Biography of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (1949-1993) by his understandably conflicted son.
Escobar, an Argentina-based architect and subject of the documentary Sins of My Father, sees his father’s infamy alongside qualities of a devoted family man: “he always had us in his heart, even as he used terror to intimidate his enemies.” The author intends not to detail his father’s smuggling empire but to document the fuller life of the man—and settle some scores regarding his father’s siblings. He says at the outset, “I wish to publicly ask my father’s victims…for forgiveness.” In his view, neither Escobar’s rural youth nor early years as an enterprising small-time criminal prefaced his war against society. By 1975, early forays into cocaine smuggling made him a young millionaire; years of success followed, giving the author a childhood of absurd luxury. However, in 1982, Escobar erred in entering politics. “He mistakenly believed that he could traffic drugs while also holding a seat in Congress,” he writes. Over the next two years, his public exposure led to calls for prosecution and extradition, provoking Escobar toward a campaign of bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings. Eventually, he became a fugitive (often accompanied by his family) and expanded his war to the Cali cartel. This part of the narrative becomes jumbled, as Escobar simultaneously negotiates with the government and pursues violent schemes through a dwindling cadre of followers. “I felt powerless in the face of my father’s brutal methods,” writes the author. “He no longer listened to anyone’s advice.” Following Escobar’s inevitable-seeming demise, the author and his mother had to negotiate for their lives with his enemies. Escobar writes earnestly, relying on descriptive detail, though it can feel artificially reconstructed, particularly regarding the often stagey dialogue. The author is unable to explain how the warm, quirky father he presents and the criminal who normalized widespread violence within drug smuggling are the same person. This results in frequent dissonance.
Uneven but will satisfy curiosity regarding the tawdry reality of childhood within a criminal family.