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Colombian writer Ricardo Silva Romero is known for his particular use of humor. Photo: Facebook/Courtesy
Colombian writer Ricardo Silva Romero is known for his particular use of humor. Photo: Facebook/Courtesy

How to live in vain

In his latest novel, Colombian Ricardo Silva Romero explores the idea of confinement, including the one each person lives inside his or her head

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In April 2007 Ricardo Silva Romero was chosen by the Hay Festival organization as one of the 39 most important writers under 39 in Latin America. Fifteen years later, Silva Romero has become one of the most outstanding literary and journalistic voices in Colombia.

Author of several books, including biographies, essays, poetry books and novels, Silva Romero just published Cómo vivir en vano (How to Live in Vain), a novel that takes up the central family of Cómo perderlo todo, with which he won the 2019 Colombian Narrative Library Prize, but adding new stories and characters. 

In Cómo perderlo todo, the story centers on the old professor Pizarro, a man oblivious to the hatreds and stonings of today, who happens to publish a post on his novel Facebook profile that puts his life in check — scientific research that insists that women who are mothers are the most intelligent.

A dizzying choral story unfolds around his debacle: the ill-fated year 2016 — the leap year of the peace plebiscite in Colombia, of Brexit, of Trump — becomes a test for the nerves of several couples on the verge of falling into their own traps.

In Cómo vivir en vano, Silva Romero recovers his characteristic intelligent and humorous prose not so much to criticize the dominance of technology in our lives, but to explore the idea of lockdown, the phenomenon that characterized another ill-fated year: 2020.

Recovering the figure of Professor Horacio Pizarro, the story places us in the uncertain year 2020 — the leap year of plague and confinement. On New Year's Eve, the professor and his family have an unexpected encounter with a man who will cause a fight to break out between the two daughters, Julia and Adelaida. This family drama will not only mark the Pizarro's route through 2020 — a year in which they will relive old messes: what really happened with Verónica Arteaga, wonders Clara, Horacio's wife — but will also put back into perspective fundamental issues of our times, such as #MeToo, virtual encounters, Trump, the Black Lives Matter movement and social outburst.

The aim of the novel, which incorporates new characters — an old writer, an escort, a webcammer, a doctor, a soccer player, a UFO spotter, some YouTuber twins — is now to explore the idea of confinement, not only the physical one, but also the one that everyone lives inside their own head.

Silva Romero, currently a contributor to the Colombian outlet El Tiempo, studied literature at the Javeriana University in Bogota and his thesis, "Todos los hombres del rey: documental sobre el relato de Paul Auster" was chosen as one of the best in the country in 1998.

Between 1999 and 2000 he completed a Master's degree in film at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Since then, he has not stopped publishing. Among his most outstanding works are Walkman (2004), which novelizes nine days of his life; El hombre de los mil nombres (2006), which traces the life of filmmaker Lester Brown; and his biography of Woody Allen.

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