cover image Retrospective


Juan Gabriel Vásquez, trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean. Riverhead, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-0-593-53961-3

Vásquez (The Shape of the Ruins) returns with a dramatic if bloated epic based on the lives of Colombian filmmaker Sergio Cabrera and his father, Fausto, an actor turned revolutionary. Days before a Catalonian retrospective honoring Sergio’s films in 2016, Sergio learns of Fausto’s death in Colombia. Sergio opts to stay in Spain rather than attend the funeral, and the novel travels back and forth in time, recounting the history of the Cabreras and tracking Sergio throughout the festival. Fausto, transplanted to Latin America during the Spanish Civil War, has two children in Bogotá with his wife, Luz Elena, and works as a performer and director on early Colombian television. Fausto and Luz both support FARC, the nation’s revolutionary movement, and in 1961 they move the family to Maoist China, where Sergio and his sister, Marianella, join the Red Guard as children. In their late teens, the children return to Colombia to become guerrillas. Back in 2016, Sergio watches his films with his teenage son, Raúl, and tells him stories of their exploits. The narrative has its share of exciting moments amid Colombia’s historical turmoil, yet Vásquez’s intense attention to detail and frequent historical asides tend to bog things down. This frustrates as much as it fascinates. Agent: Maria Lynch, Casanovas & Lynch Literary Agency. (May)