Tag Archives: journalism

Dealing With the Everyday

My Struggle 2: A Man in Love (Knausgaard)

Here are some things I spend a lot of time doing:

  • The dishes
  • Feeding the cat, washing the cat’s bowls
  • Doing laundry, hanging laundry, putting away laundry
  • Cooking enormous amounts of lentils or soup, putting it in freezer
  • Picking clothes off the floor of my bedroom and putting them on my bed
  • Biking to the library for work and paying £2 for porridge because I left the house too late to have breakfast
  • Spending money online on train tickets, hooks for the wall to hang up the clothes I leave on the floor, yoga class, organic hypoallergenic cat food, meditation course, library fines.
  • Buying food to fuel myself, a never-ending process that often feels like the scene in Titanic where the sweaty dust-smeared Irish men are shoveling coal into the constantly hungry, never full burners.

This is my life (or at least what I’m willing to say about it on the Internet ;p). This is my banal, my everyday, what tends to absorb and take me over. This is mainly the stuff that occupies my mind on a daily basis rather than the BIG QUESTIONS that I’m not even going to write out here because I don’t feel like having a panic attack right now, thank you very much!!! :D

But this everyday stuff is very much the concern of A Man in Love, the second volume of Knausgaard’s My Struggle series. In other words, the book is interested in balance between the mundane and what he calls “the sacred,” which for some people might appear as religion, but for him seems to mostly appear as the act of writing.

What happens in this book? He goes to his daughter’s birthday party. He comments on the difference between the Swedish and Norwegians. There’s extended flashback sequences to when he met and fell in love with his wife, had his first child. He struggles to write a novel about angels. He fights with the crazy Russian neighbor lady who may or may not be a prostitute. He suspects his mother-in-law of secretly drinking out of the alcohol bottles on top of the fridge.

If someone had told me four years ago that I would have found this kind of stuff irresistibly compelling, I would have laughed hysterically. But good god, did I ever. I turned the pages with the frenetic urgency of a Michael Crichton novel. How on earth did the author achieve this? I suspect that it’s partly due to the style: it’s very clearly written, reminiscent of Elena Ferrante, with flashes of black Herzogian humor that (just like with Volume I) I found absolutely hysterical. I suspect another reason that I found it so fascinating and compelling is due to a perverse fascinating of reading things that I found so familiar, yet had rarely seen covered in such intense detail. There are just so few books that actually pay attention to these moments, you know? The rituals of making the morning coffee, the commute, the hangover, the dinner party. And yet this is what life is for so many of us. Every once in a while we have The Moments that novel climaxes are made of. But most of the time I’m wiping spilt coffee off the counter.

Needless to say I can’t wait to read Volumes III-VI (once all the translations have been released, of course! I believe 1-5 have come out in English so far).

There are many, many quotes that I highlighted while reading this book, but here are a select few:

Everyday life, with its duties and routines, was something I endured, not a thing I enjoyed, nor something that was meaningful or made me happy. This had nothing to do with a lack of desire to wash floors or change nappies but rather with something more fundamental: the life around me was not meaningful. I always longed to be away from it, and always had done. I tried to make it mine, this was my struggle, because of course I wanted it, but I failed, the longing for something else undermined all my efforts. What was the problem? … perhaps it was the prefabricated nature of the days in this world I was reacting to, the rails of routine we followed, which made everything so predictable that we had to invest in entertainment to feel any hint of intensity? Every time I went out of the door I knew what was going to happen, what I was going to do. (67)

…with Dostoevsky there were no heights, no mountains, there was no divine perspective, everything was in this human domain, wreathed in this characteristically Dostoevskian wretched, dirty, sick, almost contaminated mood that was never too far from hysteria. That was where the light was. That was where the divine stirred. But was this the place to go? Was it necessary to go down on bended knee? (72)

I walked around Stockholm’s streets, modern and feminised, with a furious nineteenth-century man inside of me. (90)

Life. Getting through it, that was what I was doing. (134)

It is never easy to confront life-changing news, especially when you are deeply embroiled in the everyday and the banal, which we always are. They absorb almost everything, make almost everything small, apart from the few events that are so immense they lay waste to all the everyday trivia around you. Big news is like that and it is not possible to live inside it. (271)

I don’t give a shit about you, I don’t give a shit about the book I’ve written, I don’t give a shit if it wins a prize or not, all I want is to write more. (457)

This was my life. This was what my life was. I had to pull myself together. Chin up. (498)

Don’t believe you are anybody. Do not bloody believe you are somebody. Because you are not… You’re just a little shit. So keep your head down and work, you little shit. Then at least you’ll get something out of it. Shut your mouth, keep your head down, work and know that you’re not worth a shit. This, more or less, was what I had learned. This was the sum of all my experience. This was the only true bloody thought I’d ever had. (516)

I managed to write the five pages a day I had set myself as a goal. But I managed, I managed that too. I hate every syllable, every word, every sentence, but not liking what I was doing didn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. (589)

Animals (Emma Jane Unsworth)

Talk about a contrast to Knasgaard! There’s no shortage of decidedly less domestic everyday moments in this book: two best female friends run around Manchester, do drugs, flee from dealers, drink a LOT of wine, wake up from a LOT of soul-crushing hangovers, try to write a novel about a priest with a talking pig, and even ponder religion in a few discordantly intriguing passages. Yes, there were definitely moments in this that struck painfully true chords with certain instances in my own 30-something life. In this interview, the author cites the picaresque novel as an influence, and also calls Animals an “anxious” book, both of which I can definitely see. Overall, I enjoyed the raw cathartic energy of this book, the drive and energy of the prose. I’d rather something be interesting and different, rather than poetically perfect and polished. I also liked that the protagonist was still drinking in the end, and that her journey as a character didn’t necessarily equal complete 100% sobriety. The focus is ultimately on the friendship between the two girls (women?), and this was something I very much appreciated. I love books that are unapologetic and unashamed, something this book had in spades.

The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail (Óscar Martínez)

So you have the everyday reality of Knausgaard and Animals, and then you have this. Holy ***ing shit. This book has been on my to-read list for years, and even though I haven’t finished it yet (still have two chapters to go), boy, does it provide some brutal perspective. Even Bolaño didn’t delve into darkness this apocalyptically bleak. In brave, uncompromisingly stark prose (captured extremely well by the translation), the book delves into subject matter similar to the film Sin Nombre, that of Central Americans fleeing to the U.S. (focusing primarily on “la bestia” of the title, or the freight trains barreling across Mexico, with migrants clinging on).

As said before… this book goes to some dark places. I think the chapter set in a brothel on the Mexican-Guatemalan border was maybe the most difficult for me. So many brutal moments. We touch upon an expression often used by migrants: cuerpomátic, the body as a credit card (most especially the female body), buying you a little safety, a little bit of cash, the potential that your travel buddies won’t get killed, a more comfortable ride on the train. We learn about the myth of the bra tree–a desert tree draped with bras and panties of migrant women raped by bandits, the underwear kept as trophies (Martínez depressingly clarifies that “I refer to it as a myth not because it doesn’t exist, but because it’s not one tree but many.”) (164) It’s a world where talking about the narco’s fees is as common as talking about the rise in the price of tortillas.

I’ll be honest… I read books like this one, and on one hand I’m grateful, blown away, amazed by reporters like Martínez doing this kind of work in the world, bringing these kinds of issues to light. Another part of me is like… oh my god. Me and my stupid, silly, little life. How dare I complain about anything, ever? What am I supposed to do in face of this? How am I supposed to live, to act? What can I do to help, what can I do to make a difference, what can I do that matters, whatcanidowhatcanidowhatcanido. And yeah, I’ll say it: there’s a certain amount of bleak hopelessness too. How did things get this bad? Why did this happen? How can there be a turning point, ever? Is this the kind of world we’re going to live in? Is it like Bolaño’s “Police Rat,” are we all eternally damned, is there no turning back?

Rather than hopeless, though, it might be more accurate to say that this book comes off as brutally realistic. This is the way things are. Never-ending violence as everyday. This is the banal, mundane reality that many, many, many people are living in, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. I don’t know what I’m going to do with that fact. I really, really don’t.

(It’s worth saying Martínez has a new book out, which needless to say I am highly interested in reading.)

We’re walking among the dead. Life’s value seems reduced, continuously dangled like bait on a fishing line. Killing, dying, raping, or getting raped–the dimensions of these horrors are diminished to points of geography. Here on this rock, they rape. There by that bush, they kill. (37)

The unspoken question becomes evident. How is it possible that the kidnappings are still happening when the local governments, the countries of origin, the media, the Mexican government, and the US government all know exactly what’s going on? … Everybody knows, nobody acts, and the kidnappings continue. (103)



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Filed under books, Mexico, non-fiction, review, women writers

Art and Revolution

I really enjoyed this book. It was given to my sister by her friend in Oakland. I’ve never read Alma Guillermoprieto before, but apparently she’s the Latin American correspondent for the New Yorker, a publication I wish I had the $ to subscribe to (even more so now that all their fiction and poetry is subscription-only).

A lot of this book hit close to home for me. I loved Alma’s younger-self narrator: her constant self-critcism, her dislike of her ignorance about politics and Latin American affairs, her love for art, her low self-esteem, her poor choices in men. Even the section where she contemplates suicide is charming. To me, Dancing With Cuba isn’t a good book just because it’s a snapshot of a very specific time and place, or because I learned a lot about Cuba while reading it. More than anything, I liked this book because it powerfully captures the feeling of what it’s like to be young and confused and enamored of art and completely lost in your life.

I really liked the theme in this book about the relationship between Art and Politics. The description of all the delegation of poets and intellectuals coming to Cuba to fiercely debated such as question reminded me of the section in The Savage Detectives, in which one of the main characters gives up art in order to go fight in Nicaragua. There an El Salvadorean poet in Dancing that sums up the dilemma with the following query: “Do I write sonnets or devote myself to studying peasant revolution?” (263) It reminds me of similar questions raised by Bolaño, or of the life of Rodolfo Walsh. It’s a question that young-Alma struggles with quite a bit. My question is, is it possible to combine the two? (Maybe fact that she ended up as a journalist, writing about Latin American politics and writing very openly poetic, subjective memoirs, proves that it is!)

There were lots of interesting questions raised in this book. I liked the part where she talks about stillness vs. consciousness, in terms of modern dance. Apparently in the Merce Cunnigman style of modern dance, the key concept is stillness: “the quiet that things and beings achieved when they have no consciousness of themselves, when they simply are, without intention or aim. Consciousness, however, was Fidel’s key word–self-consciousness, class consciousness, revolutionary consciousness–an in Cuba a human being without aim or intention was inconceivable, unless of course he was a vago–a slacker–who, as Fidel began proposing around the time, deserved to be thrown in jail.” (94)

What is the point of the aritst or intellectual in society? This question is asked again and again. Should they be thrown out into the sugar cane fields, put to work that’s actually productive and useful, work that is concretely measurable via statistics and units? There’s another interesting section that I can’t find right now, in which she talks about how the communist conception of an economy treats it as a machine, as opposed to a living, breathing organism that is affected by lots of different systems, as opposed to a strictly input-output mechanism. I really like this parallel, and think that it would be useful to apply it to a lot of different subjects (I’ve heard similar ideas discussed in trainings I’ve received for one of my non-profit jobs). It really feels sometimes like the knowlege of humanity is moving away from the conception of life as a mechanism, and more towards life (and people, and relationships, and social justice, and so on) as a living, breathing organism, composed of and balanced by many different systems…

I heartily approved of the narrator’s treatment of Fidel, as well as most of the Revolutionary rhetoric that fills the book. I first picked this book up with slight apprehension, mostly due to the subtitle, A Memoir of the Revolution: Oh no, what if this is filled with Fidel love? Thankfully, it’s not, and when it is you can very clearly see how the author is making a point about how seductive that kind of “Viva la Revolucion!” talk can be. As one of the Cubans says early on in the novel, if it weren’t for the Revolution, a lot of Cubans would feel like they had nothing to live for, no purpose in life. I mean, how would you feel if you had to leave your job at the hospital or the university and go cut sugar cane in the fields para la causa for hours and hours, if you had an inkling at the back of your mind that la causa was very, very troubling and problematic?

I also liked Alma’s discussion of Che. I think she does a good job of summing him up and being approrpriately intimidated, repulsed and fascinated by him. Her reaction was similar to mine after reading his massive biography last year, in the sense that good-bad judgements aside, what Che’s life boils down to is that not many people can live like that. They really, really can’t.
I’d like to read more of Guillermoprieto’s work, for sure. Here are some other works mentioned in this book that I’d like to check out at some point:
– the film Memorias del subdesarollo
– Poesia en movimento: Mexico 1915-1966 (ed. Octavio Paz) 
– Mario Benedetti poetry
Paradiso by Jose Lezma Lima

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Filed under art, books, non-fiction, politics, women writers

when and where words fail

Reading this book (Stephen Dudley’s Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerilla Politics in Colombia) was both depressing and exhilarating, which I guess is a good a phrase as any for encapsulating the Colombian experience.

The other week I was sitting with some co-workers by a pool and they began clamoring for me to tell them a story. “Una his-to-ria! Una his-to-ria!” they chanted, banging the white plastic table with their hands and almost knocking over the empty beer cans. I desperately tried to think of something, but unsurprisingly it was mildly difficult, being put on the spot like that. I replied (much to their chagrin) that I would get back to them once I had thought of something. For the rest of the evening, I kept trying to think of what story I could tell. Something about my childhood, about what it was like to grow up in Colombia? About what it was now like being back, in a vaguely “adult”-like role? What stories did I have about Colombia? Words seemed to fail me.

The one classic anecdote I keep referring to, again and again, as it’s the one that seemed to induce the most raised eyebrows and exclamations of surprise among my fellow college freshmen or CTY classmates, is that of the mafiosos that lived across the street from our house, behind the giant stoned walls. They had a collection of exotic pets, including a peacock, a spider monkey (it once attacked some guests that were arriving for a dinner party at my parents’ house, and (at one point) a lion that roared. All of these animals seem paltry compared to Pablo Escobar’s collection of exotic animals, especially the tragic anecdote of Pepe the “narco” hippo. (Fortunately, his companion Orion seems to be alive and well.) To me, the story of Pepe captures the fundamental spirit of Colombia, the weird mixture of absurdity and violence that’s difficult to summarize.

This is a very well-written, excellently researched book, albeit with a devastating conclusion. To put it simply, this book is about the creation of the Union Patriotica, a political party that was meant to intergrate the FARC into the mainstream political process, thus enabling the guerrilla forces to lay down their arms. However, due to a systematic extermination of party members (by government, paramilitary and narco forces alike, sometimes all three working together at the same time), the FARC ended up retreating further into the jungle and the mountains and there’s the situation as we know it today. The FARC now exists solely as a military endeavor with no political aspirations to speak of. The conclusion is depressing because we’re left with the feeling that there really is no end in sight to Colombian violence. The FARC can now use the UP as justification as to why they could never reform into a political party, and thus the armed struggle (financed by kidnapping and narco trafficking) is the only one that will work (even at the time of the UP extermination, it seemed to be in the interest of some FARC leaders for UP members to be murdered, because it would further justify the need for a guerrilla army). What’s worse is that Colombia is left without a genuine third party alternative, and instead it’s just an endless recycling of Liberal vs. Conservative candidates, the established oligarcy (though I guess I don’t see how this is all that different from the U.S.).

The current political situation in Colombia is one I’m still trying to understand, after years of ignoring it more than I should have. I first heard the word “guerrilla” on the kindergarten playground, when one of my childhood playmates commented matter-of-factly that she could hear the “guerrilla fighting” around her finca (or rural farm that most rich/middle-class Colombians own). My head was filled with images of gorrillas beating their chests and baring their teeth, like I’d seen in images on the Betamax tapes my grandma mailed use from the States.

Dudley does a good job at filling me in. Throughout the book he has a mouth-watering access to sources that range from revered Communist party members, high-ranking FARC generals and paramilitary leaders. The main thing I kept thinking while reading of this book was “why the heck didn’t we learn any of this in Colmundo?” (our senior year Colombian history class) The main thing I remember about that class is desperately memorizing timelines and years in which presidents were elected. There’s a part near the end of this book in which the intrepid author/reporter speaks with some younger-generation Colombianos about the Union Patriotica (the political party started by FARC members; the “political genocide” of party members is the book’s primary subject matter), only to be greeted with blank faces. “To them, the UP was little more than an asterisk in a book, a brief mention in a newspaper article, a segue in a lecture.” (180) And this attitude only ten years after the UP presidential candidate was murdered by a “suizo” (suicide) assasin in the Bogota airport! Those blank faces could have easily been mine before reading this, and possibly any of my high school classmates. That… that’s sad. Dudley astutely points that that “in most countries, a politically motivated assasination would have been front-page news.” (180) Here he seems to be approaching the core of Colombia’s culture or attitude towards violence: there’s just so much of it, at a certain you just go numb and start blotting it out.

Dudley also gives excellent historical context to Colombia’s violent, politically troubled history. It left me wanting to read a straightfoward history book about Colombia; strangely enough there’s not a lot of them out there. It’s especially interesting to think about the “dirty war” of the paramilitaries in Colombia in the context of the other “dirty wars” going on at the time in Central American countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala. Sometimes it feels like my generation (or maybe it’s just me) keeps forgetting how strong and prevalent the “fear of Communism” was in the 50’s and 60’s. It seems utterly surreal and bizarre to me, but it was a very, very present fear and preocupation in those days, the communists vs. the capitalists. There’s interesting discussions throughout the book of Marxism vs. Stalinism. “The principle of Marxism is that there is incessant change; everything is in movement… Marx said don’t try to accomodate reality to the theory; do the opposite. But Stalin, he decided to make Marx a religion.” (229) Thus everything becomes very dogmatic with Stalinism. One of the problems with the FARC seems to be is that the y chose Stalinism over Marxism, leading to very rigid policies and little room for adaptability to current situations (i.e., taking into account that they’re murdering the campesinos they’re supposedly fighting for).

Much is made in this book of Colombia’s long and troubled history of violence. Dudley consistenly muses on how “what’s amazing is that the majority of UP militants seemed to accept these initial fatalities as part of the business of doing politics in Colombia.” (93) It made me think of The Hurt Locker, a movie that I haven’t really thought about since seeing it last year, and its troubling depicton of war and violence as addictive. That war-as-drug theme feels a lot more real to me after reading this book.

Colombia’s history of violence also made me think about 10th-grade AP Politics class, doing research about the UK, and learning that they didn’t actually have a written constitution (I hope I’m remembering this correctly). As in, the only basis for government decision is not based on anything officially written down, but simply what’s always been down in the historical precedent. There are weird echoes of the power of historical tradition in Colombia. Apparently the Colombian constitution is considered one of the most liberal in Latin America, guaranteeing equal and sovereign rights for indigenous groups, but what actually happens vs. what is written is dramatically differently when you have nearly two centuries worth of politically-based murder (the UP was guaranteed protection by the government in the Constitution, but look how well that turned out).

Another reason to treasure this book is the trove of surreal anecdotes, so completely and utterly and indescribably Colombian. There’s the FARC commander who carries a pendulum around and uses it to make all his decisions, as well as to if his food is poisoned. There’s the surreal detail about the FARC buying its weapons from the “neighborhood store” in Bogota, during its lean early years. There’s the mega concert that takes place in FARC territory, in which the rebels provide concert security Hells Angel-style (some of them carrying cameras instead of rifles), and the controlers of the “legendary water cannons” take “special care not to wet the guerrillas” while drenching the attendees. (174) Or there’s the visit Dudley pays to a Communist party member who’s on an extreme diet with his wife and they both ogle Dudley’s huevos pericos, before relating an anecdote about finding an old buried cementery with his father in the middle of a parking lot. (185)

My favorite character in this book was Sebastian, maybe because he reminded me of myself, or of a boy I could have easily had a crush on in high school: skinny, idealist, intellectual. He talks about his years as a FARC and UP militant the same way most people talk about their college experiences. calling it the best five yars of his life: “It was like I entered the real world, you know… It was like I’d gotten a graduate degree in defending the people who were getting ***ed by the establishment.”  The early days of the FARC in the 1980’s, back when it still held romantic appeal for many, is paralleled with Sebastian’s own youth, who was in “the prime of his life” during the years in which he organized theatre performances and taught FARC soldiers math and birth control methods (just for the record, telling a girl to swallow an uncooked lentil is not a viable form of birth control). His decline is paralleled with that of the FARC’s political idealism: by the book’s end, he’s selling “miniature replicas of famous Colombian churches that his neighbor made from clay,” living in a tiny apartment and struggling with alcoholism, much in the manner of a traumatized Vietnam vet. There’s a Bildingsroman novel in the style of El juguete rabioso lurking in here somewhere…

The most heartbreaking sections in this book (among many) are those that detail the slaughter the ordinary people of who made up the UP party: at a certain point the typical members became “young, energetic, idealistic… most of all, anti-war,” (134), people who could just as easily be you or me. Young university students, mayors of rural towns who wanted to pave their roads, people who didn’t like the way things were going. Imagine if you could get shot/raped/tortured for voting for Nader, and you might have a rough approximation of what it’s like to be a supporter of third-party politics in Colombia.
The sections about the paramilitaries are especially eerie and fascinating to read. There’s strong echoes of Blackwater (which I’m going to have to read more about) in the U.S. dealings with the paramilitary groups in Colombia. There’s a terrifying passage in which paramilitaries discuss how they’ve been hired to protect “business interests” in Colombia, particulary those of international companies (some of those listed include Texaco, whose name pops up again and again in this book in relation to narco and p.m. groups, Coca Cola, and Chiquita. This is the part that really freaked me out, drawn from Dudley’s interview with a famed p.m. leader:
“By working closely with U.S.-trained troops and protecting U.S. business interests, Castano seemed to be sending a message to what he liked to call ‘our neighbors to the north.’ He loved the United States. After Colombia, it was his favorite country. He dreamt of living there and studying sociology. He also admired the way the U.S. took charge of its own security… it was a feeling that many Colombians shared.” (201)
This is a guy that led close to ten thousand soliders, was heavily involved in narco trafficking and helped eliminate an entire political party, including a presidential candidate. There’s another paramilitary who’s particulary Bolano-esque, getting involved in the rare art trade, forging relationships with the world’s cultural and economic elite, and traveling frequently to galleries in New York and Paris. The relationship between dirty politics/wars and arts left me with a strong icky feeling, like I needed to take a shower.

Dudley frequently touches upon the bizarre Colombian tendency to forgive the paramilitaries for their actions and exonerate them for their crimes. As one judge puts it (re: the p.ms,) “At least they have some ideals. They’re fighting the guerrillas. Yeah, sometimes they do things they shouldn’t. But whatever.” (204) Dudley goes into more depth with his analysis of Colombian political culture in one particulary striking passage:

“Colombia’s politics has been called ‘the politics of anesthesia.’ There is so much death that people simply turn it off; they stop feeling. You see it in politicians that disreguard death threats. You see it in wealthy city dwellers who ignore the increasing poverty and murder in the countryside. You see it in the newspapers who bury the constant reports of massacres, bombings, and combat. The anesthesia only wears off when they’re directly affected by the war or when someone prods them with a stick. I would get berated by Colombians who thought international journalists were “only showing the bad side.” What other side was there? I would ask. But then, after a while, I understood why they had gotten angry with me. What choice do they have? This is their country, and the easiest way to deal with the everyday violence is to ignore it.” (180)

Yeah. This sounds like my childhood in a nutshell. There’s a certain point where art, where words, where reporting seems to just plain fail. While interviewing UP party members with family members that had been assasinated, Dudely succintly wraps up the section with a simple observation: “Others told similarly horrifying stories. There’s not enough room in one book to write them down.” (190) I guess at a certain point, words just fail you.

Mostly, the feeling I’m left with after reading this book is overwhelming sadness, at how violence begets violence. As one of the Communist party members who were integral to the formation of the UP  puts it, “Violence has its own dynamic, its own engine that can lead to the destruction of its very promoters. Violence escapes from the grasp of those who use it. It’s like a snowball that ends up finishing off everything. That’s why I’m decidedly against taking justice into your own hands.” (229)

And then in face of all the turmoil and havoc this book depicts, there’s my family. I kept turning to Corey while reading this and saying “I can’t believe that my parents stayed in Colombia for so long!!” Talk about putting a fresh perspective on things. I guess they managed to do so by living the way they did: a quiet, low-key lifestyle. I remember what I LOVED about CTY nerd camp sessions in the U.S. was those group trips where you walk through downtown Baltimore or wherever to the record store or to get an ice cream. Yeah, it sounds overdramatic, but it felt like a huge deal to me just to be able to walk through a city. There was an incredible sense of FREEDOM and LIBERATION when I went to college in the U.S. that I haven’t really thought about in a while, mainly because I’ve come to take it for granted. But I can’t blame my parents for that isolation, you know? There’s children in this book who spend their lives living behind giant walls, politicians that have seventy bodyguards. Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to put these stories together in a coherent form, to make them make sense.

Other books this book made me want to read:

Blackwater: the Rise of the World’s most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill
Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself by David Bushnell (what a title, huh?)
More Terrible Than Death: Massacre, Drugs and America’s War in Colombia by Robin Kirk (Dudley cites this one especially)
Colombia: Inside the Labyrinth by Jenny Pearce (published in 1990, might be dated)


Filed under books, colombia, non-fiction, social justice