This is the story of a stolen book, a sense of national pride and some inventive sleuthing. The book in query is a very first edition copy of A single Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. In 2015, it was stolen from a Bogota, Colombia, book fair. Several cases in that city go unsolved since of a lack of sources, but local law enforcement went all out to solve this crime.
In its new season, the Spanish-language podcast Radio Ambulante tells the story of how the book was recovered. Host Daniel Alarcón tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers that the story left him with conflicting feelings.
“On the a single hand … we love García Márquez, we adore books, and so it’s just anything to celebrate,” he says. “On the other hand, it leaves this kind of odd taste in your mouth due to the fact you’re like, Nicely, if they can resolve that crime in six days, why do not they solve other crimes?”
On how the book was stolen
This story was reported by my colleague Camila Segura, who is the senior editor of Radio Ambulante. She’s a Colombian journalist, she lives in Bogota. … And what happened was that they had been celebrating García Márquez’s life a year following he passed away. They constantly invite a nation to be like, you know, a unique guest at the book fair in Bogota, and that year they invited Macondo, which is the produced-up [town] that García Márquez wrote about in so several novels. So as portion of the exhibition about Macondo, they had a collection of very first editions that had been brought by a bookseller.
And, you know, I have been to that book fair, Kelly, like thousands of people come via there. I was there that year, in fact, even though I did not steal the book. … And in the midst of all of that chaos, a single day 1 of the booksellers that was in charge of searching more than this collection of books saw, appear at that, the window of this glass case is ajar and there’s a book missing. And it was a 1st edition, signed, of One Hundred Years of Solitude.
On how individuals reacted to the theft
It’s nearly like two parts of Colombia colliding. You know, this view of Colombia that is for export — which is the Macondo, this vision of Latin America that García Márquez has written about — and then also this kind of really urban, dark theft violence crime.
The theft of a book became national news, you know. And men and women have been outraged and there was just like this type of visceral feeling that this was some type of attack on the national pride. You know, part of it has to do with who Gabo is — you know, who García Márquez is — in that national culture. … It’s not just that he won the Nobel Prize, it really is the sort of books that he wrote, it is that he transformed national folklore into excellent art. … So he himself implies a lot. And the reality that this book were to vanish and that someone would have such a lack of respect for an individual of that stature … produced this national outcry. … It went about the globe. …
It is virtually like two parts of Colombia colliding. You know, this view of Colombia that is for export — which is the Macondo, this vision of Latin America that García Márquez has written about — and then also this kind of quite urban, dark theft violence crime. So these two competing visions collide in a location that was supposed to be a celebration of the former. And I think that’s what created men and women so upset.
On how the book was recovered
It was sort of wild. … We’re talking about a nation exactly where crimes go unsolved, exactly where murders go unsolved. And one of the factors that Camila identified as she was investigating this was that the police — and this is one thing I think that we all know intuitively — that the police sort of rank crimes as to their value and that significance often has to do with who’s breathing down their neck to solve it, and that often has to do with power, and that usually has to do with media. And so the theft of this book went about the globe … and so there was a true want to solve it and resolve it rapidly.
And she actually got to interview one of the policemen that was involved in the recovery. It involved a shootout it involved a high-speed chase by means of downtown Bogota it involved stakeouts and informants and all of this organization that appears like one thing out of a spy novel. …
It was found in a neighborhood close to central Bogota. … There had been competing stories, but the story that we heard involved a shootout and involved folks sort of operating away into the neighborhood and disappearing. [They found] the book in a box just type of on the street. … They had been becoming chased and it just dropped. … So they’ve recovered the stolen home, but no one’s been arrested for the crime itself.
On what drew him to the story
I’m interested in any story that complicates our vision of Latin America. … You know, García Márquez is each an iconic figure and … he’s not quite as relevant as he employed to be. Like, we’re reading distinct books, we’re discussing diverse factors. The world that he described is not the globe that exists anymore in Latin America.
Latin America is considerably much more urban than it was when García Márquez was telling his stories about Macondo, you know. The majority of Latin Americans reside in cities now, they don’t live in towns like Macondo. And so I was really interested in this clash … between this vision of a folkloric Latin America as described in the operate of García Márquez and this other Latin America, which is the a single that I know better. … And the truth that these two worlds collided in front of an audience of hundreds of thousands of millions of folks who followed the news of this stolen book and its recovery was also super attractive to me as a storyteller.