Songs for the Flames

Juan Gabriel Vásquez, trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean. Riverhead, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-5931-9013-5
Vásquez (The Sound of Things Falling), a Dublin Literary Award–winning Colombian novelist and journalist, delivers a bravura collection blending autofiction with stories of historical and personal trauma, each told by an unnamed Colombian novelist and journalist living in Barcelona. In “Double,” the narrator receives a letter from Antonio Wolf, father of his grade school classmate Ernesto, who died during military service 10 years earlier, in which Antonio confesses that he’d hated the writer for not being drafted instead of Ernesto. In “Bad News,” a Barcelona journalist recalls meeting U.S. expatriate John Regis in a Paris hotel while watching the 1998 World Cup. Regis had told him the story of his best friend, a pilot who was killed in a helicopter crash in Málaga. Several years later, during a visit to Málaga, the narrator tracks down the pilot’s widow at a nearby U.S. base, in search of a story. In the standout title story, prefaced with the line, “This is the saddest story I have ever heard,” the narrator’s research on the murders of two Colombian revolutionaries leads him to unravel a mystery, and Vásquez unearths the regrets and choices that define the narrator and those he engages with. Vásquez continues to distinguish himself among the finest writers from Latin America. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/29/2021
Release date: 08/03/2021
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-0-593-19015-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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