The Sound of Things Falling

The Sound of Things Falling

4.0 12
by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
     
 

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* One of NPR’s 6 Best Books of the Summer

Esquire recommends The Sound of Things Falling “if you read only one book this month”

• Starred early reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and Kirkus

• Lauded by Jonathan Franzen, E. L. Doctorow and many others

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Overview

* One of NPR’s 6 Best Books of the Summer

Esquire recommends The Sound of Things Falling “if you read only one book this month”

• Starred early reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and Kirkus

• Lauded by Jonathan Franzen, E. L. Doctorow and many others
 
From a global literary star comes a prize-winning tour de force – an intimate portrayal of the drug wars in Colombia.

Juan Gabriel Vásquez has been hailed not only as one of South America’s greatest literary stars, but also as one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. In this gorgeously wrought, award-winning novel, Vásquez confronts the history of his home country, Colombia.
 
In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above. Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.
 
Vásquez is “one of the most original new voices of Latin American literature,” according to Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and The Sound of Things Falling is his most personal, most contemporary novel to date, a masterpiece that takes his writing—and will take his literary star—even higher.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Edmund White
Juan Gabriel Vásquez's brilliant new novel rejects the vivid colors and mythical transformations of [García Márquez's] Caribbean masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, in favor of the cold, bitter poetry of Bogotá and the hushed intensity of young married love…A gripping novel, absorbing right to the end…The Sound of Things Falling…[is] also a deep meditation on fate and death. Even in translation, the superb quality of Vásquez's prose is evident, captured in Anne McLean's idiomatic English version. All the novel's characters are well imagined, original and rounded. Bogotá and the Colombian countryside are beautifully if grimly described.
Publishers Weekly
“That story is to blame,” declares a character in Colombian author Vasquez’s latest novel (after The Secret History of Costaguana). Indeed, this book is an exploration of the ways in which stories profoundly impact lives. Around 1996, when murder and bloody mayhem fueled by the drug trade were commonplace in Bogotá, the young law professor Antonio Yammara befriends enigmatic stranger Ricardo Laverde. One night, assassins on motorbikes open fire on the two, killing Laverde and seriously wounding Yammara. Conflicted and at a loss to understand the damage Laverde has wrought, Yammara looks into his life story. Yammara suffers from crippling psychic and physical wounds as a result of the shooting, and his investigation takes him to Laverde’s shabby Bogotá apartment, where he receives a gruesome clue from the grieving landlady. Yammara eventually finds Laverde’s daughter Maya, a beekeeper who lives in the Colombian countryside. She shows Yammara photos and letters she’s collected about the father she never knew. Together they lose themselves in stories of Laverde’s childhood; of Maya’s American mother, Elaine Fritts; and of Elaine and Laverde’s love affair. Vasquez allows the story to become Elaine’s, and as the puzzle of Laverde is pieced together, Yammara comes to realize just how thoroughly the stories of these other people are part of his own. Agent: Casanovas & Lynch Agencia Literaria (Spain). (Aug.)
Library Journal
In this latest from Vásquez (The Informers), law professor Antonio Yammara recalls befriending retired pilot and former convict Ricardo Laverde, who is later killed in a shooting in which Yammara is seriously wounded. The murder propels an extensive inquiry into Laverde's background as events gradually rewind. We discover that Laverde's estranged American wife was killed in a plane crash en route to an attempted reconciliation and that his apiarist daughter Maya engaged Yammara to explore the life of a father whom she barely knew. Only near the very end do we discover Laverde's involvement in one of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar's drug cartels. Yet Vásquez does not emphasize the drug trafficking, instead focusing on poor choices and the role of memory in the retelling of events: "reality [is] adjusted to the memory we have of it." VERDICT The compelling Vásquez strikes comparisons that hold up even in translation. Readers expecting a thrilling reenactment of the Colombian drug wars of the 1990s should look elsewhere, but those seeking a more genuine and magnificently written examination of memory's persistence will be satisfied. [See Prepub Alert, 2/25/13.]—Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH
Kirkus Reviews
An odd coincidence leads Antonio Yammara, a law professor and narrator of this novel from Latin American author Vásquez (The Informers, 2009, etc.), deep into the mystery of personality, both his own and especially that of Ricardo Laverde, a casual acquaintance of Yammara before he was gunned down on the streets of Bogotá. The catalyst for memory here is perhaps unique in the history of the novel, for Yammara begins by recounting an anecdote involving a hippopotamus that had escaped from a zoo established in Colombia's Magdalena Valley by the drug baron Pablo Escobar. After the hippo is shot, Yammara is taken back 13 years to his acquaintance with Laverde, a pilot involved in drug running. Yammara is a youngish professor of law in Bogotá, and, generally bored, he spends his nights bedding his students and playing billiards. Engaged in the latter activity, Yammara meets Laverde without knowing his background—for example, that Laverde had just been released from a 19-year prison stint for drug activity. A short time later, Yammara is with Laverde when the drug runner is murdered, and Yammara is also hit by a bullet. He is both angered and intrigued by Laverde's murder and wants to find out the mystery behind his life. His curiosity leads him circuitously to Laverde's relationship with Elena, his American wife, whose death in a plane accident Laverde was grieving over at the time of his murder. Yammara meets Maya Fritts, Laverde's daughter by Elena, who fills in some of the gaps in Yammara's knowledge, and the intimacy that arises from Yammara's growing knowledge of Laverde's family leads him and Maya to briefly become lovers. Toward the end of the novel, Yammara comments that Maya wrinkles her brow "like someone who's on the verge of understanding something," and this ambiguous borderland where things don't quite come into coherent focus is where most of the characters remain.
From the Publisher
Praise for The Sound of Things Falling
 
"[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
 
 

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594487484
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/01/2013
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
926,780
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.14(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for The Sound of Things Falling
 
"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

"If you only read one book this month..." – Esquire

"Razor-sharp" – O, the Oprah Magazine

"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

UK Praise for The Sound of Things Falling

“Vásquez shows how the personal is linked to the political… The story is compelling but through Vásquez’s vivid prose (rendered brilliantly into English by the award-winning translator Anne McLean) it also becomes haunting…. [A] poignant and perturbing tale about the inheritance of fear in a country scrabbling to regain its soul.” – Financial Times

“[C]ompelling, beautifully translated…. [E]lucidates with great acuity the complex relationship between memory and trauma… In this hugely affecting novel, it is the silent suffering that haunts the most…. Engrossing…. Vásquez holds his tightly crafted narrative together with admirable stylistic control as he shows a world falling apart and the redemptive powers of love and language to rebuild it.” – The Guardian

"The Sound of Things Falling, which won Spain's Alfaguara prize last year, focuses on the bewilderment and fear of a society corrupted and taken over by stealth. It confirms Vásquez's mastery of a sophisticated form of Latin American literary noir that leads the reader through Borgesian labyrinths. In navigating them, with guiding lights ranging from Conrad to Le Carré, his fiction also reveals the role of outsiders in a violent history…. [T]his novel affords a rare understanding of the inhuman costs on the other side.” – The Guardian

“Vasquez brings vividly to life that grey, isolated, landlocked city in the mountains where suspicion and fear ruled the streets for so many years.” – The Daily Mail (UK)

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 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  
 
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

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