتاب
صدایی هست که هیچ ‌وقت نمی‌توانم یا نتوانسته‌ام باز بشناسم: صدایی که انسانی نیست یا فرا انسانی است، صدای جان‌هایی که می‌میرند و ضمنا صدای شکستن اجسام. صفحه ۷۹ کتاب
تجربه، یا آنچه تجربه می‌نامیم، مجموعه دردهای ما نیست بلکه همدلی عاقلانه‌ای است که به دردهای دیگران روا می‌داریم. صفحه ۸۱ کتاب
عینک�� را برداشت و گوشه‌ی چشمش را فشرد: کاری که همه‌ جای دنیا وقتی می‌کنند که نمی‌خواهند گریه کننده. به خودم گفتم این چیزها، این حرکت‌ها که در سراسر دنیا، تمام نژادها و فرهنگ‌ها، یا بیشترشان، تکرار می‌شود، کجای رمز ژنتیکی ما درج شده‌ است. صفحات ۹۹-۱۰۰ کتاب
آئوره لیو آرتورو در شعری می‌گوید:
بشنو از من که روزی
شهری مجنون، مغرور و پرجمعیت دیدم
که در دل شب می‌سوخت. پلک نزدم و فروریختن شهر را
سقوطش را به چشم دیده‌ام
به سان گلبرگی به ضربه سم چارپایی. صفحه ۲۳۹ کتاب
Profile Image for Zaphirenia.
283 reviews196 followers
May 21, 2018
B.R.A.CE. 2018 Ένα βιβλίο με έναν τίτλο με πάνω από 5 λέξεις


Ο Αντόνιο, ένας νεαρός καθηγητής της νομικής στην Μπογκοτά, γίνεται μάρτυρας της δολοφονίας ενός πιλότου που ανακατεύτηκε με τα καρτέλ των ναρκωτικών την εποχή της παντοδυναμίας του Πάμπλο Εσκομπάρ. Τραυματίζεται και ο ίδιος και, μη γνωρίζοντας την αιτία για την οποία έχει γίνει το θύμα μιας ιστορίας που δεν τον αφορά, βυθίζεται σε μια απόγνωση από την οποία δεν μπορεί να γλιτώσει παρά μόνο όταν ένα τυχαίο γεγονός τον αναγκάζει να αναζητήσει την αλήθεια. Και μόνο όταν έρχεται αντιμέτωπος με την ιστορία του ανθρώπου που στάθηκε η αιτία να αλλάξει τόσο δραστικά η ζωή του αρχίζει πραγματικά (και επώδυνα) η επούλωση των πληγών του.

Αυτό που μου άρεσε ιδιαίτερα ήταν το πώς ο Vasquez τοποθετεί το θέμα των ναρκωτικών στην Κολομβία ταυτόχρονα στο κέντρο αλλά και στο παρασκήνιο. Ναι μεν αποτελεί σημαντικό θέμα του βιβλίου, αλλά παρουσιάζεται διακριτικά, υπό το πρίσμα της επίδρασης που ασκεί το εμπόριο της μαριχουάνας και της κοκαΐνης στη ζωή των ηρώων. Κάπως σαν το φως που περνάει μέσα από τις γρίλιες, φωτίζοντας συγκεκριμένα σημεία του δωματίου. Μου θύμισε λίγο Μάρκες αυτό και το βρήκα πολύ έξυπνο.

Γενικά, είναι ένα ωραίο βιβλίο για τον πόλεμο χωρίς κήρυξη πολέμου, τον πιο σκληρό πόλεμο που καθορίζει τη μοίρα της Κολομβίας και όσων μεγάλωσαν μέσα στην αιματηρή του δίνη, τον πόλεμο των ναρκωτικών. Μετά τη μέση δυστυχώς έχασε το μομέντουμ του και δεν είχε την κορύφωση που περίμενα, αλλά ήταν σίγουρα ένα ενδιαφέρον ανάγνωσμα με καλή γραφή και ωραίο θέμα, χωρίς υπερβολές.
Profile Image for Maria Thomarey.
517 reviews58 followers
December 31, 2017
2,5. Επιτέλους . Το τελείωσα . Και δεν ξετρελαθηκα. Είχα διαβασει τόσα πολλα γι'αυτο και είχα τόσες πολλες προσδοκίες , καμια ομως δεν πραγματοποιήθηκε . Ωραίο βιβλιο . Αλλα μέχρι εκει . Με ενόχλησαν που οι επαναλήψεις . Και η αλήθεια ,καπου κουράστηκα . Γι'αυτο εκανα τοσο καιρο να το τελειώσω . Βαρέθηκα . Μου τελειωσε ο έρωτας . Γιατι τα βιβλία τα ερωτευόμαστε . Αυτο λοιπον μου πήρε τα μυαλά στην αρχη και μετα παπαλα .ενδεχομενος να μην βοήθησε και η μετάφραση
Readathon2017: 4/26ενα βιβλιο συγγραφέα απο την Νότια Αμερική .
Profile Image for Elise.
893 reviews67 followers
May 1, 2014
I'm pretty sure the title of this novel "The Sound of Things Falling," refers to the sound of the book falling on the floor every time you doze off while reading it. The protagonist, Antonio, was neither likable, nor lovable, nor interesting in any way, and the same goes for Maya Fritts and her parents Elena and Laverde who were all flat characters. I looked forward to reading this book after putting my name on a long waiting list at the public library for it, as I love several Latin American authors and Juan Gabriel Vasquez was billed as a rising star. This book attempts to bring to life 1980s Colombia, the drug cartels and the people who lived to experience it firsthand. Unfortunately, the author seems unable or unwilling to successfully recreate this period. For one, the narrative crawls at a snail's pace until the halfway point, and from that point forward, not much else happens. Where does Colombia fall apart, collapse in flames (as a poem the author quotes in the book alludes to)? Where does the fear that Gabriel Vasquez mentions come from, besides one or two isolated incidents? This author needs to show more and tell less (first rule of creative writing 101). The past that Antonio and Maya supposedly share is one we as the readers of this book are never made privy to, not in any detail, and therefore, this book fails to hold together as a successful novel for me.
Profile Image for Mike.
Author 31 books37 followers
August 7, 2013
The ambience of this melancholy novel often appeared in my dreams at night while I was reading this book. I am not sure how long-lasting the effect will be, but it has put me into a funk. This is a quiet novel depicting the solitary interior life of a ruined generation. There are frequent pleasures; I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Laverde family, urban life up in the mountains in Bogotá contrasted with the rural tropical areas, the beautiful geography of Colombia and inferring some of the broader changes that took place between the 1960´s through to the 1990´s. This is an enjoyable novel; however, there is something selfish about writing a book that leaves the reader feeling so alone.

Update two months later: I never know if the novel I just finished will linger in my thoughts for weeks, months or if it will quickly fade from my memory. Two months later, however, when the emotional impact of most novels have long passed, I am still occasionally looking longingly out a window, imagining the beauty of Bogota.
Profile Image for David.
1,458 reviews
August 11, 2020
After reading an invigorating review by Glenn of the English version of this book I decided to reread this book. Why? I remembered many things that he noted in his review but I was curious. This was the very first book that I read in Spanish and I wanted to know how well I read it, as well as how my initial review stood up.

I was very surprised. Yes of course this is a book about the drug violence of Colombia in the later 20th century and it deals with challenging issues such as terrorism and crime.

But I came away with a different angle. At the heart of the story it is a love story and how one faces life’s challenge. Young Antonio Yammara learns painfully about life and love. He makes friend with Ricardo Laverde, a pilot with a shadowy background. During an outing, they are both shot by a drive by motorcyclist. Yammara survives and wants to find out what happened while at the same time almost abandoning his wife and young daughter to understand why.

Vasquez shows his dynamism as a writer as we delve into the painful past of Laverde and the connections to the present. A rollercoaster ride that is truly remarkable. Politics, the drug war, tragedy, and even the past can greatly influence people’s lives. How we deal with it is the challenge. How we cope and it’s outcomes can change our perspectives.

This is what makes this book so good. We fall for the story, wonder about our narrator Yammara, and want a proper outcome. But life changes that.

Would bump this to a 4.5 and my favourite Alfaguara winner read to date.

Here is the original 2012 review.

I first heard a radio interview with Vasquez on CBC Writers and Company last month and was intrigued by his life and his literary interests. He was born in Columbia but educated in London and lived in Paris following after Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes (three writers that I admire). He has spent the last decade living in Barcelona. I was recently there and tracked down his most recent book "The Noise of Things Falling"). This was a challenge as this is the first novel I read entirely in Spanish (since the English translation is not due till the fall of 2012).

This book won the Premio Alfaguara de novela 2011 and there is a reason why it won - it is a great read. The story is a beautiful, tragic and very disturbing tale that neatly unfolds the recent "drug war" in Columbia through the eyes of the main characters. Antonio is a young professor who befriends an older man Ricardo Laverde who enjoys playing billiards. When he is murdered, Antonia begins to discover Laverde's past and uncovers a family caught up in the violent drug world. Imagine a world where when you walk down the road you pay attention to where all the phone booths are because if there is a bombing, you need to call home (in those pre-cell phone days). Imagine a world where children visit a private zoo - owned by the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, who killed many people and even blew up planes to make his point. This book had so many revelations on Columbia (good and bad). What I like about Vasquez is he isn't preaching, and our hero truly shows his feelings the more he discovers.

Vasquez has been compared to Vargas Llosa and often I caught the same language and style in his words but he definitely has his own style. He plays with words about sounds and "things falling" and even makes a joke about "100 years of Solitude" by teasing the Columbian master's title. His descriptive qualities are masterful and his characters both real and ambiguous but I like that quality,

Read this book when the English translations comes out.
Profile Image for foteini_dl.
452 reviews127 followers
October 6, 2016
Ένα βιβλίο που σε ταξιδεύει στην Κολομβία των 60-70s και 90s. Με τόσο ζωντανές εικόνες που νομίζεις ότι έζησες κι εσύ τότε. Ένα βιβλίο που σου δείχνει το αποτύπωμα του πολέμου που είχε ξεσπάσει τα χρόνια της κυριαρχίας του Πάμπλο Εσκομπάρ και των ναρκωτικών.
Όμως, είναι και ένα βιβλίο για τα όνειρα των νέων που κόβονται απότομα. Για αυτούς που κάποτε είχαν όνειρα, αλλά (συνειδητά ή όχι) τα "άφησαν" στην πορεία. Για αυτούς που το παρελθόν το κρατάνε ζωντανό σαν να είναι το παρόν και ζουν μέσα από αυτό.
Πολύ όμορφη γραφή και καθηλωτική αφήγηση από τον Vasquez, σε σημείο που δεν μπορούσα να αφήσω το βιβλίο από τα χέρια μου.
Υ.Γ: Αν θέλετε να μπείτε καλύτερα στο κλίμα της "εσκομπαρικής" Κολομβίας, διαβάστε αυτό το βιβλίο και δείτε παράλληλα τη σειρά Narcos. Έτυχε ξεκινήσω τη σειρά πριν διαβάσω το βιβλίο και με είχε "χώσει" σ' αυτήν την περίοδο.
Profile Image for Paula Mota.
1,030 reviews318 followers
October 10, 2022

Tentaria depois recordar a última vez que tinha experimentado algo do género, essa anulação sem considerações do mundo real, esse sequestro absoluto da minha consciência, e cheguei à conclusão de que nada de similar me tinha acontecido desde a infância.

Este livro sugou-me para dentro dele como poucos e apesar das várias pontas soltas, porque na vida real também nem tudo tem explicação nem é possível averiguar, o final não me deixou o mesmo vazio que ao protagonista, Antonio Yammara.

Ali, na rede, enquanto os lia, senti outras coisas, algumas inexplicáveis e sobretudo uma muito confusa: o desconforto de saber que aquela história em que o meu nome não aparecia falava de mim em cada uma das suas linhas. Senti tudo isso, e no fim todos os sentimentos se reduziram a uma solidão tremenda, uma solidão sem causa visível e portanto sem remédio. A solidão de uma criança.

O início de “O Barulho das Coisas ao Cair” trouxe-me à memória “A Festa no Covil” de Juan Pablo Villalobos devido à referência aos hipopótamos de um famoso traficante, mas enquanto o livro do autor mexicano era uma sátira, a obra de Juan Gabriel Vásquez é uma tragédia para todos os seus participantes, joguetes de um drama maior que é a Colômbia retratada aqui nos anos 80 e 90, um antro de violência e narcotráfico.

Ninguém que viva o suficiente pode surpreender-se por a sua biografia ter sido moldada por eventos longínquos, por vontades alheias, com pouca ou nenhuma participação das suas próprias decisões. Esses longos processos que acabarão por embater na nossa vida (...) costumam estar ocultos como correntes subterrâneas, como meticulosos deslocamentos das placas tectónicas, e quando por fim se dá o terramoto invocamos as palavras que aprendemos a usar para nos tranquilizarmos, acidente, acaso, às vezes destino.

“O Barulho das Coisas ao Cair” é um livro muito triste sobre duas famílias desfeitas sob a má estrela de uma Bogotá que atrai e repele as suas personagens, e quando nos apercebemos do porquê do título a meio da narrativa, é o coração que nos cai aos pés.

Não começou a minha própria vida a precipitar-se por terra nesse mesmo instante, não era aquele barulho o barulho da minha própria queda, que começou ali sem que eu o soubesse?
Profile Image for switterbug (Betsey).
844 reviews808 followers
August 14, 2013
"There is a sound that I cannot or have never been able to identify: a sound that's not human or is more than human, the sound of lives being extinguished...the sound of things falling from on high...that is forever suspended in my memory, hanging in it like a towel on a hook."

In 1995, when Bogotonian Antonio Yammara was 26 and a few years out of law school, he met two significant people who would transform him, and in some ways, one would destroy him. A few years later, he met someone else that he hoped would help heal him. This is a story about the presence of the past, PTSD, grief, lives falling apart, bodies falling soundlessly. It is a story of love and hope from on high, and the crumbling and dissolution of that love and hope, the profanity of it when it runs out of fuel.

Narrated by Yammara, the story is set against the backdrop of Colombian history, from the sixties through the nineties, during the ruthless, violent years of drug trafficking and drug wars. The story focuses on Yammara and the people in his life, and one tragic event that made time stand still for him while the rest of the world moved on. He witnessed a casual friend, Ricardo Laverde, an ex-pilot and ex-convict, killed in the streets of Bogotá. Antonio was also severely injured. This event consumed him, and he was unable to focus on his family--the woman, Aura, he had met and romanced during the same year as he met Laverde, and the baby they had together shortly afterward.

What happens next is a journey to the past--Laverde's past--one that Yammara is compelled to understand. He follows a cassette tape to the Magdelena Valley, to Laverde's daughter, another walking wounded of Colombia's history, who is also stuck in time by previous events. Together, they attempt to fill in the missing pieces of Laverde's history, with the hope of liberating them both from the prison of pain and trauma.

Narrated with eloquence, intimacy, and warmth, Vasquez' story resonates with a heartbreaking lyricism and poetry that captivated me from the opening pages. I am drawn to stories about time and memory, and about the past events that damage us and paradoxically heal us through our shared connections.

My hat's off to Annie McLean, who did a superb translation of Vasquez' novel.
Profile Image for Eirini Proikaki.
339 reviews113 followers
April 26, 2021
"...τα πράγματα στα σκοτεινά φαντάζουν πιο μεγάλα ή πιο σοβαρά, οι αρρώστιες πιο ολέθριες, η παρουσία του κακού πιο κοντινή, η αδιαφορία πιο έντονη, η μοναξιά πιο βαθιά. Γι' αυτό μας αρέσει να κοιμόμαστε με κάποιον συντροφιά..."

Πολύ μου άρεσε αυτό το βιβλίο. Γλυκό, μελαγχολικό, γεμάτο ακυρωμένες ζωές και όνειρα που έσβησαν.
Profile Image for Jill.
1,188 reviews1,689 followers
July 25, 2013
My, oh my – what an incredible novel. This is the kind of novel that made me brush everything aside and read voraciously, devouring every single word and dreading arriving at the end. Yes, it’s that good!

Set in Bogota, Colombia, our narrator, Antonio, becomes twinned to an enigmatic and shadowy ex-pilot named Ricardo Laverde, whom he meets in a Bogota billiard hall. Ricardo has been imprisoned for many years for unknown reasons. (The refrain is: “He must have done something.”) Antonio is with Ricardo during a drive-by motorbike shooting that ends one life and destroys the other.

What follows is one of the most harrowing descriptions of PTSD I’ve read as Antonio lives in terror of everything. The only salvation for him is to uncover the facts behind the life of the mysterious “ghosted” Ricardo and Colombia’s ignoble past.

That is only the early foundation of this book. It touches on many themes: the tentacles of the drug business in Colombia and how one person’s actions have a boomerang effect on so many others. How it feels to live with a “terrible awareness of my vulnerability” – where planes fall from the sky, where bullets fell the innocent, where memories burst out of nowhere to transform and paralyze those who live through it.

As Antonio reflects on the unsuspected intensity of his memories, which are “just now beginning to emerge like an object falling from the sky”, he thinks: “My contaminated life was mine alone: my family was still safe: safe from the plague of my country, from its afflicted recent history: safe from what had hunted me down along with so many of my generation (and others, too, yes, but most of all mine, the generation that was born with planes, with the flights full of bags and the bags of marijuana, the generation that was born with the War on Drugs and later experienced the consequence).”

I must note that Mr. Vasquez does not place the drug war as front-and-center of his book; rather, his purpose is to display how things fall apart in a world that forces good people to relinquish their own power. As we fall out of the sky, only redemptive love can save us. By the end of the book, I had tears in my eyes from the sheer power of the writing. Kudos to Anne McLean for a beautiful translation of a must-read book.

Profile Image for Elina.
494 reviews
September 22, 2016
Εντάξει! Πολύ χαίρομαι που δεν το παράτησα το βιβλίο! Ενώ με κούρασε πολύ στην αρχή, στην πορεία συνήθισα τον τρόπο γραφής και απογειώθηκα για ένα ταξιδάκι μέχρι την Κολομβία. Βιβλίο γεμάτο εικόνες καθημερινότητας στη μακρινή χώρα που συνδιάζονται και με καταστάσεις και γεγονότα των πρωταγωνιστών. Να που μερικές φορές ο ψυχαναγκασμός που με διακρίνει να μην αντέχω να αφήσω βιβλίο ατελείωτο, μου βγήκε σε καλό!
Profile Image for nil changizian.
20 reviews84 followers
December 15, 2020
تازگی کشف کردم چقدر از قلم نویسنده های آمریکای جنوبی لذت میبرم و جذابن برام.
Profile Image for Anastasia.
96 reviews37 followers
December 12, 2016
Είχα καιρό να παρασυρθώ τόσο όμορφα, σχεδόν νοσταλγικά από μία αφήγηση...η ανάγνωση κυλάει εύκολα, ομαλά και ευχάριστα. Η γραφή του Vasquez σε μεταφέρει από τις πρώτες σελίδες στο κλίμα της Κολομβίας, στο μεγάλο υψόμετρο με την έλλειψη οξυγόνου και την αποπνικτική ατμόσφαιρα, ενώ η ιστορία εκτυλίσσεται με φόντο τον μόνιμα μουντό και γκρίζο ουρανό της Μπογκοτά. Μέσα από την αφήγηση της ζωής του πρωταγωνιστή φανερώνονται στον αναγνώστη σημαντικές στιγμές της κολομβιανής ιστορίας και παράλληλα μεταφέρεται ρεαλιστικά το σκηνικό και η επικρατούσα ατμόσφαιρα με τα αποτυπώματα του πολέμου και της τρομοκρατίας χαραγμένα στους δρόμους της χώρας. Ένα βιβλίο που συνενώνει σε μία μόνο στιγμή παρελθόν, παρόν και μέλλον...αναμνήσεις, γεγονότα και όνειρα.

"και λέω μέσα μου πως είμαστε πιόνια της παρούσας στιγμής, ίσως γιατί το παρόν δεν υπάρχει πραγματικά...όλα είναι ανάμνηση..."
Profile Image for ·Karen·.
617 reviews767 followers
April 11, 2019
A history of Colombia in plane crashes

Please don't try to nail me down on this one, because I read it in a complete fug, brought on by a combination of over-indulgence and lack of sleep (the changeover to Summer Time). But as a book to read under such circumstances, it was perfect. Fast-paced, intriguing, frequent changes of scene to prevent boredom, but not so many as to cause confusion, and all combined with a feeling that you were actually learning something, something really quite worthwhile, some history, some insights into love and relationships and a drug economy. I really enjoyed it.
Keep it handy for your next hungover Sunday.
Profile Image for Erasmia Kritikou.
285 reviews97 followers
April 11, 2021

"Ετσι έβαλα μπρος αυτή την αφήγηση. Δεν ξέρω σε τι μας χρησιμεύει το να θυμόμαστε, τι καλό μας κάνει ή πώς μπορεί να μας βασανίζει, ούτε πως γίνεται ν αλλάξουν όσα έχουμε ζήσει με το να τα θυμόμαστε, αλλά η ανάμνησή του πήρε για μένα τον χαρακτήρα του επείγοντος"

Θα συμφωνήσω: Βιβλιάρα, όπως με προιδέασε κι ο φίλος μου ο Φοιβος.
Οι Λατινοαμερικάνοι έχουν αυτή τη βαριά λογοτεχνική κληρονομιά, η οποία είναι και μετάλλιο και βάρος. Είναι δύσκολο να 'σαι συγγραφέας Κολομβιανός, γιατί αναμετριέσαι με Ιερά Τέρατα.
Αυτό, μπορεί να είναι κι αποθαρρυντικό, αλλά μπορεί και να σε πεισμώσει.
Το επιχείρημα του Βάσκες εδω φαίνεται να πετυχαίνει.

Η ιστορια ειναι μια πλεξούδα της Ιστοριας της Μπογοτά συνυφασμένη με την ιστορία των ανθρώπων της Μπογκοτά. Η ιστορια της πολης και ο αντικτυπος της επανω στις ζωές των καθημερινων ανθρωπων, ο απόηχος των ανθρωπων όταν σηκωνονται κι όταν πέφτουν - το πως μια ταραχώδης χωρα, μια ταραχωδης πολη προκαλει και συνεπαγεται μια ταραχωδη ζωή στο κάθε individual.
Οι ιστοριες των ανθρωπων περιπλεκονται συμπτωματικά ή και μοιραία, μ' εναν τρόπο υπέροχα φυσικό και απολύτως πιστευτό, καθως η ζωή φτιάχνει τα πιο ομορφα σεναρια.
Η γραφή του Βάσκες σε παρασέρνει, ελαφρια σαν αερας αλλοτε, και βαριά και δύσκολη σαν να βρισκεσαι ξαφνικά στο μάτι καταιγίδας. Αλλά δε θελεις και να βγείς. Θα ερθει μονη της η λιακάδα και θα ψιυθρίσει ξανά λογια λογοτεχνίας, υπέροχες λέξεις στη σειρά που φτιάχνουν εικόνες, κόσμους ολοκληρωμένους, απο την αστική σαρδελοποίηση μιας θορυβωδους πόλης εως τον βουκολικό παράδεισο της υπαιθριας χασιέντας, με τον τρόπο που μας τ αφηγήθηκε η Αλιέντε στο Επουρανιο Σχέδιο κι όπως μας παραμύθιασε ο Μάρκες.

Απο μένα ειναι ναι.
'Αλλη μια εξαιρετική στιγμή της Λατινοαμερικάνικης Κουλτουρας και η σημαντική συμβολή της στον κόσμο.

+έξτρα ειδική συγχαρητηρια μνεια στην εξαιρετική μετάφραση του Αχιλλέα Κυριακίδη που κάνει το κείμενο να κυλάει σαν πρωτότυπο, και να μη σκοτνάφτει πουθενά. Ειμαστε τυχεροι στην Ελλάδα να εχουμε τέτοιους υπέροχους μεταφραστές.

"Aκούγεται μια κοφτή κραυγή ή κάτι που μοιάζει με κραυγή.
Ακούγεται ένας ήχος που δεν μπορώ, που ποτέ δεν μπόρεσα να ταυτοποιήσω: ένας ήχος που δεν είναι ανθρώπινος, ο ήχος από ζωές που χάνονται, αλλά και ο ήχος από υλικά που σπάνε. Είναι ο ήχος των πραγμάτων όταν πέφτουν από ψηλά, ένας ήχος διακεκομμένος και εξ αυτού αέναος, ένας ήχος που δεν τελειώνει ποτέ, που συνεχίζει να βοά στο κεφάλι μου από εκείνο το απόγευμα και δε λέει να φύγει, που αιωρείται στη μνήμη μου για πάντα, κρ��μασμένος πάνω της σαν πετσέτα στην κρεμάστρα"

Profile Image for Mel.
117 reviews95 followers
August 17, 2013
Against the backdrop of an explosive and defining period in history -- Pablo Escobar and the powerful Columbian drug cartels, the declaration of the War on Drugs, the growing cocaine epidemic following the Viet Nam war -- Vasquez has set an amazing story that is immediately gripping. With only his words, Vasquez is a sculptor, a painter, a master story teller; talking to our senses, filling our heads with journals and scrapbooks, maps taped to newspaper articles, the recollections of smugglers flying their illegal cargo, broken hearted confessionals, drug fueled delusions, doomed hopes and loves,...and hippos. An intricate story of the interconnectedness of different people and different times, seamlessly flowing through a world of paradoxical beauty.

.....In 1981, drug lord Pablo Escobar, the seemingly omnipotent and vicious head of the Madellin cartel, imported 4 African hippos from New Orleans to be exhibits in his extravagant private zoo. After he was gunned down in '93, the government took possession of most of the animals, leaving just a few of the heavy, and difficult to transport, hippos behind. The remaining hippos, which multiplied to a sizeable herd, basked in the lakes Escobar had also constructed, while the once resplendent zoo around them fell into disrepair. In 2006, a pair of those hippos, Pepe and Matilda, wandered away from the derelict zoo and into local legendom. The corpulent mates seemed to have disappeared until 2009 when they were photographed, just 63 miles from the zoo site, pastorally grazing in tall river grass with a small calf by their sides(dubbed Pepito). The photos sparked stories of marauding hippos terrorizing villagers, stampeding and devouring crops, killing livestock. (You might even remember the NY Times articles on the hippos, or the coverage on TV nightly news.) The government, who had many years earlier created a small panic by doing hippo-breeding-math and predicting a problematic hippo invasion, responded by circulating stories of the diseases the *Artiodactyla* carried. Soon,*WANTED: HIPPOS* posters went up throughout Columbia giving rise to the opposing game hunters and the *Save the Hippos* factions.....

Antonio Yammara has just finished reading about the final chapter of PePe's life in a newsmagazine. He examines a photo of the *hunters* standing over the corpse of the nearly 2 ton black hippo [a squad described by the NY Times, Sept. 10, '09: "Even in Colombia, a country known for its paramilitary death squads, this hunting party stood out: more than a dozen soldiers from a Colombian Army battalion, two Porsche salesmen armed with long-range rifles, their assistant, and a taxidermist." the article and picture is archived and can be looked up]. Included in the article was a procedural description of the dismemberment, and the necessary on-site burial of parts of the giant animal, as well as plans to continue the hunt for the remaining members of this hippo family that fled stealthily (as hippos are wont to do) away as the larger hippo was being taken down. Beyond and expected sadness to the article, a familiar sense of melancholy spreads through Antonio. Even after his death on the Medellin rooftops, the echoes of Escobar's greed and violence echo from his grave...

But, this is not the story of Escobar, or his drug cartel, or of hippos.

...The memories unlock in Antonio an emotional link to an old mysterious friend, and Antonio fades away again into dark memories, recalling the series of events that seemed to fall out of the sky when that friend entered his life, and lay before him his own tragic path.

Unable to thrust himself out from a crippling cycle of PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder], Antonio is obsessed with connecting the events and people, and with answering some tenacious existential questions that have plagued him. The story begins *in medias res* -- Antonio at a point in his life where the past compels him to find answers in the future, and at all costs. The title is a metaphorical reference to 2 airplane disasters that tightly connect one time to another, and align the characters. And it references the global dissonance of values, cultures, and hopes colliding with failure. A tumultuous time in history, but as Antonio says, the grievous story is not exclusive to him or the times, "It has happened before and it will happen again."

It is in a smaller sense, a story of the effects of the war on drugs and the people involved; the fruits of violence, greed, and poverty; and an era where the hopes of peace and love proved flawed and crashed and burned. On a larger scale, there is the universal theme of connection -- that the dissonance of the past reverberates throughout time and people. The human lives pinned against the "tide of historical events," are the carriers of the psychic wounds, and very often, the price of keeping the meticulous balance of the scales of justice unjustly falls on the fragile shoulders of the innocent... even the hippos.

Vasquez burrows deep into a tormented soul and takes the reader along, then leaves us with this thought, ..."who worries about us when we don't show up, and who can go out and look for us." Throughout this forceful novel I subconsciously resisted associating with such heavy pain, both physical and existentially. Even days after I finished, I was discouraged, trying to organize my feelings and find footage. It wasn't until I got the rebound whack to the head from this boomerang of a book that I realized that I was so blindly affected by the book and was still crawling out of dark places... that's what I call being lost in a book.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,459 followers
September 12, 2013
Interesting and engaging. Here the theme is the violence and fear that permeated all Colombian life in the 80s and 90s when the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar held sway. Who wasn't affected? How did this play out in the lives of Colombians, children and adults?

Fear. This is a book about fear. It is about secrets. What is it like to discover your father is not who you thought he was? It is about how all families were caught up in the violence of those times. Arguments between husband and wife are pitch-perfect. It is about how the life of the country seeps into the lives of two families and irrevocably changes them.

Good writing that grabs you. You never feel that the text is translated.

It is interesting to see the role the Peace Corps plays in the events. I am wondering to what extent this is true and I wish there had been an author's note to clarify the veracity of the events.

Mike Vendetti does the narration of the audiobook. Yeah, it was good.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,777 reviews14.2k followers
August 12, 2013
There was just something about this book that was stylistically perfect. One of the most well constructed books I have ever read. The title is also perfect because things in this novel fall, airplanes fall, drug empires fall, an old zoo and estate that once belonged to Escobar falls into disrepair, a country falls victim to drugs and terror and lastly bodies that are shot fall soundlessly.

The prose is smooth, the setting and the realism that was Bogata in the 1970's. The history of a country destroyed by drugs, the way the people who lived through this period are forever effected is poignant The characters are original and well-rounded.

This novel also explores how memories can be triggered, whether they are reliable and how they can change and affect us later. Fate and death is explored in many different ways, as is friendship, relationships and love. Our very real need to love and understand.

Sometimes we read about the drug empires and their effects, but this book
showed how easy it is to fall in with one of these empires, their schemes that sound so simple at the time, but how seriously one can fall, costing them everything. Amazing story. This book won a Kirkus star and justly so.
Profile Image for Carmo.
666 reviews472 followers
January 24, 2021
"Perguntei-me por mais de uma vez quantas pessoas da minha geração terão feito o mesmo, fugir, não para uma aldeiazinha de terra quente, mas para Lima ou Buenos Aires, para Nova Iorque ou para o México, para Miami ou Madrid.
A Colômbia produz fugitivos, isso é verdade, mas um dia gostaria de saber quantos deles nasceram como eu e Maya nos inícios dos anos setenta, quantos como Maya e como eu tiveram uma infância pacífica ou protegida ou pelo menos imperturbada, quantos atravessaram a adolescência e se tornaram temerosamente adultos enquanto à sua volta a cidade se afundava no medo e no barulho dos tiros e das bombas sem que ninguém tivesse declarado guerra nenhuma, ou pelo menos não uma guerra convencional, se é que tal coisa existe. Gostaria de saber isso, quantos saíram da minha cidade a sentir que de uma forma ou de outra se estavam a salvar, e quantos sentiram ao salvar-se que traiam alguma coisa, que se convertiam nas ratazanas do proverbial barco pelo facto de fugirem de uma cidade incendiada. "

(pág. 296)
December 18, 2020
Η κατάβαση στο σκοτάδι της κατάθλιψης και η επίπονη και αμφίβολη ανάδυση στην άλλη πλευρά του ατόμου παράλληλα με την κατάπτωση μιας ολόκληρης χώρας λόγω του ναρκοεμφυλίου της δεκαετίας του '80 και την επίπονη και ημιτελή πορεία της προς την ανασυγκρότηση σε κράτος με νόμους ειρήνη και δίκαιο. Νέα νοτιοαμερικανική γραφή χωρίς τον συνήθη ισπανόφωνο υπέρρεαλισμό αλλά και όχι εντελώς γραμμική διήγηση, με μάλλον στρωτή γλώσσα (τουλάχιστον στην ελληνική μετάφραση) αν και όχι κάτι ξεχωριστό ή εντυπωσιακό. Πολύ μέτρια η προσπάθεια για την ανάπλαση της ατμόσφαιρας των ναρκέμπορων στην Κολομβία (καθώς η προσωπική εμπειρία ως παιδί δεν φτάνει χρειάζεται κι έρευνα) κάπου στη μέση ο σκοπός του βιβλίου κάπου στη μέση και τα αστεράκια.
Profile Image for Dagio_maya .
931 reviews279 followers
July 25, 2021
“What’s there to live for?”

Del perché mi sia ritrovata a leggere un romanzo così intriso di morte ed ineluttabile destino, ancora non lo so.
A meno che, io voglia dar credito che in tutto ci sia un messaggio e soprattutto nelle azioni che compiamo apparentemente senza un senso immediato.
Sta di fatto che, in questi mesi estivi, mi ero ripromessa, di fare letture che non lasciassero strascichi.
Storie coinvolgenti dove la parola Fine è definitiva e non ci sono personaggi da portarsi dietro né tantomeno pensieri scomodi che stanno lì a stuzzicare nel tempo.
Avevo (ho) bisogno di apparente leggerezza eppure questo titolo mi ha irrimediabilmente attratta.
Così mi sono trovata ad oltre 2600 metri di altitudine trasportata dalle parole di Antonio, voce narrante di un racconto che dai giorni nostri torna a ritroso in una serie di racconti concentrici.

Tutto comincia nel 1996 in un’anonima sala da biliardo di un quartiere di Bogotà dove Antonio, giovane docente universitario, conosce Rosario Laverde, uomo dal passato misterioso.
Un terreno neutro, quello del bar dove i tavoli da biliardo uniscono persone di differenti età ed estrazione sociale.
In una Colombia che ancora soffre per le ferite delle stragi degli anni ’80 su cui ancora aleggia la figura di Pablo Escobar.

Antonio e Rosario divideranno una raffica di pallottole mentre camminano su un marciapiede: entrambi cadranno ma solo uno si rialzerà e col tempo sarà perseguitato dal pensiero di voler capire.

Due lampi di luce, due colpi:

” Laverde cadde a terra e io caddi con lui, i due corpi che cadevano senza far rumore, e la gente cominciò a gridare e nelle orecchie sentii improvvisamente un ronzio.”

Un minuto prima ci muoviamo.
Siamo esseri verticali che la morte rende orizzontali con un tonfo.

Si può vivere senza pensare?

Antonio crede di sì anzi, s’illude, di potersi chiudere la porta alla spalle, crogiolarsi nelle sue paure e nelle sue ossessioni, salvo, poi, scoprire che dal passato non si può fuggire e che una volta ascoltato il rumore delle cose che cadono nulla sarà come prima:

” C’è un rumore, che non riesco, e non ci sono mai riuscito, a riconoscere: un rumore che non è umano è più che umano, il rumore delle vite che finiscono ma anche il rumore dei materiali che si rompono. È il rumore delle cose che cadono da quell’altezza, un rumore interrotto e dunque eterno, un rumore che non finisce più, che continua a risuonarmi nella testa da quel pomeriggio e non accenna a voler andarsene, che è sospeso per sempre nella mia memoria, appeso come un asciugamano al suo gancio.”

Dolorosamente bello.

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