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The Robber of Memories: A River Journey Through Colombia [Paperback]

Michael Jacobs
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2013
Running through the heart of Colombia is a river emblematic of the fascination and tragedy of South America, the Magdalena. Considered by some to be the most dangerous place in the world, travellers along the river - for centuries the only route into the vast South American interior - were at the mercy of tropical disease, dangerous animals and precarious barges. A third of the victims of 'la violencia', Colombia's period of civil conflict which began in the 1950s, ended up in its waters. Townships alongside it have experienced some of the worst massacres in South American history. In 2011, Michael Jacobs travelled its whole length to the river's source high up in Andean moorlands controlled by guerrillas. In spellbinding prose, he charts the dangers he negotiated - including a terrifying three day encounter with the FARC - while uncovering the river's history of pioneering explorations, environmental decline and political violence. As Jacobs delves into the history of destruction and decay along the river, he also makes a deeply personal exploration into memory and its loss: not far from the river's banks lies a group of townships with the highest incidence of early onset Alzheimer's in the world. Jacobs reflects on the lives of his father, and his mother - sufferers respectively from Alzheimer's and dementia - as he travels upstream towards what comes to seem like a heartland of mystery, magic and darkness.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Granta (1 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847084087
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847084088
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


As well as an exhilarating travel account, The Robber of Memories is a moving meditation on the nature of forgetfulness and forgetting ... A triumph --Daily Telegraph

Jacobs s writing deploys a poetic ear and painterly eye to achieve ruminations akin to those of Coleridge wandering Lakeland... we reach the point that no travel book is supposed to reach, whereby the snake eats its tail: instead of breaking free into the wild he adores and does often find, Jacobs gives the lie to travel writing in this shrunken world conquered by mobile phones, contempt for nature and the plague of tourism --Observer

An utterly beguiling amalgam of travel journalism and family history --Spectator

Travel writing at its best... pulses with an elegiac, penumbral light --Independent

A profound and moving meditation on memory loss... Jacobs wears his erudition lightly, and has some amusing encounters along the way... Entertaining, touching and quixotic --Literary Review

Jacobs' literary skill and passion for all things Latin makes this a must-read for anyone contemplating a trip to one of South America's most neglected yet enthralling destinations. --Lonely Planet guide

A fascinating vignette, describing a journey to the source of River Magdalena. --Tom Chesshyre, The Times

The Robber of Memories is a spell-binding journey to the source of the majestic Magdalena river ... Jacobs is much more than a travel writer. The Robber of Memories is literary adventure that uses the river to explore memory, the way the mind is sparked by travel. But it is the sadness of memory loss, however, that lingers. --Colombia Politics

About the Author

MICHAEL JACOBS was born in Italy and studied Art History at the Courtauld Institute in London. He is the author of several travel books, including Andes (Granta, 2010) and was shortlisted for the 2004 Thomas Cook prize. He lives in Spain and London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Pjhale
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had hoped to receive this book for Christmas and take it with me to Colombia when I travelled there in January this year to birdwatch. Fortunately I didn't buy it until after my return for although it is well written, it painted a very different Colombia from the one I found. Unlike some other reviewers, for me I found the links between his mother's illness and the Rio Magdalena, worked well. On a personal note, I too travelled near the Rio Magdalena at times and at one time was taken to the river bank by a friendly bus driver - "Mi tierra es su tierra". I did not travel as far south as Michael Jacobs did as I knew that area is still not safe. So enjoy this book but don't let it put you off visiting Colombia, much of which is now safe, friendly, beautiful and welcoming. Every Colombian I met asked me "How do you find Colombia?" I was travelling alone, much of the time by bus, staying in beautiful bird reserves.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars memorable 9 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A fascinating and poignant book. It made me more determined than ever to visit Colombia - and to hang on to my memories as long as possible!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book 8 Jan 2013
Michael Jacobs blends travelogue with literary, social, cultural and political history - as well as personal rumination on his mother's illness. It is beautiful, magical, transporting you to the very many places along the Magdalena which, having read it, you will want to visit.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars required reading for fans of Colombia 24 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As someone who knows Colombia well, I can recommend this book. I am hoping to visit the area Michael covers in the Spring of next year, when I go again on holiday. I have followed parts of the Magdalena when journeying from Medellin to Bogota and it really is magical country.
To anyone who is thinking of going to Colombia, I say : "Go!" Leave your prejudices behind. It is a beautiful land; the people are warm, open and hospitable and it is safe. The present, and previous, governments of Presidents Uribe and Santos have moved heaven and earth to end the civil conflict, and it is happening now.
You will be safe......and stunned by the country!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 20 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've never been to Colombia so wasn't sure that this book would have much traction for me: how wrong I was. It's a terrific read, a wonderful portrayal of the country, its tragic recent history and political incompetence, of its great river and touchingly of the author's Colombian friends and acquaintances. It had me reaching for flight timetables - until the last section of the book which describes FARC's tragicomic attempt to improve its public image. Two small reservations. The reflections on memory and its loss added little, despite the subject's obvious personal significance for the author. And, a shame (as so often with books grounded in a particular geographic location) that the sketch map is inadequate. But, nonetheless, superb.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars stuart 2 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having lived in Colombia, and knowing this river it was a great read for me, also the part about his mothers illness was sad for me as my aunt had just gone through a similar period of life and then pasted away, all in all a very heart rendering read
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Robber O Memories: 7 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
If you like travel books this is a mustread, Colombia is shown to be such a fantastic country. I loved it.
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