Lovers on All Saints’ Day
Riverhead Books 2015
These seven complex stories by Colombian Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s in “Lovers on All Saints’ Day” are haunting and indelible with masterful insight into love and loss. This English-translation collection was first published in Spanish 15 years ago and developed while Vásquez was in self-imposed exile in Belgium and France.
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“. . . a book of dramatic tales worth re-reading .”
Vásquez is most noted for his award winning novel, “The Sound of Things Falling,” about the drug wars in Colombia.
The intricate plots, closely linked to life in Belgium’s rural Ardennes Mountains, are morose with violence and cruelty woven into personal relationships that end badly. However, this is not to discourage a reader as Vásquez’s prose is metaphorical and extraordinary and offers unique perspective into human nature.
In the book’s similarly titled story, “The All Saints’ Lovers,” two lovers who recognize their relationship is ending embark on a hunting trip. At first, the woman begs off but finally agrees to go because it might offer an opportunity for them to talk freely in the countryside. Instead the hunt quickly begins and the man shoots a pheasant. Much to the woman’s distress, the man is unable to find the dying pheasant before dark.
In “The Lodger” a couple is forced into relive their past after the wife’s former lover kills himself during a hunting trip. The wife concludes living means regretting one’s life choices.
Most bizarre is the story of Madame Michaud who loved her home so much she murdered her sister’s fiancee who planned to remodel the property. While Michaud is in prison the sister completely alters the house anyway. Most dramatic is “The Solitude of the Magician.” While the husband is off on a hunting trip, the magician seduces his wife who is mesmerized with his magical skills.
Vásquez’s dialogue coaxes the reader into the consciousness of deep emotional feelings, particularly love and pain, yielding a book of dramatic tales worth re-reading.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla