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Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the new Colombia [Hardcover]

Tom Feiling
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Aug 2012

For decades, Colombia was the 'narcostate'. Now travel to Colombia and South America is on the rise, and it's seen as one of the rising stars of the global economy. Where does the truth lie?

Writer and journalist Tom Feiling, author of the acclaimed study of cocaine The Candy Machine, has journeyed throughout Colombia, down roads that were until recently too dangerous to travel, to paint a fresh picture of one of the world's most notorious and least-understood countries. He talks to former guerrilla fighters and their ex-captives; women whose sons were 'disappeared' by paramilitaries; the nomadic tribe who once thought they were the only people on earth and now charge $10 for a photo; the Japanese 'emerald cowboy' who made a fortune from mining; and revels in the stories that countless ordinary Colombians tell.

How did a land likened to paradise by the first conquistadores become a byword for hell on earth? Why is one of the world's most unequal nations also one of its happiest? How is it rebuilding itself after decades of violence, and how successful has the process been so far? Vital, shocking, often funny and never simplistic, Short Walks from Bogota unpicks the tangled fabric of Colombia, to create a stunning work of reportage, history and travel writing.

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Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the new Colombia + The Robber of Memories: A River Journey Through Colombia
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (30 Aug 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184614583X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846145834
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 14.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 348,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Books of the Year 2012 (Boyd Tonkin The Independent)

Creates a portrait of Colombia that is perceptive, unsensational, and full of humanity ... Feiling is a brilliant reporter, lucid, unflinching, morally engaged, and with an occasional deadpan sense of humour .. one of the most consistently intelligent and compelling books to have appeared on any South American country in recent years (Michael Jacobs Independent)

Tom Feiling takes us on an enlightening journey through a changing country that few understand (Rachel Aspden Observer)

A deeply political account of one man's journey to the violent heart of modern, rural, Colombia ... a must read (Kevin Howlett Colombia Politics)

Feiling... venture[s] into areas that have been off limits for decades ... the sense of a vibrant nation worth discovering peeks out (Siobhan Murphy Metro)

The best British travel writers like Norman Lewis or Bruce Chatwin give the reader more than simple travellers' tales. Feiling is of their company ... a brilliant, penetrating and highly readable account (Robert Carver Spectator)

[Praise for The Candy Machine] The Candy Machine is highly addictive (Metro)

A vivid, argumentative, arresting book (Sunday Telegraph)

I've read a few documentary accounts of the rise of cocaine, and this might be the best of them. It's clear, sharp and solid. Very well told (Evening Standard)

About the Author

Tom Feiling spent a year living and working in Colombia before making Resistencia: Hip-Hop in Colombia, which won numerous awards at film festivals around the world, and was broadcast in four countries. In 2003 he became Campaigns Director for the TUC's Justice for Colombia campaign, which organizes for human rights in Colombia. His first book was The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over The World, which was based on over sixty interviews with people involved in all aspects of the cocaine business and the 'war on drugs,' and was published by Penguin in 2009.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very up to date account of life in Colombia. The author, a British writer, journalist and human rights activist decided to return to Colombia after years of absence, to see for himself if the reports of the renewal of the country were true. Part travelogue, part history, this account is full of anecdotes of the author's travels and the people he met. I found the book to be illuminating about the colonisation of Colombia by the Spanish, its liberation by Simon Bolivar, which I had no idea was assisted in large measure by the British, and the more recent descent into violence, civil war, and dependance on narco traffic.

It is clear from this book that, over the last 10 years or so, life in Colombia has been improving, safety is returning, and tourists are arriving; mainly backpackers there to enjoy sporting activities such as white water rafting and to see something of the greatest biological diversity on earth. Whilst life is much safer since the disbanding of the paramilitary groups, the hard push against the FARC, and the smashing of the large drug cartels it is clear that there is still some way to go before Colombia could be considered to be free of the legacy of the past, and to have fully established a democratic rule of law. it can, despite all the steps in the right direction, be a dangerous place to be.

However the signs are encouraging, and it is to be hoped that the Colombian people, who we are told are the 3rd happiest on earth, can put the past fully behind them and enjoy a safer, more prosperous and more equal future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nuanced, intelligent, insightful. 4 Jan 2013
By Eva
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's refreshing to read a book about Colombia whose title does not include the words: death, evil, FARC, drugs etc. Just don't expect a hiking guide. The title really is ironic: Tom Feiling definitely does not just stay in and around the capital. Instead, he also goes out to explore places that until recent years might have been too dangerous to visit.

In this book the author's own experiences in Colombia are combined with snippets about the country's history, politics and culture in a very readable and intelligent way. Whilst Feiling certainly doesn't try to paint a romanticised and rosy picture of the country, the underlying feeling that comes across in the book is one of a real love for Colombia rather than an attempt to demonise it. You can tell the author understands Colombia well and this book is full of illuminating insight.

As someone who has lived there, I feel that it is a country whose complex reality is all too often simplified and misunderstood. Feiling has succeeded in writing a much more nuanced account about this complicated, diverse and - surprisingly for some - very human place.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, but a bit depressing 24 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I was living in Bogota at the time the writer was there, (in fact I lived a block from the picture on the front cover, 3 years ago) and was interested in seeing his perspective of Colombia, and maybe learning a bit more about the place. The book didn't disappoint but he concentrated a lot on small towns and the violence that has been a part of Colombia for so long in these towns. I certainly expected a lot about this, but I would've liked a little more about the people and places that aren't affected by this so much. Only the parts in Bogota reminded me of the Colombia I knew and in my time in Colombia I met many people not directly affected by the violence.

For me he could've made the book longer and also talked about more places, and more of the big cities. Having said all that, it was an excellent read and it taught me a lot about some parts of Colombia that I knew nothing.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a travel book 1 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is more a recent history of Colombia of an anecdotal kind than a travel book. There is vey little description of the wonderful sights of Colombia or any sense of the friendliness and hospitality of the Colombian people. The book is not helped by the failure to include an adequate map. That provided does not even make it clear which parts of the country the author visited. Overall not recommended.
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