First things first. Philip Potdevin is a Colombian writer who was born in Cali. I must admit I didn’t know him at first but I took a course at my University that focus on Colombian literature and I loved every book I read. However, by far “La sembradora de cuerpos (The Body Planter)” is the most beautiful book I have read in years.
Also I think, is you are not from Colombia (My country), I should explain the context of my country, so you can understand why is this book so breautiful.
Colombia has been living in a “civil war” we can call it, since decades by now. Long things short, some guerrillas were form in the 50’s, because they were not happy with the government and politics, therefore those groups were fighting for a better country, of course they weren’t fighting peacefully and then everything got rotten and the guerrillas were no longer fighting for the politics but they were getting more a more violent so people in the rural areas started to created self defensive groups against the guerrillas. So basically a civil war started, there were carefews and all of kind of pressure for the population. Basically since this became, for our farmers, a huge deal because they couldn’t work without paying or getting treats and so on, a migration started to the big cities. This as a big big overview.
I am going to started writing about first impression, like layout and must of the poetic and aesthetics, and after I will say why this previous overview is such an important matter
The cover, as you can see in the picture, is an illustration representing a girl with his curly hair a birds which are very important in the story. The layout very friendly to the eyes and nice font.
Getting more into the book, as soon as you start reading the book you can’t stop and that’s what I love in books, is like every sentence is written from the bottom of his soul, almost as he lived what he wrote. As it say in the back cover ” The body planter is a touching novel who pays tribute to all the girls who were and are victims from the Colombian’s armed conflict…”. Maybe one of the things that appeals to the reader is the cruelty yet beautiful prose. And this contrast is what makes it worth of reading. The nature, the little town, the people and the way Frida (a 12 year girl) must leave the place because they are told to by a guerrilla is heartbreaking, but the poetics don’t let you fall in a unnecesary pity, but makes you fall in love with the character.
The birds in this story are important as I mention. If you have read greek tragedy must know they always have a chorus. In this case the birds are the chorus and only the old man and Frida can understand the meaning behind it.
So now let’s get a little bit into the problematic here. One thing that makes a difference in this book is: As a child who is in love with his little town and how life is there. Frida decided to stay in “Las Brisas” alone (despite the fact that some guerrilla or self created group, force them to leave as I mentioned before), of course without her mother knowing. You must think this ain’t possible, however in Colombian context it is, and is plausible because the migration of hundreds of people from rural areas were and are so massive that this can totally happened. So my point here is, that the writer didn’t decided to started from what was usual which is the migration, actually he took this as an option to represent a strong child, after young woman, and created this story around her and show us in one part the innocence of a child and the love for her place but also a reality.
The only spoiler I am giving you is why Body Planter is the books name: Because one day, the river starts bringing dead bodies and parts of it (because of the “civil war”). So the oldest fisherman in the town start burying this bodies, therefore Frida is the only one who do not friends it weird.
I don’t want to make this any longer. If you can find it in english is a MUST, but if you read in Spanish don’t waste your time and read this amazing book.