- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1st edition (July 21, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594634262
- ISBN-13: 978-1594634260
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,267,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lovers on All Saints' Day: Stories Hardcover – July 21, 2015
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Praise for Lovers on All Saints' Day:
“[Vásquez's] prose is rich in detail and sparkles with poetic lushness, as well as echoing the realist canon in the superb control of plot, setting and characters. Without truculence, he delivers a tense and exciting read.” — Miami Herald
"With few exceptions, the seven stories that compose the collection dwell with hunters, journalists, disgruntled heirs to stately property — but, whatever their occupations and interests, Vásquez searches them out in details that might otherwise have gotten squandered... At times it takes darkness — literally, in the case of the long night in 'Life on Grimsey Island' the collection's final story — to arrive at searing illumination." — NPR
“The twinned themes of this collection are love and memory, which Vásquez unspools through stories about love affairs, revenge, troubled histories — whole lives and worlds sketched with a few deft strokes.” — The Millions
“Here are revenge, murder and infidelity, dealt with in an elegant, detailed style.” — Financial Times
“[A] pervading atmosphere of melancholy, mists and rural isolation: it is this that gives the collection its powerful sense of coherence and unity…. [Lovers on All Saints' Day is] a testimony to the early, dark brilliance of Vasquez’ writing.” — Sunday Times (UK)
Praise for The Sound of Things Falling:
Winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2014
"[A] Brilliant new novel...gripping...absorbing right to the end. The Sound of Things Falling may be a page turner, but it's also a deep meditation on fate and death." —Edmund White, The New York Times Book Review
"Deeply affecting and closely observed." —Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times
"Like Bolaño, [Vásquez] is a master stylist and a virtuoso of patient pacing and intricate structure, and he uses the novel for much the same purpose that Bolaño did: to map the deep, cascading damage done to our world by greed and violence and to concede that even love can’t repair it." —Lev Grossman, Time Magazine
“The narrative escalates, the mystery deepens, and the scope of the story widens with each page. This terrific novel draws on Colombia’s tragic history and cycles of violence to tell the story of a troubled man trying to come to grips with the distant forces and events that have shaped his life.” —Khaled Hosseini
"Juan Gabriel Vásquez is a considerable writer. The Sound of Things Falling is an artful, ruminative mystery... And the reader comes away haunted by its strong playing out of an irreversible fate." —E. L. Doctorow
"Razor-sharp" —O, the Oprah Magazine
“An undoubted talent… Introspective and personal.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Vásquez creates characters whose memories resonate powerfully across an ingeniously interlocking structure…Vásquez creates a compelling literary work—one where an engaging narrative envelops poignant memories of a fraught historical period.” —The New Republic
“The Sound of Things Falling is a masterful chronicle of how the violence between the cartels and government forces spilled out to affect and corrode ordinary lives. It is also Vásquez's finest work to date…. His stark realism - the flip side of the magical variation of his compatriot Gabriel Garcia Marquez - together with his lyrical treatment of memory produces both an electrifying and a sobering read.” –San Francisco Chronicle
Praise for Juan Gabriel Vásquez:
"From the opening paragraph of The Informers, I felt myself under the spell of a masterful writer. Juan Gabriel Vásquez has many gifts—intelligence, wit, energy, a deep vein of feeling—but he uses them so naturally that soon enough one forgets one's amazement at his talents, and then the strange, beautiful sorcery of his tale takes hold.” —Nicole Krauss
“Juan Gabriel Vásquez is one of the most original new voices of Latin American literature. His first novel, The Informers, a very powerful story about the shadowy years immediately following World War II, is testimony to the richness of his imagination as well as the subtlety and elegance of his prose.” —Mario Vargas Llosa
“What Vásquez offers us, with great narrative skill, is that grey area of human actions and awareness where our capacity to make mistakes, betray, and conceal creates a chain reaction which condemns us to a world without satisfaction. Friends and enemies, wives and lovers, parents and children mix and mingle angrily, silently, blindly, while the novelist uses irony and ellipsis to unmask his characters’ 'self-protective strategies' and goes with them – not discovering them, simply accompanying them – as they come to understand that an unsatisfactory life can also be the life they inherit.” —Carlos Fuentes
“For anyone who has read the entire works of Gabriel García Márquez and is in search of a new Colombian novelist, then Juan Gabriel Vásquez's The Informers is a thrilling new discovery.” —Colm Tóibín
“A fine and frightening study of how the past preys upon the present, and an absorbing revelation of a little-known wing of the theatre of the Nazi war.” —John Banville
Praise for The Informers:
"[A] remarkable novel. It deals with big universal themes... It is the best work of literary fiction to come my way since 2005…and into the bargain it is immensely entertaining, with twists and turns of plot that yield great satisfaction." —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
“One hallmark of a gifted novelist is the ability to see the potential for compelling fiction in an incident, anecdote or scrap of history, no matter how dry or seemingly obscure, that others have overlooked. By that standard and several others, the career of Juan Gabriel Vásquez…is off to a notable start.…[A] straight-ahead, old-fashioned narrative… Two years ago Mr. Vásquez was included on a list of the most ‘important’ Latin American writers under 40, nominated by more than 2,000 authors, literary agents, librarians, editors and critics. The Informers alone justifies their choice, given its challenging subject and psychological depth, but clearly there are bigger and even more intriguing things on the way.” — Larry Rohter, The New York Times
“Chilling…The past is a shadow-bound, elusive creature in [The Informers]… When pursued it may flee, or, if cornered, it may unleash terrible truths.” —Los Angeles Times
“Compelling…The book combines a reflection on the delicate bonds of family, a journey through one of the few untold stories of World War II and even a look at the sometimes parasitic nature of the media… What sets The Informers, apart from other historical novels is Vasquez's questioning of his own role as muckraker and writer.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Dramatic and surprising…” —Harper’s Magazine
Praise for The Secret History of Costaguana:
“An intricately detailed, audacious reframing of Nostromo, the classic 1904 Joseph Conrad tale of power, corruption, intrigue and revolution in a South American country he called Costaguana. The Secret History of Costaguana is a potent mixture of history, fiction and literary gamesmanship. Vásquez's themes are of the moment: powerful countries (the U.S. foremost among them) dabbling in Latin American politics, bribing politicians and journalists, trolling for profits; European writers appropriating history for their own tales. His particular triumph with this novel is to remind us, as Balzac put it, that novels can be ‘the private histories of nations.’”—Los Angeles Times
"[A] post-modern literary revenge story.” —The New York Times
“[An] exceptional new novel…When Mr. Vásquez, like Conrad, focuses on the individuals trapped in these national tragicomedies, he displays a keen emotional and moral awareness. The Secret History of Costaguana is a cunning tribute to a classic, but it also stands on its own merits as a dense and involving story about men who are either manipulating history or finding themselves at the barrel-end of it.” —Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s books include the forthcoming novel Reputations, as well as the 2014 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner and national bestseller, The Sound of Things Falling, and the award-winning The Informers and The Secret History of Costaguana. Vásquez’s books have been published in twenty-five languages worldwide. After sixteen years in France, Belgium, and Spain, he now lives in Bogotá.
Anne McLean translates Latin American and Spanish novels, short stories, memoirs, and other writings. She has twice won both the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Premio Valle Inclán, and received the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award with Juan Gabriel Vásquez for his novel The Sound of Things Falling. She lives in Toronto.
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Top customer reviews
This collection of stories dates back to the 1998-2002 period, when Vásquez lived in Belgium and later in Barcelona. They are heavy with Belgian local color (mostly gray and rainy, it seems) and linear, lacking the unfolding of the story behind the story that characterizes his best writing. Perhaps they were experiments, or targeted for particular publications, but the language lacks his usual crisp edge and the passage between internal and external action is much less skillful than the novels.
I'd give this a pass and re-read The Informers.
For the subject of almost all the stories is emotional aridity, generally in the context of a failing marriage. The opening piece, "Hiding Places," is a little diffuse, but its meaning seems clear: its characters are all deliberately hiding, avoiding the need to come to grips with their problems. I suppose it is placed first since its theme, the reluctance to engage, is central to the whole collection. But it is not half as good as the almost-title story, "The All Saints' Day Lovers," which is placed second. This is simply brilliant. A man, aware that his wife is about to leave him, does something rather stupid; but things take an unexpected turn, and then another, and then another.... It could have ended several times, and each ending would have made a different point. This is a characteristic of Vásquez' stories; at roughly 40 pages each, they go on well beyond the point where another writer -- Maupassant, say, or Raymond Carver -- might have stopped; their point is less in the event than in the aftermath, in the life that extends beyond the end of the story since it had started well before it. [There is, though, one quite different story that is almost pure Maupassant, "The Return," about a murderess released from prison after four decades; it is also the shortest in the book.]
Although not the main subject in any of them, one more theme crops up in almost every story: the difficult relationship between parents and their grown children. It is clearest in the Paris story, "At the Café de la République," where the protagonist gets his separated wife to join him on an annual visit to his father, because it will be easier if the old man thinks they are still together. And it crops up notably in the last story of all, "Life on Grímsey Island," my favorite because it seems the most personal. Personal, but not at first warm. Beginning with a one-night stand in a French automat hotel, it is surely the epitome of suburban anomie; it is a far cry geographically from the tiny arctic island off the coast of Iceland mentioned in the title. Yet that is the perfect symbol of the emotional isolation experienced by the young man who throws over his father's considerable legacy and the sad veterinarian with whom he hooks up. This story will touch a depth of tragedy greater than anywhere else in the collection. But as Vásquez goes beyond the natural ending point yet again, it miraculously offers just a glimmer of hope.
I have been intrigued and excited by Vásquez's later novels, but never so touched emotionally as by these early stories. It is good to see him, not merely as a Latin American author, but as a writer of human lives anywhere.
Later this month, Gabriel Vasquez is publishing a collection of short stories, “Lovers on All Saints’ Day,” that were first written when he was living in Belgium and Barcelona. Describing them, he quotes the writer Tobias Wolff: “a book of stories should be like a novel in which the characters don’t know each other.”
And that is exactly how this collection of stories reads.
Six of the seven stories are set in Belgium, mostly in the Ardennes Forest region but also including Brussels and smaller towns (one story is in Paris). Each is about relationships, and mostly husband-wife relationships. Each is about deterioration of those relationships. And each is about time, and how the past is never really past but always a part of the present, and the future.
In “Hiding Places,” a freelance writer visits friends in Brussels, and walks into a family tragedy. In “The All Saints’ Day Lovers,” a marriage is evaporating; the husband spends the night with a café owner who lost her husband in a plane accident, and each relationship becomes a kind of metaphor for the other. “The Lodger” concerns what happens with a couple more than 20 years after the wife has an affair with the husband’s best friend.
In “The Return,” a woman paroled after spent 45 years in prison for killing her sister’s fiancé comes home, and past and present become intermingled. “At the Café de la Republique,” a couple recently separated meet so they can visit the husband’s dying father. In “The Solitude of the Magician,” a woman has an affair with a magician, ultimately leading to a family tragedy. And “Life on Grimsey Island” describes two people, she a veterinarian and he the reluctant owner of his father’s stables, both trying to escape their pasts.
These are somber stories, filled with loss and tragedy, with people trying to cope with intense personal loss with little to guide them. The writing is spare; nothing in these stories is gratuitous. The impression is always clouds, rain and cold. Each story has a sense of inevitability, as if the characters can’t really prevent what is going to happen. Or not happen.
“Lovers on All Saints’ Day” is a commentary on contemporary relationships. And little of what Gabriel Vasquez sees is good.
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