Cocaine Train: Tracing My Bloodline Through Colombia

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19 No. 1 - The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers

But the publication of Gerald Martin's official biography is a welcome opportunity to foreground the worldliness of his writing, its head-clearing skankiness. It's the neglected element in what John Updike calls 'the curious blend of the enchanted and the squalid' in his work.

It's true that his stories are exuberantly folkloric and take liberties with time. But any idea that they are out of touch with reality fails to survive contact with the extraordinariness of Colombian life. Or with his own life, come to that, as it emerges from the punctilious minutes of Martin's account. Is there anything in his supposedly outlandish canon to overshadow the genuine exploits of Colombian drug barons, who stocked their ranches with flamingoes and hippos airlifted from Africa?

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On the day Gabo's baby brother was christened, 'a local trumpeter had his throat slit at the very moment he was straining to blow the highest, wildest note'. Against this highly-coloured backdrop, his novels begin to look like models of diffidence and stylistic frugality. To the chagrin of the then struggling wordsmith, his typewriter was carried off by a mob that looted a pawnshop where it was in hock.

My inexperience with Cocaine in Colombia (subtitulado en español)

His non-fiction stands comparison with his novels, and readers who fear that candy-coated magical realism will strip their enamel are directed to News of a Kidnapping, a never-bettered study of one of Colombia's staple earners of hard currency. He is now in his eighties, and Martin alludes delicately to failing health. For more information see our Cookie Policy.


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Cocaine Train: Tracing My Bloodline Through Colombia

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