ON THE NOVEL'S first page, a retired teacher gathering fruit from the trees in his back yard takes advantage of the occasion to peek over the wall at the woman who lives next door, who is sunbathing nude in her garden. The serpent will always find its way into Eden, we may conclude, and just so do narco-guerrillas, the paramilitaries trying to destroy the narco-guerrillas, and the national army find their way to the teacher's Macondo-like town, storming, raping, killing, kidnapping, to the point where there is no saying which army constitutes the greatest danger, the worst plague.
It cannot be easy for Colombian novelists to escape the shade cast by the rainforest canopy that is GGM; Rosero deals with it by conjuring up an utterly Marquez-ian village and its villagers and then letting in the most demonic elements of contemporary Colombia to visit unshirted, unredeemable hell upon them. Not that Garcia Marquez concealed or shied away from cruelty or violence or suffering--but in Rosero, the cruelty and violence and suffering fill the sky, inescapable.
Who will protect these people from the people that are supposedly protecting them? No one, so far as we can see. I hope things in Colombia are not actually this bad, but they may well be even worse.