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Compassion for the victims of the armed conflict in Colombia

Los velos de la memoria” (The veils of memory) is the most recent book of short stories, published by the Editorial Programme of Valle University by Jorge Eliécer Pardo, a Colombian author, who belongs to the next generation of Colombian writers following on from Gabriel García Márquez.

 

The author was born in El Libano, Tolima, 1950, in the middle of the Colombian civil war between traditional party militants, liberal and conservative, which left three hundred thousand dead and several million displaced from rural areas to the urban centres of the country.

The 32 texts in “The veils of memory” are accompanied by forty five photographs by the same author, portraits of women who feel compassion for the victims of the Colombian armed conflict who, behind these images, tell stories that wander like ghosts through the book.

The first edition appeared in France (2014) edited by Éfer Arocha, director of the magazine Vericuetos, he is also a writer, essayist and tireless cultural promoter.

Arocha wrote about the book, “They aren’t testimonies or complaints, nor accounts of war-like confrontations. They are narratives of memory that spring forth from the vulnerable, the horror and death. The ritual of mourning against obscurity”.

The book awoke interest in both Colombian and foreign artists. In his presentation in Paris, the Colombian novelist, critic and journalist of the French EFE, Eduardo García Aguilar, confirmed

The veils of memory has profoundly moved me…serious prose, simple and effective…when we read each of the texts they appear to be dictated by a mysterious being… as if they hadn’t been written…poems in which the author uses the voice of the phantoms that he is invoking…neither the Left nor the Right, neither the religious nor the non-religious, neither evil nor good are exempt from blame. Pardo’s book is destined to be elevated into a Colombian literary classic”.

The journalist Angélica Pérez, from  Radio France International (RFI) in Paris, said that Pardo’s book is a “heartbreaking testimony that is timeless. The veils of memory gives a voice to the victims of the Colombian massacres and the brutal assassinations.”

Then she adds: It is death who speaks. From the perspective of defencelessness and pain, Jorge Eliécer Pardo constructs short stories with enormous symbolic weight illustrated by the rituals that the women carry out in order to alleviate their suffering, to invoke the forgotten and to return  dignity to their dead ones. Accounts enveloped in poetry, as horrific as they are sublime, which converts Pardo’s work into an archetype of the aesthetics of fear”.

For her part, the Cuban writer based in Mexico, Ileana Diéguez Caballero, in her book, “Bodies Without mourning. Iconography and the theatre of grief”, in the chapter Bodies without mourning,  cites Pardo’s story,  “Sin nombres, sin rastros ni rostros” (Without names, without traces nor faces),   which was awarded the national fiction prize, highlighting that “Colombian rivers have been considered funeral spaces wherein innumerable bodies are housed; maybe the biggest cemeteries (…) Cuerpo sin duelo (Body without mourning) responds to and dialogues with The veils of memory in their representations of the violated body, the empty spaces that are caused by the disappearances and a grief not realised.”

Jorge Eliécer Pardo

In the case of Alexánder Aldana Bautista, from the National University of La Plata, in his essay in the magazine, Alethia, “De difuntos prestados, viudas errantes y cuerpos remendados: la narrativa como dispositivo de construcción de memorias sociales en Colombia” (From borrowed dead, wandering widows and patched-up bodies: the narrative as a mechanism for the construction of social memory in Colombia) he considers that “in work on memory such as the stories from Jorge Eliécer Pardo, (Without names, without traces or faces / Sin nombres, sin rostros ni rastro) the quest is to uncover and to question the silence and obscurity that prosper within massacres like that of Trujillo, that have made the State, like Colombian society indebted to the victims.”

Finally, Eugenia Muñoz Molano, professor at The Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, wrote: “In the eyes of its readers The veils of memory magnifies the historic reality of Colombia’s internal wars. The reader is appalled by the denial and outraged by this bloody spectacle, the cries of anguish and the pain of the tortured… Jorge Eliécer Pardo’s pen reveals, page after page, a poetic emotion so intense that the cruelty of the war-mongers remains clear in the readers’ memories, thirsty for political power and trapped in this are millions and millions of innocent beings, vulnerable and deprived of all wealth.

Writers, especially poets, find a deep symbolic meaning in “The veils of memory”.  Jotamario Arbeláez said in one of his columns: “It takes courage to undertake this work, free of accusation, told with the style used by Jorge Eliécer Pardo which is neither sharp nor sensationalist   .

(Traducido por Carol Byrne – Email: guerrera247@hotmail.com)

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