Essay: captivating and surprising Colombia

Essay: captivating and surprising Colombia


Colombia, “the second richest country on the planet in terms of biodiversity”, is currently experiencing a doubly historic moment. First, its population elected, for the first time in its history, a left-wing government led by an ex-guerrilla, Gustavo Petro. Secondly, the country is engaged in a peace process, while representatives of the Colombian government and the ELN (National Liberation Army) guerrillas are talking in Cuba, under the auspices of several European countries, the UN and the Episcopal Conference of Colombia.

Unfortunately, Colombia accumulates several other records or first places, including those of the first producer of cocaine in the world and the highest number of assassinations on the continent. The well-known Pablo Escobar, “sometimes Robin Hood benefactor of the poor and oppressed thanks to drug money, sometimes bloodthirsty beast and unscrupulous against anyone who dares to resist him”, once the most wanted criminal of the planet, died thirty years ago, but the violence has not ceased.

Informing, not without risks

It is this country in all its forms – in Colombia, there are only two classes, the rich and the poor, the middle class having disappeared – that the journalist Jean-Michel Leprince presents to us, who during all these years of civil war informed us assiduously for thirty-seven years on Radio-Canada television, not without risk. “It is not a question here of souvenirs or travel notes, he says, but of precise testimonies of what really happened at the time. 

His baptism Colombian, Jean-Michel Leprince receives it with the eruption, in mid-November 1985, of the Andean volcano Nevado del Ruiz, which will cause at least twenty-five thousand deaths. A real humanitarian disaster as relief struggles to arrive.

A week after this tragedy, another major event took place: the capture of the Bogota courthouse by the M-19 guerrilla movement. Twenty-eight guerrillas took part in the surprise attack, the aim of which was to denounce human rights abuses and to put the President of the Republic on trial, who was ordered to go there. It will be slaughter. More than three hundred and fifty people were inside the building, including judges and lawyers. The siege of the army lasts two days. The government refused to negotiate and the army violently entered the courthouse with tanks. Toll: more than a hundred dead. 

A dozen survivors, suspected of having participated in the attack, will disappear forever, after being tortured. The M-19, an urban guerrilla movement – ​​the other two guerrilla formations being rural – had distinguished itself in previous years by a series of spectacular kidnappings: drug traffickers, crooked trade unionists, diplomats, right-wing politicians, etc. You should know that the current Colombian president was a founding member of the M-19, before being elected senator, then mayor of Bogota.

But Pablo Escobar in all this? 

Escobar and the M-19

Different hypotheses circulate according to which Escobar would have financed the M-19 operation. At the time, the government was pursuing a bill regarding the extradition of convicted drug traffickers to the United States, and the Supreme Court was discussing the constitutionality of the bill. 

On the fourth floor of the courthouse were all the files of the “extradables”. During the operation, six thousand files, including those of Pablo Escobar, will be burned. Pablo Escobar's reign of terror had just begun “and it will not cease to grow in horror. He will change the history of Colombia, and the violence he inflicts on his country and the world through his innovative methods of drug trafficking and cruelty will not end with his death in 1993.


As Bernard Derome says in the preface, ” The fault of Pablo Escobar can be devoured like a detective novel, with the difference that it is not fiction. , but from the strict truth, based on facts, checked twice rather than once by a credible author.


Riopelle and me/Biography and making of

While we are publicly discussing the value of certain artists through the lens of their behavior with women, here is the revised and expanded reissue of a biography, that of the automatist painter Riopelle, on the occasion of his centenary, written by a woman, who is not afraid to affirm: “My round trip behind the scenes of my investigation allowed me to revisit my perception of Riopelle, to appreciate even more his personality, his entourage, his sculptures, his paintings. » You have to reread this biography to let yourself be impregnated by the immense work of this legendary painter, a sort of demi-god who crosses existence in full terror while spitting fire, to use the expression of the biographer, you must also read this book for its making of, this entry behind the scenes of this great theater whose stage is the entire universe, where Hélène de Billy introduces us wonderfully to her own universe and “infects” us. with his fascination for the painter of snow geese.

The candor of the patriarch

Who does not know Gilles Archambault, this hoarse voice that we have heard for so long on state radio, sometimes talking to us about jazz, sometimes about its relationship with the world in general or about the spirit of the times, in what he called “tickets in the mood”, on the Joël Le Bigot show for twenty-three years? He also wrote an incredible number of intimate books, where we discover the father, the grandfather, the great-grandfather and the faithful lover, roles that were beyond him, he admits very humbly. This book does not escape the intimate and fits, like the previous ones, in a box apart from our literature, far from fashions and ready-made formulas. It reconciles us with the passage of time, without providing answers to the questions we all ask ourselves about the meaning of life, especially as we approach the great departure, this “entry into nothingness”. Thank you Gilles.