cover image The Farm

The Farm

Héctor Abad, trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean. Archipelago (PRH, dist.), $20 trade paper (375p) ISBN 978-0-914671-92-3

A history of Colombia in miniature, Abad’s arresting novel (after the memoir Oblivion) tells the story of La Oculta, a farm hidden in the mountains outside Medellín that has weathered guerilla and paramilitary violence but whose future is anything but secure. After the death of their mother, three siblings are reunited at La Oculta in order to determine its fate while reckoning with the personal differences that threaten to tear them apart. Toño, a gay violinist and amateur poet and historian, is summoned back to Colombia from New York and becomes obsessed with exploring the history of his family. He is met by his older sister, Pilar, a corpse dresser possessing an almost supernatural relationship with the dead who have drowned in the farm’s river, whose son Lucas was once kidnapped and held by guerillas for a year. Toño and Pilar’s sister, Eva, is traumatized by a past episode in which the farm was nearly burned to the ground by a criminal organization called El Músico. During their time on the farm, the siblings tidy up and discuss their heritage through the farm and their own personal experiences, while the threat of violence lurks in the background. Abad’s novel occasionally drags, but it’s a brilliant lesson in Colombian history, as it fluctuates between past, “nonexistent future, which is over for us or ending,” and “the present, the here and now, in these few moments of life left to us.” (Apr.)