As Colombia’s famed political cartoonist, Javier Mallarino, strolls through downtown Bogotá in the hours before a public celebration of his career in the grand Teatro Colón, he contemplates the start of his professional life, and how he set down his oils and took up a pen to begin drawing caricatures for a living. But the celebration has far-reaching consequences: as he leaves the theatre a figure from his past, now a young woman, emerges from the crowd outside and forces Mallarino to confront an incident that took place in his home half a lifetime ago, calling into question his reputation and the value of his life’s work.
Vásquez’s terse, poetic prose contrasts starkly with the intense and sharply focused content of this beautifully structured short novel. Questioning the power of memory and the media, and their ability to distort, inform and destroy, Vásquez plays with the past and the present, challenging our perception of the truth.
Juan Gabriel Vásquez was born in Bogotá in 1973. He studied Latin America literature at the Sorbonne, and has translated works by E. M. Forster and Victor Hugo, amongst others, into Spanish. His previous books have won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Alfaguara Prize, the Gregor von Rezzori Prize, the Prix Roger Caillois and he has been shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Reputations was awarded the Royal Spanish Academy Prize in 2014. His books have been published in twenty-six languages and forty countries. After sixteen years in France, Belgium and Spain, he now lives in Bogotà.
Anne McLean has translated works by many Spanish and Latin American authors including Hector Abad, Carmen Martin Gaite, Julio Cortàzar, Ignacio Martínez de Pisòn, Enrique Vila-Matas and Tomàs Eloy Martínez. She lives in Toronto.