the shape of the ruins

by uzwi

Bombings, shootings, riots, betrayal, misrepresentation, theft of evidence and, above all, conspiracy: Juan Gabriel Vasquez’s novel The Shape of the Ruins (translated by Anne McLean) contains in 500 pages more plot, more mystery, more action than five ordinary novels. The events it confronts are so complex–so chaotic–that it can’t, in a sense, be reviewed: the only true way to review the Uribe and Gaitan killings, in their national, historical and literary setting, would be to study for a decade or two, then write a further 500 page overview, which would include all the previous views on which Vasquez draws. The reviewer would, in fact–and this is perhaps Vasquez’s point–have to give in to the paranoid, Borgesian terraced-reality of it all, and begin the lonely, obsessive and probably fruitless process of rearranging what Vasquez memorably calls “stickers in a football album”. Evidently there wasn’t time to do that. So here’s my review of the novel, as a deeply enjoyable novel rather than a historical, political or criminal investigation, in the Guardian…