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The commander’s last afternoon

“La última tarde del caudillo” is the title of a book, set to be launched in Colombia on 9 April, that its author has said may be one of the last projects of his career as a writer, rounding off an extensive and highly acclaimed body of work.


Written by Colombian Jorge Eliecer Pardo, this novel is the fourth in a five-part series entitled “El quinteto de la frágil memoria” (The fragile memory quintet). The other three novels are “El pianista que llegó de Hamburgo” (The pianist who came from Hamburg), “La baronesa del circo Atayde (The baroness of the Atayde circu s) and Trashumantes de la guerra perdida” (Nomads of the lost war), all published by Cangrejo Editores.

“La última tarde del caudillo” tells the story of a chain of events that took place over a few hours on that fateful day. It centres around two teenagers who walk the streets of central Bogotá on 9 April 1948, amid the fires, searching for their father.

Liberal leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán has just been killed and, as Pardo writes, “the dark eyes of Matilde and Sofía bear witness to the horrors of the uprising and, desperate, they become caught up in the whirlwind of vengeance spreading like the flames that are engulfing the buildings”.

Pardo explains that, despite their backgrounds, the protagonists are “pushed around by a crowd of people fired up by the excesses of a rainy, sad and fearful afternoon. Their stories diverge as they are immersed in a flood of unanswered questions and chaos”.

The father of Matilde and Sofia, a communist artisan, rouses the masses. “In the central clinic,” writes Pardo, “Matilde witnesses an autopsy of a victim via the echoes and murmurs of the doctors.”

And he adds: “Rats invade the city. Thirteen years later, days before her plan to flee with the professor, the pianist who came from Hamburg, Matilde recounts her painful experience to Federico.”

The story goes on to describe how, as a young mother, she gives her son a script that his father had left him entitled “La última tarde del caudillo!

It is, in summary, a novel that takes an in-depth look at the thoughts of the assassinated leader (Gaitán) and the historic moment when he sparked a brutal war in Colombia.

The launch will take place on Monday 9 April at the Gimnasio Moderno de Bogotá (Colombia). Texts from the novel will be read by Colombian actress Lucy Martínez, as well as Marialeón Arias and Mauricio Chavez.

Click here for more information. (Translated by Roz Harvey) – Fotos

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