The Farm


Translated from by

Published: April 17, 2018





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Book Description

Pilar, Eva, and Antonio Ángel are the last heirs of La Oculta, a farm hidden in the mountains of Colombia. The land provides the setting for the siblings’ happiest memories, but it also reminds them of their struggle against the siege of violence and terror, restlessness and flight. In The Farm, Héctor Abad illuminates the vicissitudes of a family and a people, as well as the voices of these three siblings, recounting their loves, fears, desires, and hopes, all against a dazzling backdrop. We enter their lives at the moment they are about to lose the paradise on which they built their dreams and reality.

Héctor Abad’s The Farm is about how three adult children deal with inheriting a paternal farm...The love for manicured landscapes and sumptuous greenhouses—on display throughout Abad’s novel—offers many a lesson about the barbarity in civilization, in the South and the North, that emerge when reading between the lines.
Héctor Abad, Public Books

Building on his well-received memoir, Oblivion...the Colombian writer Abad tells a family story in The Farm, a novel that deploys the tragic events of his country’s history as background...Pilar stands out for her delicate and memorable turns of phrase.
Patricio Pron, The New York Times

The novel progresses through rings of memory, love, nostalgia, incrimination, judgment, and desire as the three siblings contemplate their attachment to La Oculta in successive first-person chapters. Mirrored so as to reflect one another, the glossy, dark, and quiet rings form and swirl out as if produced by a pebble thrown into the farm’s deep nameless lake... Abad’s skill in The Farm, and a reason he is one of Colombia’s most magnetic writers, is the capacity to embody the pebble, positioning himself in the center of rippling circles in order to appreciate the force from every surrounding point. For the English reader, translator Anne McLean enhances Abad’s radical centrism by successfully modulating the tone of each sibling to keep their voices distinct while also revealing interior emotional range, contradiction, and confusion.

Nathaniel Popkin, Rain Taxi Review

​Although the work is presented as a chorus of three voices, those of the siblings who narrate the events for us, this trio blends into one voice, that of the author, who becomes the ventriloquist for ​​The Farm​, the true protagonist...Héctor Abad Faciolince invites readers to discover what this book conceals or reveals in its chorus of three siblings’ voices as they alternate like soloists, speaking of the true protagonist of the story, a rural farm that could imprison or liberate, lock or unlock, depending on the lens through which it is viewed.​

Dixon Acosta Medellín, El Espectador

When his mother’s death brings him back to the family farm in Colombia, Antonio Angel must confront the country’s multi-layered history of violence. Long-suppressed memories resurface as Antonio and his sisters take stock of lives transformed and lost over decades of armed conflict and political corruption.

Financial Times

The Farm is a treasure… With this novel, which deals with a seemingly local theme—the residents’ love for the land and the colonization of the town of Jericó—Héctor Abad gives us a universal work that explores the attachments that enslave human beings, who, to preserve them, are willing to risk everything…”
El Espectador (Colombia)

“In Latin America, a new post-ideological realism is spreading. Héctor Abad’s novel The Farm is today’s literary response to Gabriel García Márquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude. A masterpiece.”
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland)

“I store up what I have read by Héctor Abad like spherical, polished, luminous little balls of bread, ready for when I have to walk through a vast forest in the nighttime.”
Manuel Rivas

"[A] pensive novel, by noted Colombian writer Abad... of a rural family torn by conflict and incomprehension.... Abad studs his novel with sharply drawn aperçus... A graceful story that takes its time to unfold, with much roiling under the surface of the narrative."
Kirkus Reviews

"Abad’s arresting novel (after the memoir Oblivion) tells the story of La Oculta, a farm hidden in the mountains outside Medellín that has weathered guerrilla and paramilitary violence but whose future is anything but secure...a brilliant lesson in Colombian history, as it fluctuates between past, 'nonexistent future, which is over for us or ending,' and 'the present, the here and now, in these few moments of life left to us.'"
Publisher's Weekly

"The Farm is a sweeping, satisfying tale about the interplay of family life and national history...The novel’s three main characters share the narrative duties, and each is a memorable, distinct figure...With perceptive novels like this one, Abad is carving out an enviable niche in Colombia’s celebrated literary tradition."
Kevin Canfield, World Literature Today

"From Colombia, fifty years after the magic realism of One Hundred Years of Solitude, comes Hector Abad’s The Farm, a superbly-written novel of equal magnitude, but entirely realistic. The government land turns out to be worthless, untamed wilderness that produces only snakes, jaguars and mosquitos. Abad’s brave, stubborn ancestors turn it into an empire. Meet the three siblings of the Angel family, who take turns telling the story: Pilar, who has only loved her husband Alberto her whole life; beautiful Eva, married three times, remembering the night she escaped being murdered by a band of paramilitary thugs, and Antonio, gay violinist living in New York with his black husband, researching the very history you are reading about their ancient family farm."
Nick DiMartino

"Abad’s prose shines with the dreams of the Antioquian settlers who attempted to create a utopia for their descendants. But the novel also casts shadows—nightmares taking the form of guerrilla kidnappings, threats and massacres of the paramilitaries, and the ghosts of all who have drowned at La Oculta lake. The Angél siblings recount, assess, and cross-reference these events into a comprehensive portrait of their family, revealing how a land’s history can bind or divide our families, while always calling us to return home."
Arkansas International

"As the personal and family histories build and intertwine, each narrators’ words nourish and thrive off the others. Each of us will find something personal or familiar or profound to identify with in one of the three characters."
Catherine Belshaw, Asymptote Journal

"Colombia’s twenty-first century rejoinder to One Hundred Years of Solitude. ... There can be no future, Abad seems to be arguing, when everything you are is hidden away in a time you can never fully know."
Lucas Spiro, Artsfuse

"Abad beautifully intertwines three distinct personalities against the backdrop of La Oculta... His descriptions of the land make the reader fall in love with the place... When conflict arises among the siblings and La Oculta is threatened, readers viscerally share in the pain they experience as the story reaches its moving conclusion."
Lee E. Cart, Shelf Awareness

Praise for Oblivion (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012):

“Mr. Abad’s prose is elastic and alive…In Spanish the verb ‘to remember’ is ‘recordar,’ the author reminds us, a word that derives from ‘cor,’ the Latin for heart. [Oblivion] is extravagantly big-hearted.”
Dwight Garner, The New York Times

Oblivion is a searing memoir written with love and blood: both family blood, the kind that’s thicker than water, and the spilled blood of barbarism and murder. From the first pages we feel the internal necessity driving this story… while Oblivion is suffused with politics, it is primarily, and most powerfully, a highly personal coming-of-age story that’s also a sharp sociopolitical portrait of its place and time… This hard-earned memoir is an act of courage in its own right.”
Michael Greenberg, The New York Times

“An admirable effort at speaking the unspeakable, at verbalizing the pain accumulated over decades, is Héctor Abad’s extraordinary memoir Oblivion. It’s been years since I read such a powerful meditation on loss…”
Ilan Stavans, San Francisco Chronicle

“A passion for romantic Borgesianism will be satisfied by Héctor Abad’s Recipes for Sad Women, cute vignettes which address a darker sadness.”
Nick Lezard, The Guardian Books of the Year 2012

[The Farm] is a tale you don’t wish to end. . . told with love of the memories the country holds, fury at those who ravaged it and sorrow at everything that has been lost. This richly evocative saga is so persuasively alluring, it suggests the greatest of these is love.

Rosemary Goring, Herald Scotland

At the center of Abad’s sprawling novel is an archetypal scenario: three grown siblings wrestling with what to do when they inherit their family’s farm upon the death of their mother... The overall effect creates a fantastic sense of the place described, while also illuminating the way that gaps in knowledge can shape who we are today.

Tobias Carrol, Words Without Borders

The Farm is, first and foremost, a novel about the concept of home: how we identify home and how the idea of it means different things to different people. . . This is a lovely novel to immerse oneself in. . .

Literary Flits

The Farm is longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award!

“I myself was in exile for many years. Now I am back and can see a serious effort to realize the dreams my father had 30 years ago.” Read the rest of Héctor Abad’s interview with Deutsche Welle here.

Read here about Héctor Abad’s interview with 60 Minutes, where he recounts life under Pablo Escobar.

How difficult was it to delve into the Colombian conflict for this novel having lost your father to it?
I own a farm very similar to the one in the novel. My sisters and I inherited it from my father and when a father is murdered, his inheritance becomes like a fetish. The house is charged with life: it is as if it were him, a part of him. The difficult thing for me to understand was how each sibling has a different relationship with that house, with that memory. All had the same father, all knew the same house, but not everyone sees it in the same way.” – Read the rest of Héctor Abad’s interview with The Guardian here, where he talks about the legacy of Colombia’s civil war in his writing.