My father always used to say that each and every one of us has a book inside, but, whether we know how to or can coax it out will be the true test of time and personality. Then once you sit down with your pad, pencil, at your laptop and so on, how do you know that people beyond your closest friends and family will want to read it? And then, do you follow this up with the self-belief to go ahead, present to editorial house and put it forward for publishing, printing and then – gasp – distribution?
Vicki Kellaway and Sergio Lievano have been through it all, late nights, fraught personal relationships (I imagine), tears, frustration and then the fear…will people enjoy and indeed purchase their offspring? But, Vicki and Sergio have one another, and it shows, Colombia a Comedy of Errors is a joint effort where two cooks have found the secret ingredient to a literary success story.
One of my feelings about informative and digestible literature in English about Colombia is that there has been an absolute dearth of it. For precisely this reason so many visitors and potential visitors to Colombia have been obliged to turn to guidebooks and that particular abbreviated take on Colombian history, culture and politics to inform. Sure, we could wade through a dense biography of Simon Bolivar, a tome about the hunt for Pablo Escobar or accounts by the Colombian diaspora and their reasons for moving on, but, here in Colombia a Comedy of Errors we have something special, something which could just as easily have been entitled: Colombia, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask.
Theirs is refreshingly neither 152 pages of government propaganda nor the type of editorial fluff expected from the travel sections of the Sunday Newspapers. Yes, there are criticisms of Colombia and we’ll see how the nationals react to these, and yes, there is also an undisguised love for Colombia, but, this is neither sycophantic nor fawning, it simply suggests and relates to the reader a profound understanding of the country and a wish to share this.
Colombia a Comedy of Errors will sell and rightly so. Why? Simply put, you’ll pick this up, read it and then reread it to search for references and other titbits of information such as the reasons for the design of Colombia’s banknotes, a summary of Colombia’s regions, issues of class (it’s their Spanish heritage), and then why Colombians routinely blame everything on “el destino”.
One gets the feeling that this is far from the last collaborative project (Lievano’s illustrations are excellent and remind me of “Jon” from Garfield) between Kellaway and Lievano and that, my fine friends, is a relief. We need truthful yet easily digested texts about Colombia, not only as outsiders and observers but as participants in the great literary game. The Colombia condition, as I like to call it, is not easily understood, but, hats off to the authors of Colombia a Comedy of Errors; they’ve only gone and paved the way for a growing series of titles in the same vein.
I’ve got my copy, get yours too!