What comes to the son directly from his father isn't worth anything, because children don't believe their parents, not a word, and that is how it should be.
...Raising a son is tough, but explaining to him who you, are what kind of life has made you who you are, is the toughest thing in the world
In 1941, the United States persuaded the Colombian government to implement the Proclaimed List of Certain Blocked National. It was a blacklist of Nazi sympathisers, and inclusion meant 'civil death', making it impossible for someone to carry out any economic activity.
Although some deserved their place on the list that brought internment and ruin, inevitably, it also bought disgrace and disaster for other against whom the allegation were less clear-cut, perhaps even malicious, and with consequences still felt decades later.
Ostensibly, The Informers is about a writer, Gabriel Santoro, who decides to tell the story of an enigmatic German exile, Sara Guterman, who has became a friend of his father, a lawyer and renowned academic.
For some reason, he reacts with great hostility to his son's account, publishing a scathing review, and they are estranged until the father faces a life-threatening operation and a reconcilliation of sorts begins.
Just before the War, Sara's family had fleed from Emmerich to Bogota, where her father opened the Nueva Europa Hotel, frequented by, among others, German expatriats.
In an interview with Gabriel for his book, she explains:
The war was in the hotel, we carried it in our pockets... I can't tell you all the things I saw, because there are people who are still alive, and I am no informer; I don't want to destroy reputations or dig up anything that someone wants to keep buried. But if I could, if we were alone in this world, you and I... I could tell you everything....
Later you'd be sorry you knew. One gets contaminated by the this kind of knowledge.
The Informers is beautifully written, revealing layer upon layer of complex relationships, between father and son, but also of a strained and challenging society. By the 1990s, when much of the story unfolds, Bogota is rocked by terror, and the drug war centre of Medellin is not far away; sometimes the concerns seem distant, sometimes they are very close indeed.
- The Informers, by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (trans. Anne McLean) Bloomsbury, 2009.