“Perez Triana, son of a former president and secret writer of children’s stories, political target and amateur tenor, had arrived in the city a few years before, and presided with his toad face and anecdotes in four languages over a table designed for an audience […] And his guests, Liberal politicians and erudite businessmen of the Bogotá bourgeoisie, applauded like trained seals. Perez Triana nodded with modesty, closed his eyes already worn out like the slots in a piggy bank, calmed spirits with a gesture of his pudgy hand as if tossing a couple of sardines to the seals.” (86-87)
“Korzeniowski doesn’t give a fig about the Carlists, the monarchy, the Republic and Spain in general; but the anal abscess that has left him on land has also deprived him of the salary he had anticipated.” (108)
“In Charlotte’s belly, a new Altamirano announced its presence with the will to continue the isthmian branch of the lineage; at the same time my father, Altamirano Senior, began to back away, to leave the world like a mortally wounded boar. Like a hibernating bear. Like whichever animal you’d prefer to use for the simile.” (170)
But I don’t like it when the author, Juan Gabriel Vásquez intervenes every now then to address the readers, in an effort to build up suspense by grudging them details:
“But the Widow of the Canal, deaf to and distant from rumours, kept wandering the streets of Colon, saying ‘Je m’en vais’ to anyone who would listen and in every tone of voice possible, but never going. Until the day when…
It’s still too soon.” (153-154)
“I anticipate all my curious readers’ doubts and question: no, Charlotte would never speak of what she thought (or imagined, or felt, or simply saw) a few seconds before what would have been a terrible death, in the depths of the River Chagres.” (166).
“Readers of the Jury [that’s us readers], allow me to tell you a secret.” (249).
I wouldn’t mind it if he did it once or twice, but it’s a bit too frequent. The plot is generally difficult to follow; lots of dates and proper names, and the narration is not straightforward. It’s requires a clear mind, and I’ve been too busy for that.