News of a Kidnapping (Vintage International)

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9781400034932: News of a Kidnapping (Vintage International)

In 1990, fearing extradition to the United States, Pablo Escobar – head of the Medellín drug cartel – kidnapped ten notable Colombians to use as bargaining chips. With the eye of a poet, García Márquez describes the survivors’ perilous ordeal and the bizarre drama of the negotiations for their release. He also depicts the keening ache of Colombia after nearly forty years of rebel uprisings, right-wing death squads, currency collapse and narco-democracy. With cinematic intensity, breathtaking language and journalistic rigor, García Márquez evokes the sickness that inflicts his beloved country and how it penetrates every strata of society, from the lowliest peasant to the President himself.

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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.

From the Inside Flap:

This astonishing book by the Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez chronicles the 1990 kidnappings of ten Colombian men and women--all but one a journalist--by the Medellín drug boss Pablo Escobar. The carefully orchestrated abductions were Escobar's attempt to extort from the government its assurance that he, and other narcotics traffickers, would not be extradited to the United States if they were to surrender.

From the highest corridors of government to the domain of the ruthless drug cartels, we watch the unfolding of a bizarre drama replete with fascinating characters: César Gaviria, the nation's cool and secretive president; Diana Turbay, a famous television journalist and magazine editor; three indomitable women who are imprisoned for miserable months in a small room with a light perpetually on; an eighty-two-year-old priest with a mission to bring the regime and the cartel to the negotiating table; and Escobar himself, the legendary drug baron who changes his bodyguards daily and maintains a private zoo with giraffes and hippos from Africa.

All of this takes place in a country where presidential candidates and cabinet officers are routinely assassinated; where police go into the Medellín slums to murder boys they think may be working for Escobar; but where brave and honest citizens are trying desperately to make democracy survive.

An international best-seller, News of a Kidnapping combines journalistic tenacity with the breathtaking language and perception that distinguish the writings of Gabriel García Márquez. It draws us into a world that, like some phantasmagorical setting in a great García Márquez novel, we can scarcely believe exists--but that continually shocks us with its cold, hard reality.

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