Every Day the Riv­er Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2021

An Amer­i­can writer of Argen­tine, Syr­i­an, and Iraqi Jew­ish descent, Jor­dan Sala­ma tells the sto­ry of the Río Mag­dale­na, near­ly one thou­sand miles long, the heart of Colom­bia. This is Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez’s ter­ri­to­ry — rumor has it Macon­do was part­ly inspired by the port town of Mom­pox — as much as that of the Mid­dle East­ern immi­grants who run fab­ric stores by its banks.

Fol­low­ing the riv­er from its source high in the Andes to its mouth on the Caribbean coast, jour­ney­ing by boat, bus, and impro­vised moto­ba­lin­era, Sala­ma writes against stereo­type and toward the rich lives of those he meets. Among them are a canoe builder, biol­o­gists who study inva­sive hip­popota­mus­es, a Queens trans­plant man­ag­ing a fail­ing hotel, a jew­el­er prac­tic­ing the art of sil­ver fil­i­gree, and a trav­el­ing librar­i­an whose don­keys, Alfa and Beto, haul books to rur­al chil­dren. Joy, mourn­ing, and humor come togeth­er in this aston­ish­ing debut, about a coun­try too often seen as only a site of war, and a tale of live­ly adven­ture fol­low­ing a leg­endary river.

Discussion Questions