Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Ingrid Betancourt, 'Meme le Silence a Une Fin' (Even Silence Has an End)

Do you remember the story of this woman, a Colombian senator, captured by guerrillas in the Colombian jungle and held for over six years? This is it, as told by her. Read my Goodreads review.

A little background perhaps: Ingrid Betancourt was born in Colombia and grew up in France. In adult life she returned to Colombia and became politically active. She became a senator, and then a candidate for president of the country under a green and anti-corruption ticket. She was kidnapped by FARC guerrillas and spent over six years as a hostage in the Colombian jungle. She and others were freed in 2008 in an operation by the Colombian military, after a long campaign by hostages' families and various senior figures in Colombia and France, including then President Sarkozy of France. This is a long book, and could certainly have been shortened, but I was never bored, and in fact found it utterly compelling. I'm not sure why. Constant route marches, changing of camp commandants, shifting relations among the FARC and also among the hostages, the death of her father while she was in captivity, her husband's abandonment of her, which she learned about on the radio - none of this should have kept me hooked, but it did. She is bilingual in Spanish and French, and wrote the book in French, the language I read it in - it has been translated into several other languages, including English and German -  and her writing has the slightly unnaturally bright clarity of that of a person who is focusing on the language itself as well as on the story being told. I would say - read this book,and make up your mind. A faraway country of which we know little, indeed. Betancourt herself is not an especially attractive character; she certainly seems to have a sense of entitlement and to hav failed to understand other hostages' resentment of it, and mostly not to have seen her captors, at least the male ones, as human at all. Her possible lack of self-awareness permits her to portray all this very frankly and not to try and make herself out as less selfish and arrogant than she was. All told, fascinating, and I am glad I read it. I'd like to know what she is doing now.

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