Leisurely paced, intensely focused tale of collusion and intrigue, spotlighting Colombia’s German community before, during and after World War II.
In 1988, journalist Gabriel Santoro published A Life in Exile, the story of a Jewish refugee who fled to Colombia in the years preceding the war. Gabriel wrote the book, he tells us, to give some perspective on the struggles of such emigrants. His motives didn’t impress his father, also named Gabriel, a leading intellectual in Bogotá with a particular contempt for the shallowness and ephemerality of journalism. Father wrote a scathing review of the book that went far beyond the bounds of necessity or good taste and raised questions about his psychological need to make such an extreme condemnation. Perhaps he has something to hide? When he phones his son three years later, in the novel’s opening pages, is he trying to make amends? Several other events, past and present, conspire to pique the journalist’s curiosity. Why did Konrad Deresser, another member of the German-Colombian community, commit suicide shortly after the war when his son Enrique denounced him as a collaborator? Is the 1991 death of Santoro père in a car crash really an accident? Along the way we meet a range of characters, some well integrated into Colombian culture despite their German roots, others more blatant and unabashed about their support for Hitler’s policies even after the war. With both journalistic and personal reasons to pursue the truth, the younger Santoro tracks down Enrique, though he first has to endure the opprobrium of Enrique’s son Sergio, as well as Angelina, the older Gabriel’s mistress and perhaps betrayer.
An impassioned exploration of how the past erupts into the present and continues to shape our personalities and our fates.