An account of a guerrilla prisoner’s torture in—and eventual escape from—a secret Mexican prison.
Like Gibler’s previous book on Mexican disappearances (I Couldn’t Even Imagine that They Would Kill Us: An Oral History of the Attacks Against the Students of Ayotzinapa, 2017), this is a work of advocacy journalism, one that dispenses with any pretense of objectivity in pursuit of a deeper truth. Even more provocatively, the author recognizes that in matters involving torture, the whole story may never be known. The experience transcends language and short-circuits memory, and it can’t be captured in the words of a cohesive narrative. “Torture is an extreme act of rupture and isolation,” writes Gibler before continuing to explore “the impossibility of communicating such pain, and the disconnection from language within the experience of pain.” The testimony of the captured guerrilla and the torture he experienced provide the heart of the narrative, rendered in the second person: “You don’t know if you’ll make it. That depends on them, they might even kill you by accident.” The author provides contextual elaboration for the direct quotes as well as accounts from journalists and officials, some of whom were skeptical of the veracity of the account, particularly of the prisoner’s ability to escape. Some of his former comrades feared that he’d cooperated with his captors, providing sensitive information and naming names. Gibler clearly believes his subject, but his inclusion of so many other perspectives suggests the difficulty of reporting on a subject so fraught with secrecy, where even crucial information from the man who is the subject of the book must be shielded to protect him. “This isn’t a dead man’s book,” says the escaped guerrilla. “This book is about someone alive. The book won’t tell the whole story.”
The reasons why this book can’t tell the whole story—and how the stories it tells conflict—are fascinating tales in their own right.