When we think about Colombian literature, we think Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But that tends to be tunnel vision, as if we were to only think about American lit and Ernest Hemingway.
Contemporary Colombian authors have added to the body of Latin American literature in phenomenal ways to paint Colombian life with words, stories, and such far-fetched tales of truth that you’d think that you were reading about another place on another planet.
One of Colombia’s challenges as a place to project its talent is the lack of a major publishing house. So there are many voices lost to the fact that there’s no major distribution for some pretty spectacular works. That said, Colombian authors looking for a bigger platform have to look into Spain, Mexico and Argentina.As with the arts, it’s an uphill battle to get things out there, but the ones who have managed to break through the barriers and hurdle obstacles are noteworthy.
Here are three of my favorite, contemporary Colombian authors:
Jorge Franco is best known for Rosario Tijeras, the tale of a woman sicario (the motorcycle-riding hitmen in the 1980s) and the dark side of life in Medellin during the 1980 and 1990s. One of my favorites of his, though, is Paraiso Travel, the story of two young Colombians who go through the “hueco” in Mexico to get to New York, then get separated and lose each other. The story of an illegal immigrant in the States is powerful. Franco’s voice is a gift in the world of literature and one that explores contemporary Colombian realities.
German Castro Caycedo, like Gabo, has a background in journalism. He’s written many chronicles about the curious, folkloric, and inconceivable realities of Colombia — everything from a gypsy witch’s power in Colombian politics and with local drug lords in la Bruja to the dangerous illegal crossing to the United States in el Hueco. He’s written about unresolved mysteries and anecdotal historical events that weave great investigative journalism with the magic that’s so proper to Colombian writing.
Laura Restrepo is, to date, the most well-known contemporary female voice in Colombian literature. She’s had an extensive career, even writing a children’s book. (So she must be good because only the best write for children). Delirium, her 2004 novel about a man who returns from a business trip to find his wife completely mad, is the novel that gave her the extra push into the spotlight she deserves.