News of a Kidnapping (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) (... Cover Art

News of a Kidnapping (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) (Paperback)

By: Gabriel García Márquez


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Review

During the 1980s, the government of Colombia signed a treaty with the United States allowing for the extradition of Colombian citizens. This caused a great deal of distress among the kingpins of the Medellín drug cartel. Why? Traffickers like Pablo Escobar had spent the decade exporting billions of dollars'' worth of cocaine. They weren''t likely to be arrested at home, but if extradited and tried in America, they would spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Escobar and his colleagues tried to a cut a deal with the government. Then Escobar decided that a little extralegal pressure--i.e., terrorism--could do no harm. In short order he had 10 prominent Colombians kidnapped; most were journalists, and all had professional or personal ties to the pro-extradition movement. Ultimately two of the hostages were shot. The remaining eight were released in a trickle, as the drug traffickers began to break ranks and surrender. So ended at least one episode in what Gabriel García Márquez calls "the biblical holocaust that has been consuming Colombia for more than twenty years."

García Márquez was originally invited to write about the kidnapping by Maruja Pachon, who spent six months in captivity. As he began to write, however, he realized that her story was inseparable from that of the other nine victims. The result is a meticulous, sobering, and suspenseful book. It is, of course, a work of reportage, which puts a lid on the author''s penchant for magic realism. But in the hands of a writer like García Márquez, truth makes fiction look paltry indeed.

Product note

During the 1980s, the government of Colombia signed a treaty with the United States allowing for the extradition of Colombian citizens. This caused a great deal of distress among the kingpins of the Medellín drug cartel. Why? Traffickers like Pablo Escobar had spent the decade exporting billions of dollars' worth of cocaine. They weren't likely to be arrested at home, but if extradited and tried in America, they would spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Escobar and his colleagues tried to a cut a deal with the government. Then Escobar decided that a little extralegal pressure--i.e., terrorism--could do no harm. In short order he had 10 prominent Colombians kidnapped; most were journalists, and all had professional or personal ties to the pro-extradition movement. Ultimately two of the hostages were shot. The remaining eight were released in a trickle, as the drug traffickers began to break ranks and surrender. So ended at least one episode in what Gabriel García Márquez calls "the biblical holocaust that has been consuming Colombia for more than twenty years."

García Márquez was originally invited to write about the kidnapping by Maruja Pachon, who spent six months in captivity. As he began to write, however, he realized that her story was inseparable from that of the other nine victims. The result is a meticulous, sobering, and suspenseful book. It is, of course, a work of reportage, which puts a lid on the author's penchant for magic realism. But in the hands of a writer like García Márquez, truth makes fiction look paltry indeed.

Short Desription

Consumed these past twenty years by a "biblical holocaust," Colombia has endured leftist insurgencies, right-wing death squads, currency collapses, cholera epidemics, and, most recently and corrosively, drug trafficking. Returning to his days as a reporter for El Espectador, Gabriel Garcia Marquez chronicles, with consummate skill, the period in late 1990 when Colombian security forces mounted a nationwide manhunt for Pablo Escobar, the ruthless and elusive head of the Medelln cartel. Ten men and women were abducted by Escobar's henchmen and used as bargaining chips against extradition to the United States. From the testimonies and diaries of the survivors, Garcia Marquez reconstructs their bizarre ordeal with cinematic intensity, breathtaking language, and rigor. We are drawn into a world that, like some phantasmagorical setting in a great Garcia Marquez novel, we can scarcely believe exists--but that continually shocks us with its cold, hard reality.



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