Thanks to the brilliant Netflix series Narcos most people have seen a fictionalised version of Colombia’s drug wars of the late 80s and early 90s; News of a Kidnapping is a non-fiction book on the same topic. Gabriel García Márquez is one of the most famous Colombians in history, and in this book he writes indirectly about another, Pablo Escobar. This book tells the story of ten politically prominent figures of Colombian society who were kidnapped at the height of Pablo Escobar’s notoriety.
Each of the ten kidnapped people is represented fairly by Márquez, telling their story as both a historical fact but also has a personal story. Of the ten kidnapped persons, Márquez has obviously spoken to as many as possible to educate himself about their experience. As well as this, Márquez tells the stories of the families of those kidnapped, of the guards looking over them, the politicians and judges who were either involves, and the man behind it all, Escobar. In combining all these stories, Márquez allows a true insight into Colombia at the time.
The victims were kidnapped as bargaining chips by the Medellin Cartel in an attempt to prevent extradition to the United States of America; Escobar stated, ‘We prefer a grave in Colombia to a prison cell in the US’. As Márquez relates the ordeal that they went through, he allows the reader an insight into the reality of Colombia during the drug wars. Each victim has to live a fine line between hope that they are going to be rescued and that they may be killed. They are also left in the dark about the fate of other victims; are they alive, have they been killed, have they been released?
Márquez discusses, through the experience of the kidnapped, the other victims of the drug wars. Some of the people guarding the hostages are teenagers. They are involved in the drug wars as they see no alternative, they did not have any other opportunities and at least these gangs give them purpose. These young men are employed to guard hostages, yet also boast of their murders of policemen. I think this is the most powerful part of this book, we are shown that there are victims on both sides of this war. Also discussed are the various assassination attempts on politicians, some of which resulted in numerous civilian deaths.
This is journalism at its most accessible, Márquez reports the events of the time, whilst also retaining the humanity of the subjects. The manner in which Márquez is able to combine his journalism skills and his novelistic style allows for a remarkable book. It is engrossing, educational and beautiful.