LITERATURE IN COLOMBIA
Quiet moments… Here are some tips about books and magazines you may like to read during your travels or in preparation prior to your visit. Though you won’t find a lot of fellow Colombian readers, the nation is famous for its writers!
Colombia’s most famous writer is Gabriel Garcia Marquez (often called Gabo in Colombia). This novelist, journalist, screenwriter and short-story writer won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982. Some of his novels: One Hundred Years Of Solitude, The Autumn of the Patriarch, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The General in His Labyrinth, An Evil Hour, Leaf Storm, Love in the Time of Cholera, Memories of my Melancholy Whores, No One Writes to the Colonel, Of Love and Other Demons.
Tip: read some of his magic realistic work in advance and once you’re in Colombia, stay in the mood in Marquez’ birth town Aracataca or nearby in Mompox where he got the inspiration to write his magnum opus One Hundred Years of Solitude. Or allow yourself the time to read it there, in a place where time stood still…
Cien años de Soledad – One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabo’s most famous work One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death, of a mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, alive with unforgettable men and women, and with a truth and understanding that strikes the soul. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a masterpiece of the art of magic realism. (1967, 457 pages)
El Otoño del patriarca – The Autumn of the Patriarch, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One of Gabo’s most intricate and ambitious works, The Autumn of the Patriarch, is a brilliant tale of a Caribbean tyrant and the corruption of power. (1975, 255 pages)
Amor en Tiempos de Cólera – Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career, he whiles away the years in 622 affairs… Yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. (1985, 348 pages)
Primero estaba el mar – In the Beginning was the Sea, Tomas Gonzales
The young intellectuals J. and Elena abandon the parties, the drinking and the money of the city, and start a new life on a remote tropical coast near Turbo. Among mango trees, hot sands and everlasting sunshine, they plan to live the good life, self-sufficient and close to nature. But with each day come small defeats and imperceptible dramas. Gradually paradise turns into hell, as brutal weather, mounting debts, the couple’s brittle relationship, and the sea itself threaten to destroy them. (2014, 176 pages)
OTHER COLOMBIAN AUTHORS
Maria, Jorge Isaacs
Maria, situated in the region around Cali, is a frequently read 19th century Spanish American novel, but at the same time, the most often misunderstood by modern readers and critics alike. The novel has been labelled by some critics as a real tear-jerker that seeks to revive, and to share with the reader, the loss of a first love. This novel became one of the most notable works of the Romantic movement in Spanish literature. (2008, 344 pages)
La Bruja – The Witch, German Castro Caycedo
The decadence of a troubled society where both presidents and notorious drug dealers are consulting the same occultist. (1994, 280 pages)
La Voragine – The Vortex, Jose Eustasio Rivera
A mix of a regional novel (The Amazone), a psychological novel involving an unbalanced man and multiple narratives, an exploration of a violent period in Colombia’s history, and an adventure novel recounting journeys into the unknown. It’s also a description of the exploitative capitalism of its day, a novel of social protest and a call for a benevolent state to eradicate injustice. (1924, 221 pages)
Y otras Canoas bajan el Rio – Rafael Caneva
Chronicle about a fishing village at the Magdalena river. (Only in Spanish, 1957, 319 pages)
Historia De Cien Ciudades – Diego Roselli
The magic and the pot of flavours and colours of Colombia. Diego Roselli allows us to travel to unimaginable places of Colombia and see the beauty of the scenery, the customs of the land and the quality of people. Browse roads from Casanare to the Gulf of Morrosquillo and from Cabo de la Vela to the Colombian Massif in an old Land Rover model 1966. (2010, only in Spanish, 396 pages).
No Hay Silencio Que No Termine – Even Silence Has an End, Ingrid Betancourt
About the six years captivity of Ingrid Betancourt, a politician and presidential candidate in Colombia, in a guerrilla camp of the FARC in the Colombian jungle. Translated in many languages. (2010, 608 pages)
Que Viva La Musica – Andres Caicedo
An introduction to the discovery of Cali (unique, magical and unrepeatable), beginning with the northern sky, with Sixth Avenue, Versailles and its park magic spots to get to hell with a South Panamerican house, the river Pance, neighbourhoods beyond Miraflores, the Andes winged shelters sauce and sex in the final boundaries of the fifteenth street. (2009, 222 pages).
Colombia a Comedy of Errors, Victoria Kellaway and Sergio J Lievano
A full-colour, humorous illustrated book which explores the common story shared by millions of Colombians, from cradle to chaos. It reveals the secrets behind a nation which has drama and comedy seeped into its bloodstream. For the most knowledgeable reader to those who don’t have a clue about the country. This lively, humor-filled book with a serious heart contains more than 160 illustrations, caricaturing famous faces (including Shakira, Bolivar, Botero and Uribe) plus all those ordinary Colombians who fight to survive their country’s daily contradictions. The book is an inspiring journey into the very depths of the Colombian gene and what it means for Colombians everywhere. (152 pages, 2014).
Escobar, Roberto Escobar
The inside story of Pablo Escobar, the world’s most powerful criminal (2010, 304 pages).
The Sound of Things Falling, Juan Gabriel Vasquez
In the city of Bogota, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drugs king Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellin cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above. Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before the narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare. (2011, 320 pages)
ENGLISH NATIVE WRITERS ABOUT COLOMBIA:
An Odd Odyssey, Glen Davis Short
California to Colombia by bus and boat, through Mexico and Central America. (2006, 294 pages)
Colombia – Culture Smart!, Kate Cathey
The Essential Guide To Customs And Culture. This guide provides essential information on local attitudes, beliefs and behaviour. It will tell you what to expect and how to behave (168 pages, 2011).
Creative Language in Colombia’s Indigenous Ethnicities, Cecilia Duque
Nearly 500 photographs of 15 indigenous communities in Colombia made by anthropologists and photographers coordinated by researcher Cecilia Duque. Impressions are shoot from the Amazon (South) to La Guajira (North), in the jungles of Vichada and Vaupes to the mountains of Nariño and Putumayo. With ethnic groups: Okaina, Cubeo, Inga, Kament Sa, Pastos, Esperara Siapidaara, Sikuani, Uitoto, Wuonan, Embera Eyabida, Tule, Zenu, Iku, Kogi and Wayuu. This golden bible with a weight of approximately 7 kg is a treasure and difficult to find.
Crossing the Darien Gap, Andrew Nial Egan
A daring journey through a forbidding and enchanting and roadless jungle that is the only link by land between North America and South America. ( 2008, 226 pages, adventure).
Fruit Palace, Charles Nicholl
Nicholl’s travel experience in Colombia. (1994, 307 pages).
The Curse Of Laguna Grande, Siny Rose van Iterson
A young boy in a remote area of Colombia tries to discover the circumstances surrounding his father’s abduction many years before. (Children’s book, 1973, 190 pages).
The Memory Of Pablo Escobar, James Mollison and Rainbow Nelson
The extraordinary story of the richest and most violent gangster in history. His youth, his bid for political power, his domination of the world’s cocaine trade, his campaign against the Colombian state during which thousands died, his imprisonment in a luxurious private jail, his escape, and his eventual capture and shooting, is told in hundreds of photographs gathered by photographer James Mollison in Colombia. (2007, 360 pages)
The Robber of Memories, A River Journey Through Colombia, Michael Jacobs
Running through the heart of Colombia, a river is emblematic of the fascination and tragedy of South America: the Magdalena. Considered by some to be the most dangerous place in the world, travellers along the river – for centuries the only route into the vast South American interior – were at the mercy of tropical disease, dangerous animals and precarious barges. A third of the victims of la violencia, Colombia’s period of civil conflict which began in the 1950s, ended up in its waters. Townships alongside it had experienced some of the worst massacres in South American history. In 2011, Michael Jacobs travelled its whole length to the river’s source high up in Andean moorlands controlled by guerrillas. In spellbinding prose, he charts the dangers he negotiated – including a terrifying three-day encounter with the FARC – while uncovering the river’s history of pioneering explorations, environmental decline and political violence. As Jacobs delves into the history of destruction and decay along the river, he also makes a deeply personal exploration into memory and its loss: not far from the river’s banks lies a group of townships with the highest incidents of early-onset of Alzheimer’s in the world. Jacobs reflects on the lives of his father, and his mother – sufferers respectively from Alzheimer’s and dementia – as he travels upstream towards what comes to seem like a heartland of mystery, magic and darkness. (2012, 256 pages)
The White Horse, Diane Thiel
A Colombian journey takes us on a magically real journey into the Pacific coastal rain forests of Colombia. Equal parts travel narrative, ecological essay, historical account and memoir, this book allows us to experience a reality stranger than fiction. (2004, 272 pages)
The River, Wade Davis
The river is a work about friendship and the reconciliation of man with nature, as well as a story about atrocities that should never be repeated in the world. This book, a passionate journey of ethnic and botanical revelations, today recognized as a classic about the discovery of the Amazon, its inhabitants, traditions and valuable wisdom. It was inspired by the twelve years from 1941 that Professor Richard Evans Schultes lived in the Amazon rainforest, during which he dedicated himself to follow the course of rivers that had not yet been mapped, as well as to live with indigenous people from Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia in particular, learning from their traditions and knowledge about plants unknown by science.
DUTCH WRITERS ABOUT COLOMBIA
Een zoektocht naar de man achter de mythe, A Quest To The Man Behind The Myth – Nico Verbeek
The Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar (1949-1993), was until his death the most infamous and richest bandit in the world. His life was marked by drugs, power and violence: hundreds of judges, journalists, policemen, politicians, rivals and many innocent bystanders as well, were killed. But Escobar was also a political rebel, an anarchist and a lawyer of a disadvantaged social class, and was seen by many as the Robin Hood of Medellin. (2006, 252 pages).
Colombiaans Carnaval – Colombian Carnival, Judith and Sabine van Vugt
The sisters, Judith and Sabine van Vugt travelled together through the interior of Colombia where they drew inspiration for their book. Their debut Colombian Carnival is an exciting road novel that takes you through the most fascinating places in the country. (2011, 192 pages).
De laatste rit van de Kever – The Beetle Diaries: From Mexico to Buenos Aires, Diarios del Vocho, Tom Dieusaert
A Belgian journalist takes off for a half year long journey from Mexico City to Argentina in a classic VW beetle and encounters all sorts of adventures on the way. Emotions, laughs and some great insights into the history of Latin America. Various languages (Paperback 2014, 512 pages)
Groene Koffie, Het land van mijn broer – Green Coffee, my Brothers Country, Maartje Pierhagen
Kees is adopted and after thirty years he starts looking for his biological family in Colombia. Fiction with a core of truth. (2014, 298 pages)
In de groene hel van Colombia – In The Green Hell Of Colombia, David Böhm and Beatriz Dorado
A Dutchman in the fight against the FARC and cocaine. Dutch (2010, 224 pages).
Het Colombia Van Gabriel García Márquez – The Colombia From Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Marcel Bayer
Based on beautiful descriptions of Northern Colombia, Marcel Bayer takes you to the land of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The locations of the life and work of Marquez form the basis of this literary journey through one of the most intriguing countries of South America. The book is a unique introduction to the country through the eyes of this renowned writer and Nobel laureate. Dutch (2011, 240 pages)
Semana: The most important weekly publication in Colombia (only in Spanish) offering analysis and opinion. With over one million readers a month, according to the General Media Study, the magazine is also a must for Colombian leaders in politics, economics and culture. (semana.com).
Cartel Urbana: A magazine about fashion, music, events, art and opinion. Only in Spanish. (cartelurbano.com).
El Malpensante: A literary magazine who concerns about style and brings an unconventional approach by throwing in dark humour. It covers all sorts of topics from an unexpected angle. Their articles examine the paradoxical complexity of the world and contribute to the critical and artistic maturity of the country. (elmalpensante.com).
Arcadia: Cultural journalism for everyone. The magazine promotes worldwide culture and its actors. It keeps you informed about the latest in art, music, theatre and books. (revistaarcadia.com).
Dinero: An economic magazine with the objective of informing about the economic situation of Colombia. (dinero.com).
INTERESTING TRAVEL BLOGS
See Colombia Travel’s Colombia Travel Blog is the most up-to-date blog about Colombia out there. It started with just Marcela Mariscal scribbling away in her Buenos Aires apartment, but has since become a collaborative effort featuring writers from all over the world. Absolutely stuffed with information, opinion and the latest goings-on, it’s your one-stop blog for everything you need to know about life and travel in Colombia. Website. Their BLOG: See Colombia Travel.
How long do you already live in Colombia and in which part? Do you like to write about it or give tips? Let us know: [email protected]