07 February 2005

Martin Amis in Cali

The Sunday Times continues its series of "Authors in the front line" with Martin Amis in Colombia:

Machismo, in its Latin American mutation, has one additional emphasis, that of indifference - unreachable indifference. You felt that indifference very strongly with John Anderson, on the central divide. Any kind of empathy is not just enfeebling - it is effeminate. You have no empathy even for yourself.

As resoundingly accurate as you can get.

Earlier in the piece, he explains:

The people here are desplazados, displaced peasants, mainly from the country's Pacific coast. Cali contains about 70,000 of the displaced. Some are pushed from the land by that irresistible modern force, urbanisation; others are fleeing what may be the final convulsions of a civil war that began in 1948.

My other "job" is typing (and interpreting) transcripts of the interviews my sister had last summer in Colombia with people immediately connected to the displaced and--in some marvelous, heartbreaking cases--the displaced themselves. Their resilience and dogged optimism in the face of the situation is amazing to behold. Although Amis' article is realistically bleak in dealing with the violence in the streets of the cities, that he could cautiously use the words "final convulsions" in connection with the civil conflict lifted my heart a few inches off the ground.

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