Paperback review: Short Walks From Bogotá


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The Independent Culture

Tom Feiling lived in Bogotá for a year in 2001, at which time the war between the military, left-wing insurgents and drugs cartels rendered much of Colombia off-limits.

But thanks to some strong-arm tactics from former president Álvaro Uribe, the country has now become a safer place to travel. Feiling returned to "venture into Colombia's hamlets and villages" and tell the stories of its people.

This book has been highly praised, but I found it short on those pleasures – particularly the evocations of character and place – that one looks for in narrative travel writing. It might be better to approach this as a work of reportage: Feiling is good on politics, particularly when discussing the push-and-pull between the imperatives of security and human rights. In Colombia, like everywhere else, the former tends to triumph.