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The Sound of Things Falling
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2018 Book Discussions > Sound of Things Falling --Parts I -III (Spoilers Allowed) (Dec 2018)

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Carol (carolfromnc) | 452 comments In this thread, discuss Parts I - III (through page 126 in my hardbound edition) of the book. There's no need to use spoiler tags for comments pertaining to events described prior to and including page 126. Please, however, discuss the remainder of the book - starting with Part IV, "We're All Fugitives" at the "Whole Book" thread.

What were your first impressions? Do you like Vasquez' writing style?


message 2: by Carol (last edited Dec 02, 2018 08:01PM) (new) - added it

Carol (carolfromnc) | 452 comments I’m enjoying this immensely but haven’t a clue where it’s leading. I was focused on both Vasquez’ sentences and the character, Laverde. Then all of a sudden, there’s a girlfriend and ... now a poet new to me.

On page 36-37, our narrator takes Laverde to the former residence of José Asunción Silva, a poet who committed suicide in 1896 at the age of 31.

“The ruling class of our country, haughty charlatans, has always liked to appropriate culture. And that’s what’s going to happen with Silva: they are going to appropriate his memory. And his real readers are going to spend the whole year wondering why the hell they don’t leave him alone.”

Heres a link to Silva’s poem, Nocturne, mentioned twice in that 2-page passage.

http://www.poetry-archive.com/s/noctu...

It is breathtaking.


Elaine | 103 comments I began reading last Thursday and finished yesterday. It was just what I needed, as I was home bound with the flu. It's a compelling read and reminded me of Roberto Bolano. I will be reading more Vasquez. There is something about Latin American writers that speaks not only to the intellect but to the soul.


Bretnie | 569 comments The first chapter started a little slow and confusing for me, but now that I've finished the second I'm hooked.


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Carol (carolfromnc) | 452 comments Elaine wrote: "I began reading last Thursday and finished yesterday. It was just what I needed, as I was home bound with the flu. It's a compelling read and reminded me of Roberto Bolano. I will be reading more V..."

Elaine, I’m quite envious of your ability to read through the flu. I was home last week three days with it and mostly mourned my lost reading time.

I still need to read Bolano. I’m so enjoying this novel that it might be the nudge that gets me to tackle one.


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Carol (carolfromnc) | 452 comments What do you think of Yammara?

I find myself first thinking he’s a jerk for hitting on his students, then simply shallow, then as he responds well to Aura’s news and generally behaves in a stand-up manner, I was pulled into revising my assessment upwards. But his treatment of Laverde at the Silva museum was incredibly immature. And as events unfold, he expresses no regret, no sadness. And my assessment degrades anew.

What does Vasquez gain by putting Yammara at the center of his story, by having the reader see events and Bogota through Yammara’s eyes? Is Yammara a reliable narrator?


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2306 comments I just finished part III.

I don't like Yammara much at this point. So far my impression of him is that he is very self-centered and immature. I think I'll wait until the end before considering the question of what Vasquez may gain (or lose) by putting Yammara at the center of the story.

As the book started, the style reminded me of The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa, where the narrator is telling the story of someone he is reminded of by a painting/photograph he sees in a gallery, although the narrator in that book soon takes a back seat.

I am interested in Laverde's story - why did he go to prison for 20 years?


Bretnie | 569 comments I don't like Yammara either but I like him as a character. I feel like I'm in Aura's position questioning why he's so obsessed with Laverde and the accident and frustrated with his behavior.

I'm curious what he'll learn about Laverde and what kind of resolution that will give him for his own life.


message 9: by Lia (last edited Dec 04, 2018 08:31PM) (new) - added it

Lia I just finished part II. So far, I just really appreciate the description of his subjective sensory experiences after “the event.” Smells, sounds, sights, symbols, and over-reactions to them.

Like a very successful virtual-reality app, this book makes it impossible for me to look at it as something that’s happening to someone else. I feel like I’m wearing a headset and experiencing the paranoia and fear.

I’m also not sure why the author chooses to tell this story from this guy’s POV. I feel like I keep running into stories told by “professor-protagonists”. In some novels that make sense, and is apt. This one feels odd, I don’t feel like Yammara is giving us a particularly learned, ivory-tower POV (it’s closer to Dan Brown or Michel Houellebecq than Jenny Erpenbeck).


message 10: by Elaine (last edited Dec 05, 2018 05:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elaine | 103 comments I did like the opening with the anecdote about the hippo, but that level of originality was hard to sustain. Initially I didn't like the narrator, as I'm not drawn to pool players and bars, and thought him a bit of jerk. I didn't approve of his relationship with Aura either, but because he was serious, I was willing to overlook his weakness. I put the book down for a few days and then because I had a virus picked it up, thinking it was an easy read. Vasquez has a way of creating a sense of mystery making us, the readers, want to know more. What is Laverde's story? That became the point of interest, the driving focus.

Having finished the novel, I wouldn't compare Vasquez to Dan Brown. That's really an insult. The novel does build up to an incredible intensity and power. There is real depth here although not of the transformative potential of Erpenbeck. This tale becomes allegorical and really hits its mark, I assure you.


message 11: by Lia (last edited Dec 05, 2018 06:57AM) (new) - added it

Lia My bad, Elaine, I only meant to say that the character Yammara’s (apparent) lack of well thought-out insights reminds me of the sort of “professors” depicted in Houellebecq’s or Brown’s, it was more a comment on how I keep running into novels with professors as protagonists (Austerlitz, Go Went Gone, Submission, The Nix, 7th Function of Language... ) and how some of them don’t seem to have any reason to choose a (boring) professor.

I agree it’s insulting to compare Vasquez to Dan Brown, I’m not quite half way through the book and I’m already finding the book powerful, and the subject important.

Elaine wrote: “I did like the opening with the anecdote about the hippo, but that level of originality was hard to sustain. ”

That concern and sympathy for other creatures (animals) really reminds me of the opening of Austerlitz! Also, the way Yammara describes La Candelaria as somehow outside time, somehow stays immutable, is a lot like Austerlitz’s Iver Grove:

here you close your eyes for too long and you might very well open them to find yourself surrounded by another world (the hardware store where yesterday they sold felt hats, the alcove where a cobbler sold lottery tickets), as if the whole city was the set of one of those practical-joke shows where the victim goes to the men’s room of a restaurant and comes back and finds himself not in a restaurant but in a hotel room. But in all Latin American cities there’s one place or sometimes several places that live outside of time, that seem immutable while the rest is transformed. That’s what La Candelaria is like.


Of course, both books describe someone who is “transported” to a different kind of existence and relation to the world after a certain event.

Sorry I can’t help it, my mind likes to compare books!


message 12: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay | 73 comments As a professor myself, I don't find Yammara a good representation at all :)
I was immediately intrigued by the beginning of the story, even though I found it confusing at first. I think we are supposed to find Yammara a questionable, self-absorbed character and I hope it pays off at the end.
I also had to look up that scene with the airplane show - it felt very realistic.


Elaine | 103 comments Lia wrote: "the way Yammara describes La Candelaria as somehow outside time, somehow stays immutable, is a lot like Austerlitz’s Iver Grove."

I certainly agree, although this notion of being outside time, seems to be something particular to Latin American writers, as expressing their isolation from the west. I am thinking of Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and the Mexican writer, Juan Rulfo's Pedro Paramo, which Susan Sontag considered a masterpiece of 20th century world literature. But then there is also a sense of being trapped in time in Kafka's The Trial, with the scene in the lumber room that continues on despite time. Perhaps the German link is due to the connection between late German Expressionism and magical realism. Kafka was doing this kind of thing before the term existed.


message 14: by Elaine (last edited Dec 09, 2018 06:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elaine | 103 comments Kay wrote: "As a professor myself, I don't find Yammara a good representation at all :)
I was immediately intrigued by the beginning of the story, even though I found it confusing at first. I think we are sup..."


It is interesting how many novels feature professors as a central consciousness. I didn't find Yammara convincing either. I somehow thought it unlikely that a prof would spend his free time in a pool hall, but then it is possible.

Thinking of Richard in Go, Went, Gone, I found that Erpenbeck wanted to show him as a flawed human being, which is really emphasized in his insensitive response to his wife's pregnancy, so that Richard's transformation becomes part of his redemption. That he was a prof perhaps underscores the missing part of his being, being an intellectual cut him off from his feelings. In becoming fully human, he opens up to compassion and wants to help those who may very well be disenfranchised as a consequence of European imperialism. This is a lesson learned.

Perhaps this is why Yammara is a prof; that he too needs to learn an important lesson -- how the personal is indeed political. I see the novel as allegorical. It's not just the story of his undoing, but the story of Columbia's traumatic ruin. Interesting, too, that Vasquez has moved back to Columbia. To me this is a hopeful sign although what's happening in Venezuela and now Brazil does not bode well.


message 15: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark | 287 comments As of the end of part III, I'm solidly in the "What a jerk!" camp about the narrator. Perhaps indeed we will see a personal growth as he learns more. I appreciated the details of life (and heat!) in Las Acacias, though with each page I dreaded another betrayal of his wife.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

I’m very late to the party on reading this but I’m glad to now get to your comments.

I think Vásquez made him a prof as it was important to prove his academic intelligence - his curiosity in analysing Laverde’s story as well as a contrast for perhaps his emotional immaturity. The Guardian article also states Vásquez studied as a lawyer so perhaps the story is a little biographical.


message 17: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia Catriona wrote: "so perhaps the story is a little biographical..."

I think that’s a good guess. In one of his interviews, he said something about writing a paper on the Iliad as his Law School graduation thesis. Which he randomly dropped into this novel in that administrative phone call!

I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything, other than that he took bits and pieces from his real world experience, randomize that, and built a novel out of it.


message 18: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol (carolfromnc) | 452 comments It's never too late to comment! I, for instance, still have 100 pages to go due to interruptions and other deadines, and I like this novel very much although I admit that I find the character of Yammarra problematic on lots of grounds, none of which relate to "likability."


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