From the award-winning, bestselling author and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence for more than a decade, a book that brings vividly to life the story of the great Río Magdalena--illuminating Colombia's complex past, present, and future
Travelers often become enchanted with the first country that captures their hearts and gives them license to be free. For Wade Davis, it was Colombia. Now Davis shares his travels on the mighty Magdalena, the river that made possible the nation. Along the way, he finds a people who have overcome years of conflict precisely because of their character, informed by an enduring spirit of place, and a deep love of a land that is home to the greatest ecological and geographical diversity on the planet. Only in Colombia can a traveler wash ashore in a coastal desert, follow waterways through wetlands as wide as the sky, ascend narrow tracks through dense tropical forests, and reach verdant Andean valleys rising to soaring ice-clad summits.
Both a corridor of commerce and a fountain of culture, the wellspring of Colombian music, literature, poetry and prayer, the Magdalena has served in dark times as the graveyard of the nation. And yet, always, it returns as a river of life. At once an absorbing adventure and an inspiring tale of hope and redemption, Magdalena gives us a rare, kaleidoscopic picture of a nation on the verge of a new period of peace. Braiding together memoir, history, and journalism, Wade Davis tells the story of the country's most magnificent river, and in doing so, tells the epic story of Colombia.
WADE DAVIS is the author of twenty books, including One River, The Wayfinders, and Into the Silence, which won the 2012 Samuel Johnson prize, the top award for literary nonfiction in the English language. Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society from 1999 to 2013, he is currently Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. In 2016, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. In 2018 he became an Honorary Citizen of Colombia.
A Globe and Mail "Best Book" of 2020
An Economist Best Book of the Year, Culture and Ideas
“In this outstanding travelogue Wade Davis traces Colombia’s mighty Magdalena River from source to mouth, encountering stunning vistas and a host of extraordinary people. . . . [Davis] tells epic tales of passion, violence and ambition with tremendous narrative verve." —Sunday Times
"Few people can interpret Colombia, this most complicated of countries, as Wade Davis does; fewer people still can write about it with such empathy, knowledge and grace. Magdalena is the ultimate proof that Colombia’s present and past are inextricably linked to the larger fate of the American continent. To say that the book deserves to be read is perhaps inaccurate; I’d rather say that anyone who wishes to understand this mysterious corner of the world deserves Magdalena. It is a capacious, generous and illuminating book." —Juan Gabriel Vásquez, bestselling author of The Sound of Things Falling
“After all our agonies, Wade Davis, through the evocative power of his writing and the clarity of his understanding, gives us all reason to once again love Colombia. That is the wonder of this book, which in many ways reads as a love letter to a nation.” —Héctor Abad, author of Oblivion
“The author and his subject make an ideal match. . . . Magdalena is a revelatory and often enchanting book, enhanced by fine photographs and good maps.” —The Economist
“His passion for Colombia is . . . expressed in the depth of information he delivers—and the poetic way in which he captures its extraordinary landscape. Those pondering a trip will be inspired to veer off the tourist path.” —The Times
“[Magdalena] is the culmination of a lifetime’s work in the country and is suffused with a love and knowledge that only such long acquaintance can bring.” —The Spectator
“Davis suffuses his reportage with a visionary tinge. But his subject more than warrants it. He tells of an indigenous savant who advises lovers of the Magdalena to “know its moods?.?.?.?recognise its power, yield to its strength, and be thankful for its bounty.” His torrential book achieves all that.” —Financial Times
“[An] ardent travelogue. . . . Davis stocks his lively narrative with piquant characters, dramatic historical set pieces, and lyrical nature writing. . . . The result is a rich, fascinating study of how nature and a people shape each other." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Davis is a powerful, penetrating and immensely knowledgeable writer.” —The Guardian
“[A] delightful journey. . . . Davis is a natural, engaging storyteller, and while he makes his way through Colombia's history . . . the book is also an affecting account of on-the-ground exploration. . . . An elegant narrative masterfully combining fine reporting and a moving personal journey.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[A] deeply inquisitive, dazzlingly fluent scientific, cultural, and spiritual investigation . . . Always with a discerning eye to the symbolic and metaphorical, Davis tells the river’s saga of fecundity and horror through the lives of remarkable individuals past and present. . . . The story of Magdalena, as for every river, is that of an epic struggle between the sacred and the profane, between worship and preservation and reckless exploitation and wanton abuse.” —Booklist (starred review)