Friday, July 25, 2008

The Truth and its Consequences (Books - The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez)

After reading the book, and seeing himself included in it, my friend Jorge Mor had called me and said, 'You've got every right, Gabriel, you've got every right in the world to tell whatever you like. But I felt strange, as if I'd walked into your room and seen you fucking someone. By accident, without meaning to. Reading the book I felt embarrassed, and I hadn't done anything to be ashamed of. You oblige people to know what they may not want to know. Why?' I told him that no one was obliged to read the book; that writing a memoir or any sort of autobiography implied touching on private aspects of a life, and the reader knows that. 'Well, that's just it,' said Jorge. 'Why do you want to talk publicly about what's private? Hasn't it occurred to you that with this book you've done exactly what the girlfirend did to your dad, just more elegantly?'

Of course, this hadn't occurred to Gabriel and for a while he hounds his father's former girlfriend mercilessly. Juan Gabriel Vasquez's novel The Informers closely examines these issues of truth telling and of the personal consequences that are left in the wake of an act that, on the surface, appears to be honest and even responsible. The novel is exhaustive in peeling back and exposing the layers of damage and drives home the point that no one is innocent, perhaps a little too thoroughly. When Gabriel Jr. (the author) finally visits the man who life was impacted by his father's act, the act that is unearthed by his book, there were no surprises left. The denouement drags on a bit too long. I found myself liking the writing in the 'present' time of the narrative - when Gabriel Jr., Gabriel Sr. and Sara - the woman whose starts the whole mess far more than the flash back and after-the-fact scenes. The relationship between father and son was intricate, tense, and also loving. It's ironic that although the events of the past are compelling enough to move Gabriel, the son, to write a book about them, when they are related to us I found the writing only made them expected, even mundane. I guess that's partly the point. One can commit this kind of act easily and without considering the consequences as one is caught up in the events of one's present life. But their consequences were rendered in a far more interesting fashion and ended up making better fiction than the events themselves.

Regardless of this criticism, I found the ideas explored by the story interesting and the characters very well developed. I would be interested to read some more Juan Gabriel Vasquez. Thank you, Dovegreyreader for the recommendation.

Here is my other post on The Informers.

No comments: