An epic yet intimate novel about a Colombian man caught up in the sweep of global historical and ideological revolutions.

The Colombian film director, Sergio Cabrera, is in Barcelona for a retrospective of his work. It's a hard time for him: his father, famous actor Fausto Cabrera, has just died; his marriage is in crisis; and his home country has rejected peace agreements that might have ended more than fifty years of war. In the course of a few intense days, as his films are on exhibit, Sergio recalls the events that marked his family's unusual and dramatic lives: especially his father's, his sister Marianella's and his own. 

Growing up in Colombia as the children of famous actors, Sergio and Marianella were privileged and artistic, until their parents became disillusioned with bourgeois conventions and moved the entire family to China. Mao’s Cultural Revolution was underway and the family lived in an entirely ex-pat hotel where they learned Chinese and joined the revolution, became members of the Red Guard, and trained as guerilla fighters. When they returned to Colombia to support the revolution there, they were sent into the countryside to join the guerilla force, were shot at and nearly died. Out of these lives molded by ideology and zealotry, came an artistic second life for Sergio as he escaped the movement and became his country’s most celebrated film director.

From the Spanish Civil War to the exile of his family to Latin America, and from the Cultural Revolution in China to the guerrilla movements of 1960s Colombia, Sergio and his family's experience is extraordinary by any standards. Equal parts family saga and epic historical novel, Retrospective reveals the story of one man and his family -- based on real people and events -- and a devastating portrait of the forces that shaped their lives, and for half a century turned the world upside down.
Winner of the Biennial Mario Vargas Llosa Novel Prize
Winner of the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger

Praise for Retrospective

"Imagine two Colombian adolescents as the only guests in a Communist party foreigners’ hotel in China. Juan Gabriel Vásquez is a Colombian writer with the talent to keep a magician’s equilibrium between reality and fiction.... Fascinating... Beautifully written and gripping." -- Gioconda Belli, The Guardian
“Juan Gabriel Vásquez is one of the most impressive novelists currently writing in Latin America… [H]e has produced half a dozen major works, to which Retrospective is a masterly addition.” – Times Literary Supplement
“One of the great novels to have been written in our language.” – Mario Vargas Llosa

“Vásquez’s portrait of Sergio—based on more than 30 hours of interviews with Cabrera, according to an author’s note—isn’t simply a critique of authoritarian doctrine. Rather, the story is a more tender bildungsroman about the ways that heartbreak and political disillusionment intertwine to form our personalities… A strong entry in the author's careerlong exploration of the ways the political winds can change an artist’s fortunes. A sharp study of the perils of ideology in collision with art.” – Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Juan Gabriel Vásquez

“Masterly.” —Yiyun Li, New York Times Book Review

“Razor-sharp.” —O, The Oprah Magazine