The Shape of the Ruins

Juan Gabriel Vásquez, trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean. Riverhead, $27 (528p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1114-8
Colombian novelist Vásquez (Reputations) is author, narrator, and protagonist of this clever, complex novel about political crimes, cover-ups, conspiracies, and conspiracy theories. In 2005, Vásquez meets conspiracy enthusiast Carlos Carballo at a respected Bogotá surgeon’s home. Carballo voices suspicions regarding 9/11, Princess Di, and Vásquez’s uncle. During their next encounter, Carballo reveals obsessions with assassinations, Orson Welles, and writing a novel. When the surgeon asks Vásquez to befriend Carballo in order to find out if Carballo has stolen assassination artifacts from the surgeon’s collection, Vásquez makes a guest appearance on Carballo’s talk radio program, then agrees to write the novel Carballo envisions, which will expose links between Colombian conservatives and two assassinations: presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (1948) and General Rafael Uribe Uribe (1914). As he explores suppressed evidence, vanished witnesses, and distorted reports, Vásquez is left with more questions than answers. The novel, bolstered by humor and irony, includes photos, literary references, and intimate family moments, but the most memorable passages depict the assassinations and their aftermath. Vásquez’s captivating, disquieting account of a writer’s journey through the shadowy terrain of his country’s past dynamically illustrates how violence damages survivors, lies erode society, and fiction can convey truths history omits. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/23/2018
Release date: 09/25/2018
Library Binding - 616 pages - 978-1-4328-6211-4
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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