Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean

2018 Longlist

A brilliant novel about the power of politics and personal memory from one of South America’s literary stars, the New York Times bestselling author of The Sound of Things Falling.

Javier Mallarino is a living legend. He is his country’s most influential political cartoonist, the consciousness of a nation. A man capable of repealing laws, overturning judges’ decisions, destroying politicians’ careers with his art. His weapons are pen and ink. Those in power fear him and pay him homage.

After four decades of a brilliant career, he’s at the height of his powers. But this all changes when he’s paid an unexpected visit from a young woman who upends his sense of personal history and forces him to re-evaluate his life and work, questioning his position in the world.

In Reputations, Juan Gabriel Vásquez examines the weight of the past, how a public persona intersects with private histories, and the burdens and surprises of memory. In this intimate novel that recalls authors like Coetzee and Ian McEwan, Vásquez plumbs universal experiences to create a masterful story, one that reverberates long after you turn the final page.

About the author & translator

Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s previous books include the 2014 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner and national bestseller, The Sound of Things Falling, as well as the award-winning The Informers, The Secret History of Costaguana, and the story collection Lovers on All Saints’ Day. Vásquez’s novels have been published in twenty-eight 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.

(from publisher)

Librarian’s comments

Political cartoonist Javier Mallarino’s powerful depictions of government officials arouse dread and loathing, but also a secret yearning to be the subject of his scathing caricatures. The autocrats see his work as validation of their own threatening control over others. Not without fault, Mallarino falls prey to an incident from his past. His murky memory of this event comes back to haunt him in a very manipulative way. The novel raises questions about the power of authority figures and of artists, also moral responsibility, hubris, and forgetfulness. For a country or an individual if there is no memory about what has taken place, then there is no history and there cannot be any truth or justice. Through his novels Vásquez continues fearlessly to examine his own country, Colombia.

2014 – The Sound of Things Falling

Translated from the original Spanish by Anne McLean

2014 Winner – Watch Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s Acceptance Speech

2014 Shortlist     2014 Longlist     Judging Panel   Libraries

Judges’ Citation

The Sound of Things Falling is a consummate literary thriller that resonates long after the final page. Through a masterly command of layered time periods, spiralling mysteries and a noir palette, it reveals how intimate lives are overshadowed by history; how the past preys on the present; and how the fate of individuals as well as countries is moulded by distant, or covert, events.

The main setting in a drizzly and overcast Andean capital, Bogotá, evokes a darkly atmospheric Colombian landscape far from the sultry Caribbean coast made familiar through the fiction of Gabriel García Márquez. The narrator, Antonio Yammara, is a law lecturer tipped into a parallel underworld through a drive-by motorbike shooting that injures him and kills his billiard-hall acquaintance, the shadowy pilot Ricardo Laverde – who is just out after serving almost 20 years in jail. Through the lecturer’s compulsive investigation of the pilot’s criminal past, the novel deftly sketches the history of the drug trade in one South American country. Through vivid secondary characters, such as a sinister Chicago drop-out and US Peace Corps volunteer, it traces the tutelary, and often forgotten, role played in the incipient trade by a generation of North American adventurers in the 1960s and 70s – some of them Vietnam veterans.

Yet it is in the novel’s most intimate relationships that the human costs of this illegal trade are felt. The portrait of Yammara’s foundering marriage to the young Aura is painfully frank, rendered in language that is deliberately muted as he succumbs to post-traumatic stress. The desolate bond he forms with the pilot’s disturbed and reclusive daughter Maya, which is built on shared trauma, evokes an entire generation psychologically scarred by the terrorist bombings and targeted killings of the 1980s and early 1990s, when the drug cartels declared open war on the government.

Through superb use of metaphor, the novel evokes a world of precarious flight and desperate, last-ditch ambition, in which everything is falling; nothing is secure. Airliners drop out of the sky, marriages crash and burn, daredevil pilots make lethal miscalculations, and family men make flawed choices. Almost anything can be corrupted by the glittering promise of unimaginable wealth, and fate or fluke is the name we give to events beyond our control that lay waste to our soaring dreams. Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s tragic vision is marvellously served by Anne McLean’s supple and idiomatic translation.

About the Book

No sooner does he get to know Ricardo Laverde in a seedy billiard hall in Bogotá than Antonio Yammara realises that the ex-pilot has a secret. Antonio’s fascination with his new friend’s life grows until the day Ricardo receives a mysterious, unmarked cassette. Shortly afterwards, he is shot dead on a street corner. Yammara’s investigation into what happened leads back to the early 1960s, marijuana smuggling and a time before the cocaine trade trapped Colombia in a living nightmare.

(From Publisher)

About the Author

Juan Gabriel Vásquez was born in Bogotá in 1973. He studied Latin American literature at the Sorbonne between 1996 and 1998, and has translated works by E. M. Forster and Victor Hugo, among others, into Spanish. He was nominated as one of the Bogotá 39, South America’s most promising writers of the new generation. His previous books include The Informers, which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and The Secret History of Costaguana, which won the Qwerty prize in Barcelona. His books have been published in fifteen languages worldwide. After sixteen years in France, Belgium and Spain, he now lives in Bogotá.

Librarian’s Comments

Vásquez was a finalist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in the UK with The Sound of Things Falling. His work has been translated into English, French and Polish. He won the Qwerty Prize for best book of fiction in the Spanish language and the Foundation Books & Letters Award for best book of fiction. He also received the 2011 Alfaguara Award and the Roger Caillois prize in 2012.