"A potent mixture of history, fiction and literary gamesmanship." —Los Angeles Times
"A cunning tribute to a classic." —Wall Street Journal
"[A] post-modern literary revenge story.” —The New York Times
An ingenious novel of historical invention from the global literary star author of The Sound of Things Falling.
On the day of Joseph Conrad's death in 1924, the Colombian-born José Altamirano begins to write and cannot stop. Many years before, he confessed to Conrad his life's every delicious detail—from his country's heroic revolutions to his darkest solitary moments. Those intimate recollections became Nostromo, a novel that solidified Conrad’s fame and turned Altamirano’s reality into a work of fiction. Now Conrad is dead, but the slate is by no means clear—Nostromo will live on and Altamirano must write himself back into existence.
As the destinies of real empires collide with the murky realities of imagined ones, Vásquez takes us from a flourishing twentieth-century London to the lawless fury of a blooming Panama and back in a labyrinthine quest to reclaim the past—of both a country and a man.
On the day Joseph Conrad dies in England, the Colombian-born Jos Altamirano begins to write, for the edification of his daughter, the true story of his life and country, which were taken, compressed, and repurposed by Conrad in Nostromo. This is the jumping-off point for the imaginative if flawed latest from V squez (The Informers), a bristling counternovel that aims to retrieve from Conrad's work two revolutions and the endless series of coups, gunfights, and voyages that characterize Colombia's "convulsive times." Jos begins with the story of his radical, exiled father, Miguel, who he goes to find in Panama. But he finds more than he bargained for: yellow fever outbreaks, the burning of Col n, plans for a strategically imperative canal, a visit by Sarah Bernhardt and Conrad himself, whose own history is interwoven with the rest. V squez is piercing in his attentions to who documents history and how whether in letters, newspaper articles, folk songs, or literature but the litany of battles and names captured here essentially smothers the novel's potential and fails to unseat its inspiration, not because this is made of more truth than fiction but because the informed fiction that results dismisses personality, romance, and style for zealous veracity.