THE MAN WHO COULD MOVE CLOUDS: A Memoir, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras ~ NYT


By Miguel Salazar

  • July 6, 2022

THE MAN WHO COULD MOVE CLOUDS: A Memoir, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

In 2012, Ingrid Rojas Contreras traveled to her mother’s hometown, Ocaña, Colombia, to exhume her grandfather Nono’s body at the request of several spirits who family members said had appeared to them in dreams. Researching her ancestry while there, she picked up a book so old that it disintegrated in her hands, leaving nothing but dust. “It’s like I watched history erase itself,” she despaired, reflecting on her failed hunt for family documents. Her mother laughed in her face. “Who do you think we are,” she scoffed, “the type of people to be in the public record?”

So to complete “The Man Who Could Move Clouds” — her first memoir, following her debut novel, “Fruit of the Drunken Tree,” in 2018 — Rojas Contreras relies instead on oral history, ultimately embracing its messy, unverifiable and disjointed nature. The narrative jumps in time, from 1984 to 2007 to 1993 to the colonial era. Family members are introduced as adults, appear later as teenagers, then as corpses. Spirits lurk at every corner. There are spectral treasure hunts, abusive men, alcoholic ghosts and shape-shifting witches; paramilitaries set fire to a family farm, bomb blasts become a normal occurrence and an uncle is kidnapped by guerrillas four separate times. These are the kinds of stories that would’ve had Gabriel García Márquez rubbing his hands together.


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