Colombian Gold: A Novel of Power and Corruption

Jaime Manrique photographed by Nancy CramptonSuddenly he snatched up the pillow and placed it firmly over his father's face. He held it there, pushing down with all his strength. The old man's hands fluttered, the left one grasping for Santiago's elbow, and his body contracted in a last burst of strength.

Santiago Villalba, the illegitimate son of a wealthy landowner, suffers the extremes of contemporary malaise. He is ambivalent, disaffected, apolitical, bisexual, addicted to cocaine.

As the story opens, Santiago and his wife return to the place of his birth, Barranquilla, and to the bedside of his ailing father, who has inspired a driving hatred in his son. This rage extends to his stepfather, who is grooming him to take over the family business (once bananas, now marijuana) and urging him to prepare himself for political office and "assume the responsibilities of his class." When his father dies, Santiago believes he is finally free, only to find himself at the hub of a nightmarish world in which each of the principals in his life (Beatrice, his wife, who lives in a semidarkened room; Mario, the cynical childhood friend who says "It's them or it's us"; Caridad, his sensuous and cruel lover, whose "job" is director of the secret police) leads him into further confusion, corruption, and disaster. Finally, despised and endangered by both his "friends" and enemies, he is forced to take action.

In his first novel, Jaime Manrique demonstrates a vigorous and startling talent. Kindred spirit to Nathanael West, Manrique takes dazzling leaps and creates powerful imagery that lingers in the mind. With his eye for the bizarre, the ironic, the humorous, he has given us a drama about South America in the 1980s that is spare, vivid, and arresting.

PRAISE FOR Colombian Gold
Colombian Gold

"Colombian Gold is studded with unforgettable characterizations, in a portrait of a rotten society with the bare bones of corruption poking through."
—William Burroughs

"Colombian Gold is like reading a movie...a film noir running wild."
—Pauline Kael

"...a pícaro prone to shock his readers by testing the moral standards of his time."
Washington Post Book World

"...a riverting portrait of a brutally repressive, totalitarian country fueled by a billion-dollar illegal underground economy."
Library Journal

"Manrique is a marvelously compelling writer...sizzling."
—Liz Smith, The Daily News

"...a wild tale of...corruption in high places...inspired, but true enough that its author, Jaime Manrique, dare not return to his native country."
Rolling Stone

" excellent action novel that is at the same time a terse literary object."
—Manuel Puig


New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1983.

New York: Avon Books, 1984.

Mexico City, Mexico: Editorial Diana S.A., 1985.

Tel Aviv, Israel: Zmora, Bitan, 1987.

New York: Painted Leaf Press, 1998.

Purchase this book on Amazon

The text of this book is also available from Alexander Street Press.