The Secret History of Costaguana (2007), published this month by Bloomsbury in McLean's translation, is a humorous, picaresque novel of adventure and a knowing take on a family saga. Set in 19th- and early 20th-century Colombia and London, it probes the political intrigue that mired the building of the Panama canal, complete with financial crash and US intervention.
Vásquez, 37, is from Bogotá, so his experience of Colombia (he emigrated to Europe in 1993) is bound to be different from that of the country's most famous writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who hails from the tropical climes of the northern coast. I'll definitely chase up his books (not trivial getting the original versions around here).
It is also around the 100th time that I spot something really interesting with the byline of Maya Jaggi - she definitely reads the same kind of literature that I like to read. Yet I have been unable to find out what her background is. By now, there is a profile with a photo of her on the Guardian website, but the CV starts in 2000, so no indication of how she came to report about world literature. Which of course needs explaining as I sometimes feel that in the UK she's the only person who knows about this sort of things. So, dear Guardian Review, I want a double page spread about Maya next week, can you arrange that?
PS even though the English version of the book is out now, getting reviews, publicity etc., the original version is not available at Blackwell's main bookshop, and costs more than 30 pounds at amazon.co.uk. Time to revive my account at El corte ingles ...