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Rt. Hon. Michael Portillo
When David Hutchinson, an Englishman in Colombia, is seized by the FARC guerrillas and held for ransom, he feels a burning sense of injustice. While being marched over mountains and through forests he faces the perils of insects, illness and injury. While in captivity he marks his sixtieth birthday. He combats boredom through conversation with guerrillas and fellow hostages, innumerable games of chess, and eventually two novels sent to the jungle by his family. On his release he suffers traumatic effects, and is ruined by the cost of raising the ransom.
It is a remarkable story. Few have Hutchinson’s experience of what the guerrillas are really like. Many of them appear simple and ignorant. Some are volatile, others kindly. They fight to overthrow their government through violent revolution. Their idealism has become submerged by the drug-dealing and kidnapping that finance their struggle. Hutchinson sees no justification for their viciousness or for wrecking his life.
He acknowledges that he is a lucky one. Large numbers who were taken hostage remain prisoners of the guerrillas today, many years later. Countless others were murdered. Kidnapping has ravaged Colombia and
destroyed thousands of families.
It is paradoxical that Colombia, that has long abjured the death penalty, should be the victim of so much killing. It is ironic that a republic that, unusually for South America, has rarely fallen into military dictatorship should be so torn by revolution. It is tragic that cocaine – for export – should have polluted the state and society to their roots.
Colombia is a nation determined to fight back. With a combination of enlightened social programmes and measures to improve security it is bearing down on the drug-trafficking, kidnap and murder.
Hutchinson was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was an unlucky foreigner in Colombia. But his book touches on the anguish of a whole nation. I fervently wish the people of Colombia a future that brings reconciliation and peace, and liberty for all the victims of abduction.
Through a Looking Glass is the true story of an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. David Hutchinson, 59 years old and retired from a life spent in international business, was kidnapped by criminals and sold to the FARC, the main Colombian guerrilla.
A nine-month forced march through the fierce terrain of Colombia ensued but the author makes little of this and we can only guess his feelings when he is told ‘You pay, you go free’. But this is not a one sided story. David Hutchinson incorporates his family’s side of the story; their efforts to contact him and the FARC: a whole picture of the kidnap is created.
Because this is the story of David Hutchinson’s long march, there is a pace to the narrative. Interspersed with this are pen-portraits of the various guerrilleros with whom he comes into contact and minibiographies of other captives and the limited occupations of the captives such as chess and wildlife watching.
When he is finally allowed to make a phone call to his home, there is the constant fear that it will be traced. The whole group could then be attacked by the air force, as did happen. This is not just kidnapping; this is war. The air force flies overhead and the army constantly track the guerrilla. They run, they fight and they die, it is a constant battle for survival. Interest is added by giving details of the political and social background and of how the kidnappings first started. Half the kidnaps in the world happen in Colombia. This is an enthralling memoir, which will both fascinate and horrify the reader.
David Hutchinson was born in 1943 in Peshawar, India (now Pakistan) of British parents, John and Antonia. They returned to England in 1947, where David went to school and to Oxford. David married Graciela Busto from Argentina with whom he had two children. After her death from cancer he married his second wife Maria Cecilia (Nanette) Muñoz, from the Philippines. He was president of the Colombian-British Chamber of Commerce, Bototà 1993-97 and in 1998 was warded an MBE for services to British-Colombian Trade. He now lives in Barcelona.
I've just finished reading you book. I have to say that it makes fascinating reading and especially when you actually know the person who is going though such tortures. I have always admired you but I now find it astonishing that you are still "cuerda". It must be incredibly difficult to put it all behind you and live a normal life. I don't know what you would have done without your love of birds, insects and plants. Charles Wordsworth
Just to say that I read and much enjoyed David’s book. As I read it I could hear him speaking.
I found the chapters on the members of the FARC that encountered, and his fellow captives (and similarities between some of them), particularly interesting and you have a phenomenal memory to describe your experiences so vividly!
What an excellent book. I wonder if I enjoyed it because it was you, and knowing you made it fun, but I think it was just well written. I liked that it wasn’t oppressive, full of violence and gore, nor depressing, as other books on this sort of subject sometimes are. The human elements, not romanticized, and appropriately brief, were appropriate as encounters in the military would be. I also like how you presented all sides without hammering the points. The wildlife made it delightful. I can’t wait for Jeff to come home and read it
Patricia Harding of The American Orchid Society