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September 2017

A Different Solitude: New Writing from Colombia

Image: Carlos Saavedra, Daughters of Huitaca: Maryuris Ipuana Uriana, 2011–2012, series of photographs. Courtesy of the artist.

This month's issue brings twelve writers from Colombia working across three genres: fiction, poetry, and journalism. The writers here capture the past and present of a country remaking itself and its history after a 2016 peace deal ended the armed conflict between the Colombian state and the FARC. Silvana Paternostro embarks on a journey of rediscovery as a tourist to her own country and reflects on the new possibilities now open to writers who once felt compelled to address the war. Giuseppe Caputo brings us a story of the love between a father and son in the midst of poverty, and also a reflection on violence and homosexuality. Melba Escobar's narrator rages against Bogotá's elite and Juan Gabriel Vásquez writes a tale of chance and tragedy. Alfredo Molano interviews one of the founders of the FARC. Yolanda Reyes looks at the relationship between a mother and her adopted son, and Gilmer Mesa's protagonists bond over salsa music before their friendship comes to an unexpected end. Juan Álvarez's narrator explains why he couldn't help punching his uncle in the face, and Óscar Collazos examines the bond between two brothers in a tale of youthful rebellion and unholy acts. Poets Piedad Bonnett, Vito Apushana, and Fredy Chicangana lend their verse. WWB editor Eric M. B. Becker discusses the unique historical moment in which these writers now reach English language readers. Plus: the winning radio play from the Words without Borders-Play for Voices Radio Drama Contest.

A Different Solitude: Colombian Literature Today

The writers here capture the past and present of a country remaking itself and its history.

Living to Tell New Tales

The old story is changing.

An Orphan World

"Wouldn't you pay to speak to your house?"

The Double

Isn’t it strange (the letter said to me), in Spanish there’s no word for what I am.

Madres Terra

A photo essay of mothers of the disappeared.

I Never Wanted to Sock You in the Face, Javier

Why didn’t you let the old man go, dude?

House of Beauty

When I left Colombia, mothers still made sure their daughters’ knees weren’t showing; now nothing is left to the imagination.

Lost Causes

Respect, I now understood, was nothing more than the fear of his reaction.

The Origins of the FARC: An Interview with Sergeant Pascuas

Renowned journalist Alfredo Molano interviews one of the founders of the FARC.

Bubblegum and Baldy

It all began by chance, when Arcadio heard the song “Melancholy” by the Orquestra Zodiac.


I hated this image that you invented: me, running, happy, slow motion, as if it were easy to call you Mama, Mommy, Mom so suddenly.


Book Reviews

A Tale of Displacement and Dissolution: Rodrigo Hasbún’s “Affections”

Reviewed by David Varno

Is it ever possible to leave the past behind and restart one’s life?

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