Jorge Franco: El mundo de afuera [The World Outside]


The latest addition to my website is Jorge Franco‘s El mundo de afuera [The World Outside], the winner of the prestigious Spanish Alfaguara Prize this year. This is an excellent novel, mainly set in Franco’s home town of Medellín, Colombia and mainly involving the kidnapping of a rich man, Don Diego Echavarría Misa. Don Diego is a keen lover of Germany and all things German. This love includes the country, Wagner but also Hitler’s way of doing things. When visiting Germany in the 1950s, he meets and falls in love with Benedikta Zur Nieden, whom everyone calls Dita. They return to Colombia (via an expensive European shopping trip) and Diego has a fairytale castle built in Medellín, based on La Rochefoucauld Castle. They have a daughter, Isolda, who is treated like and behaves like a princess. She is generally kept in the castle and its grounds, with her own (German) governess. However, she has been seen in the woods next to the castle by some of the locals. One of the locals is an older man, Mono, who has fallen in love with her. He plans to kidnap both father and daughter but this goes wrong and he ends up kidnapping only Diego. Much of the novel is about his relationship with Diego – he makes no attempt to conceal himself – and the activities of his fairly incompetent gang. Fortunately for them the police are equally incompetent. To the surprise of the gang, no ransom is forthcoming and they are starting to get worried. While this is going on, we are following Mono’s external life – his love for Isolda, his young, gay lover and Twiggy, a young woman who thinks she is Mono’s girlfriend. He also still lives with his mother, who seems to be blissfully ignorant of her son’s full but haphazard life. Dita then brings in a Belgian psychic who thinks that he can determine whether Diego is alive or dead and track down where he is kept. It certainly is an enjoyable novel. While it has not been translated into English, two of Franco’s earlier novels have been, so there is some hope that this one might be.

Leave a comment