The Sound of Things Falling Paperback – June 3, 2014
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"[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, [Vasquez] 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
"Juan Gabriel Vasquez 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
"Compelling…genuine and magnificently written." —Library Journal, STARRED
“Literary magic of one of Latin America’s most talented novelists…a masterpiece.” —Booklist, STARRED
“An exploration in the ways in which stories profoundly impact our lives.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED
“Languid existential noir, one that may put you in mind of Paul Auster.” —Dwight Garner, New York Times
"If you only read one book this month..." —Esquire
"Razor-sharp" —O, the Oprah Magazine
“An undoubted talent… Introspective and personal.” —The Wall Street Journal
"It's noir raised to the level of art. It's a page-turner but it's also a profound meditation on fate and mortality." —2013 Premior Gregor von Rezzori Prize announcement
“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.” —Malcolm Forbes, San Francisco Chronicle
“Haunting…Vasquez brilliantly and sensitively illuminates the intimate effects and whispers of life under siege, and the moral ambiguities that inform survival.” – Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Moving… The novel presents the human toll exacted by the country’s years of violence.” – New York Observer
“Quietly elegant… Vásquez is a resourceful storyteller. Scenes and dialogue shine with well-chosen details. His theme echoes compellingly through family parallels, ill-fated flights and even a recurring hippo motif. He shrugs off the long shadow of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with a gritty realism that has its own persuasive magic.” — Bloomberg News
Praise for Juan Gabriel Vasquez
"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
“To read The Informers is to enjoy the shock of new talent… [Vásquez’s] novel is subtle, surprising and deeply pleasurable, with razors secreted among its pages.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“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
“Unlike anything written by his Latin American contemporaries. If there is any prevailing influence in this chilling work, it is in the late German writer, W.G. Sebald…The Informers deserves to be read…[O]ne of this year’s outstanding books.” —The Financial Times
“Masterful…Vásquez has much in common with Roberto Bolaño…. But unlike Bolaño’s stolid, serviceable prose, Vásquez’s style is musical, occasionally even lush, and its poeticism remains unmuddled in McLean’s translation.” —Bookforum
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
“[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
[A] post-modern literary revenge story.” —The New York Times
About the Author
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.
- Publisher : Riverhead Books (June 3, 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 302 pages
- ISBN-10 : 159463274X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1594632747
- Item Weight : 8.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.02 x 0.84 x 8.03 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #319,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The title of the novel is exquisitely apropos for the events and the setting, adequately encapsulating the significance of the text. The title foreshadows all the action of the novel. The Sound of Things Falling is the fictional story of Antonío Yammara and Ricardo Laverde knitted within a framework full of the ignoble history of the Colombian drug violence in the last half of the twentieth century. Vásquez' setting is real, drawn from history and contains details of actual historical figures such as drug czar Pablo Escobar. Vásquez captures the manners and social conditions of the people and the times in the story, with detail and fidelity.
Antonío is a young professor of law whose life is good, he has a nice apartment, a beautiful girlfriend and a baby on the way. He becomes acquainted with Ricardo Laverde whom he meets in a Bogota pool hall. Rumor has it that Laverde has spent the last twenty years in prison. Laverde is quiet and unassuming and offers no insight into his past.
Antonío's contented life is shattered when one afternoon as he and Laverde are walking on a city street they become victims of a drive-by shooting. Laverde is killed and Antonío is gravely wounded physically, mentally and emotionally. Antonío slowly heals physically but his psyche is crushed by excruciating post-traumatic stress.
Completely consumed with his stress and fear, Antonío becomes engrossed in his search for the history of Valverde and why he was killed. Antonío discovers the chimeras and deceptions of the people of Valverde's generation when the thriving marijuana market gave way to that of cocaine and the "war on drugs" was declared by the president of the United States.
This book explores various themes such as the drug commerce in Colombia and how the actions of one person can have ramifications that effect many others for generations. The story touches on how it feels to be vulnerable, even helpless in a time when innocents are shot down in cold blood, planes fall from the sky and intense memories of the past come out of nowhere to terrorize and immobilize those who lived through the experience.
The English translation done by Anne McLean is impeccable. McLean manages to translate Vásquez' Spanish prose into beautifully written English. McLean has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize twice.
I highly recommend The Sound of Things Falling for its gripping telling of a personal aspect of the horrific events that occurred in Columbia during its most dreadful era. Juan Gabriel Vásquez surpasses expectations in this unforgettably tragic tale.
I purchased my copy of this book with my own funds and received no compensation for the review.
This distinctive novel is about, on one hand, Colombia and the culture of drugs, and on the other hand, how we are authors of our messy world (micro and macro) where we lose control of the impact of the consequences of choices, whether personal or foreign.
It’s the first time I read a novel dealing with Colombia and the author did not fail to impress me. I will be reading his previous books and keep up with his work.
It’s a beautiful narrative, condensed, full of meaning that tackles many themes such as: how all of us have tragic, unexpected, unwanted moments that changes forever the course of our life; how we become prisoner, “fugitives”; how we have no control due to unforeseen consequences. Also, the author depicts the Colombian culture and how future generations are victims of the war of drugs. It’s quite unique because the author shares all of this in an introspective manner, through the main character, Antonio. It’s multilayered and the author manages to interconnected all the dots, along the different generations through time, and along the various characters.
I will not be delving too much on the plot, but suffice to say, it’s a masterpiece. If you liked “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, you definitely will enjoy this one.This profound novel is easy to be identified with since all these life lessons and observations can be easily applied at some point of our lives.
Top reviews from other countries
Juan Gabriel Vasquez
This thought provoking novel by Juan Gabriel Vasquez begins with young lawyer Antonio Yammara in sombre mood. Having just followed the story of a recently destroyed Hippopotamus which had escaped from the Zoo in the Magdalena Valley,
“The persecution of innocent creatures by a heartless system”
Antonio ‘s desperate need to know the truth from his past misfortune is rekindled. Many years have passed since he first befriended Ricardo Laverde. An unlikely friendship ensued and Antonio seeks consolation in the telling of the story of the life of this man and in so doing casts a present light on the darkness of his Columbian past…..He recalls of their friendship;
“The brevity of our acquaintance and the longevity of it’s consequences”
Antonio’s friendship with Ricardo begins in an old billiard hall where the two drifting souls fall easily into each other’s company. Ricardo reveals very little of his life and work to Antonio but the common knowledge on the street is that Ricardo has spent twenty years in jail; the crimes for which no one has been able to ascertain.
Aura Rodriguez becomes romantically involved with Antonio and he is intrigued by her lack of contamination from the past. She did not live in Bogotá during the terrible drug crime driven era. She laughs fearlessly and openly and brings warmth and joy and then a child into the young lawyer’s life.
Ricardo invites Antonio into his humble abode one night after a heavy bout of drinking and Antonio declines. He is not quite sure why he does this and wonders there after could things have turned out differently;
“There is no more disastrous mania, no more dangerous whim, than the speculation over roads not taken”
On the day of his death; Ricardo has been listening to a tape recently handed to him. Antonio sits nearby watching his friend disintegrate in front of his eyes as he himself listens to one of his favoured poets; he wonders what could have reduced this outwardly hardened man to a tsunami flood of tears.
Antonio never gets the chance to ask his friend the reason for his turmoil. Ricardo removes the headphones and rushes outside. Then it happens…..
Ricardo is gone. Antonio survives with his sadness and his fear.
Miraculously the bullet missed his vital organs. He is deeply traumatised. Unable to grasp the world around him and then he begins:
“Seeing the gravity of my own situation in the tattered expressions of those around me”
Following many months of medical care and support from various doctors and therapists; Antonio is still struggling to function normally and live a decent life. His domestic life crumbles he finds himself returning to the last known abode of his old friend and it is here in the kitchen of the landlady he hears the contents of the tape.
He receives a message from a woman called Maya, he leaves to pursue the answers to the questions he needs to know. Aura is losing her ability to tolerate Antonio’s constant morbid reflection of the past.
Meeting with Maya in her remote home where she dutifully attends to her beloved bees, Antonio awaits the revelations from the wicker box Maya produces containing the truth about Ricardo’s mysterious past, and then his capture:
“Lying in a puddle with a broken ankle, his hands black with dirt, his clothes torn and covered in Pine gum and his face disfigured by sadness”
Maya and Antonio have both been irrevocably damaged by Ricardo’s life. They both find comfort and solace together during their few days spent reminiscing. Each understanding perfectly the others desperate need to grieve for a generation raised in fear, and deceit, a generation that witnessed the corruption and the callous crimes carried out as the drug demons demonstrated to all the citizens of Bogotá and beyond their ruthlessness and their willingness to protect their business at any cost.
Maya tells Antonio the story of her parents and how her mother happened to be a passenger on that ill fated plane. She explains how she, as a child thought her father had died in a plane crash somewhere in the vast ocean. Sleeping alone that night is not an option for either of them. They have both endured;
“What we call experience is not the inventory of our pains, but rather the learned sympathy towards the pain of others”
Some people will stop at nothing to keep a secret ‘secret.’ Secret locations must be kept secret. Human error must sometimes be kept secret for the greater good. There are times when a secret kept is done so for the right reasons or at least for what the protectors of this secret believe to be right at the time.
I enjoyed reading this book and I am very glad I was given the opportunity by Juan Gabriel Vasquez to learn of certain secrets that I would otherwise never have known. The author’s true passion and belief in the need to expose a past less lovely is demonstrated clearly in his writing of this novel. The reader is gifted with such wonderful imagery and the climate, terrain and vegetation is vivid throughout the book. Somehow Juan Gabriel has managed to make the scars of his past very eloquent indeed!
I would score this book 9 out of a possible 10.
Reviewed with honesty by The Mother Booker June 2014
(There are interesting asides also about the role of North Americans - some of them Peace Corps Volunteers - in the nurturing of the early drug trade.)
The protagonist, Antonio, having befriended a mysterious ex-prisoner, Ricardo, is seriously wounded by accident in a ride-by shooting. This event haunts him physically and emotionally and much of the book involves the laying bare of the past in order to try to understand what happened.
So there are the elements of unraveling a mystery, but this is much more than a "mystery" novel. It deals with - amongst other things - the fragility of life and the way that violence, or its aftermath years later, can reach into the safest corners of friendship and love in a pernicious way.
There is not a neat tying up of the ends at the conclusion of the book, but that only makes the predicament of Antonio more real; there are no happy endings; we are not in control of our lives; we cannot know what will happen next.
The translation of this book is excellent. There is none of the anachronistic slang that ruins so many translations. In fact you forget it is a translation because it flows so well.
It is fine to discover an intriguing new author, and I look forward to reading other books by Vasquez - "The Informers" next perhaps.
Novels by South American and Mexican writers are so often powerful, and give a jolt to sometimes jaded European literary expectations. This one is no exception.
I finished it recalling Garcia Marquez' phrase about "The solitude of Latin America" and eager to discover more books as good as "The Sound of Things Falling."
Simultaneously alongside the characters experiences in a very turbulent event, the Vasquez cleverly introduced the reader to the Colombian environment during those violent times not only confining the reader to instability but also reflecting the deep, rich, and colorful beauty found in Colombia in all its forms.