The Sound of Things Falling

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

(translation of El ruido de las cosas al caer)

Antonio is a young law professor in Bogota, Colombia during the height of the drug violence of the Pablo Escobar era. Assassinations are a daily occurrence and the bogotanos live in fear. To escape the depression of the city, Antonio spends his time in his local pool hall where he meets a mysterious character named Ricardo. Ricardo has a past that he’d rather not talk about. He might have been a pilot at some point. He might have spent time in prison. Maybe one has something to do with the other. Just as Antonio is getting his new friend to fill in some pieces of his story, Ricardo is gunned down in the street. But Antonio won’t let him become just another assassination among many. He has to find out his story.

We follow Antonio on his adventures to find out the truth about his friend. Along the way we get to see Colombia and the effects of drug violence on the country. We see a man coping with the loss of a friend he barely knew and how his obsession with his friend’s past affects his career and family life. It’s a good read and the 2011 winner of the prestigious Alfaguara Prize for literature in Spanish. The mystery of Ricardo’s past is intriguing enough to keep the reader interested, although sometimes I felt like Vásquez wandered a little too far off the main story. There’s a lot of emotion in the book as we see the characters dealing with loss, fear, and despair about what has happened in the their country, but the sadness is interlaced with joy and love and a man’s commitment to a friend.

~ Wilson