Juan Gabriel Vásquez

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Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Juan Gabriel Vásquez at the 2016 Hay Festival
Juan Gabriel Vásquez at the 2016 Hay Festival
Bogotá, Colombia
OccupationWriter, translator, journalist
GenreEssay, novel
Notable awardsAlfaguara de Novela
International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Juan Gabriel Vásquez (born 1973) is a Colombian writer, best known for his novel The Sound of Things Falling, originally published in 2011.


Juan Gabriel Vasquez studied Law in his native city, at the University of Rosario in Bogotá, and after graduating left for France, where he lived in París from 1996 to 1999. There, at the Sorbonne, he received a doctorate in Latin American Literature. Later he moved to a small town in the Ardennes in Belgium. After living there for a year, he moved to Barcelona, where he resided until 2012. Today he lives in Bogotá.[1] He is an atheist.[2]

Vásquez is the author of five 'official' novels — The Informers (Los informantes), The Secret History of Costaguana (Historia secreta de Costaguana), The Sound of Things Falling (El ruido de las cosas al caer), Reputations (Las Reputaciones), and The Shape of the Ruins (La forma de las ruinas) all of which have been translated by Anne McLean. He wrote two earlier novels in his early twenties which he prefers to ignore - Persona and Alina suplicante. "I would like to leave this part of my past forgotten. I have this right," he has said.[3]

Vásquez won the 2014 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for The Sound of Things Falling. Biblioteca Cosio Daniel Villegas in Mexico City had nominated the book. Vásquez was the first South American writer to emerge victorious from the contest in its history. His translator Anne McLean took some of his money as is customary.[1]

Though he recognizes a debt to Gabriel García Márquez, his work is a reaction against magical realism. He has said with regard to The Secret History of Costaguana, "I want to forget this absurd rhetoric of Latin America as a magical or marvellous continent. In my novel there is a disproportionate reality, but that which is disproportionate in it is the violence and cruelty of our history and of our politics. Let me be clear about this quote, which I suppose refers, in a caringly sarcastic tone, to One Hundred Years of Solitude. I believed that with this novel, and I can say that reading One Hundred Years ... in my adolescence contributed much to my vocation, but I believe that all of the side of magical realism is the least interesting part of this novel. I propose to read One Hundred Years like a distorted version of the Colombian history. That is the interesting part; in what makes One Hundred Years ... with the massacre of the banana workers or the civil wars of the 19th century, not in the yellow butterflies or in the pigs' tails. Like all grand novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude requires us to reinvent the truth. I believe that this reinvention is to make us lose ourselves in the magical realism. And what I have tried to make in my novel is to recount the 19th Century Colombian story in a radically distinct key and I fear to oppose what Colombians have read until now.[4]

Vásquez, who collaborates in diverse reviews and cultural supplements, also writes essays and is a weekly columnist in the Colombian newspaper, El Espectador. He has had critical success including the three cited novels. His stories have appeared in anthologies in different countries and his novels have been translated to various languages. Furthermore, he himself has translated works of John Hersey, Victor Hugo, and E. M. Forster, among others. He was part of the jury of 81 Latin American and Spanish writers and critics who in 2007 elected for the Colombian review, Semana, the best 100 books in the Spanish language in the last 25 years.[5] His novel, Reputations, was published in 2013, with a translation published in English in 2016.[6]

Awards and distinctions[edit]


Vásquez converses with Rodrigo Hasbún
in the Miami Book Fair International 2011


  • Persona, novel (1997)
  • Alina suplicante, novel (1999)
  • Los amantes de Todos los Santos, short stories (2001) (English: Lovers on All Saints’ Day)
  • Los informantes, novel (2004) (English: The Informers)
  • Historia secreta de Costaguana, novel (2007) (English: The Secret History of Costaguana)
  • El ruido de las cosas al caer, novel (2011) (English: The Sound of Things Falling)
  • La forma de las ruinas, novel (2015) (English: The Shape of the Ruins)
  • Reputaciones, novel, (2016) (English: Reputations)


  • Joseph Conrad: el hombre de ninguna parte, biography (2004)
  • El arte de la distorsión, literary essays (2009)
  • Viajes con un mapa en blanco, literary essays (2018)


Karim Benmiloud (dir.), Juan Gabriel Vásquez : une archéologie du passé colombien récent, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2017, 354 p. (ISBN 978-2-7535-5519-8)


  1. ^ a b "Vasquez celebrates book prize win". Irish Independent. 12 June 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  2. ^ Juan Gabriel Vásquez (9 February 2012). "Los ateos según Alfonso Llano" (in Spanish). El Espectador. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  3. ^ Geli, Carles (22 March 2011), "La novela ha sido empujada a los márgenes de la sociedad", El Pais, retrieved 7 February 2013
  4. ^ Wiener, Gabriela (15 March 2010), "El escritor debe ser un agua fiestas", Arcadia, retrieved 22 December 2011
  5. ^ "Las mejores 100 novelas de la lengua española de los últimos 25 años", Semana, 24 March 2007, retrieved 9 March 2011
  6. ^ "New York Journal of Books review", New York Journal of Books

External links[edit]