Sunday, June 26, 2011

Juan Gabriel Vásquez's The Informers

Juan Gabriel Vásquez's The Informers annoyed me at times.  It sagged in the middle, but is beautifully written and engaging enough to continue on.  The plot centers on Colombia during and just after World War II, as Germans (both Jews and Nazis) arrived and sought refuge.  The main character Gabriel Santoro published a book on the topic, based on the story of a family friend.  His father, a famous professor of rhetoric, trashed the book publicly, and the novel is about Gabriel gradually understanding why.

Colombia had U.S.-provided blacklists for Nazi sympathizers, which is critical to the story.  One family in particular was informed on, and the father's career--and life--destroyed.  The overarching theme is that we choose to say some things and keep other things hidden, and that words (or the absence of them) have tremendous and sometimes terrible consequences--imprisonment, murder, suicide.  That sounds banal, but Vásquez is very good at avoiding cliches, and weaving it into the extreme violence of Colombian political history (Jorge Eliécer Gaitán is a recurring reference).  Gabriel constantly has to face a question from many different people: "You oblige people to know what they might not want to know.  Why?" (p. 275).  He has no good answer.

The last part of the book is worth getting to, as the characters try to make sense of why some people choose to say some things and refuse to say others.


Defensores de Democracia 6:06 PM  

Mr Weeks :

Thanks for opportune and important information.

This is extremely shameful and should not be swept under the rug.

The most horrible inhuman, immoral and cruel things were done to Good Germans in Latin America during the Second World War. I know that very well after being told by the best sources.

Good People of Hard Work, industrious, honest and decent went to prison and were dispossessed of their assets. By Whom ??? ... by the worst scoundrels in Power.

This is similar to the Japanese in the USA during 1941 to 1945.

It is natural to feel love for the "Vaterland" and to have some identification with your past and family in Germany. 99% of these victims were not Dangerous Nazis.

The treatment of the Jews was also horrible, and some Latin American Nations may have rejected the Jews on bias, prejudice and stupidity.

Nothing is gained by telling patriotic lies of being wonderful human beings ( as Latin Americans ) when the past hides such horrors.

If Latin America is going to amount to something in the Future, then a first step is to recognize the horrors of the past and the present : Dictators, Endemic Corruption, Uselessness of a Kafkian Bureaucracy of Good for Nothing Bums, etc ... etc ...

Franz Kafka died before going to Latin America, he would have found ample material for horrible novels and scary metamorphosis.

Not to say that the Europe of Franz Kafka was not horrible.

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