If you ask Colombians how Evelio Rosero’s novel fares in his own country they tell you that you will scarcely find a copy. This magisterial, beautiful, book is effectively suppressed.
What is going on in that endlessly tortured country cannot go on being suppressed and ignored outside Colombia.
Ismael, a retired school teacher in a small Colombian village, gathers oranges, admires beautiful women and has, in the opening pages, an idyllic everyday life. Then the village is ransacked by an obscure militia, he is thrown into the fray and his mental stability collapses. The horrors which overwhelm the inhabitants of this village have become an everyday occurrence in Colombia. Villagers are kidnapped, killed, they disappear at the hands of unidentified groups – the armies of the title: guerillas, paramilitaries, drugs traffickers. Rosero does not directly describe the reality of an unpredictable, violent world, he imitates it in the mind of a man going mad. In this story, no-one is spared, no-one is protected.