Even Silence Has an End

My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle

Ingrid Betancourt - Author

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ISBN 9780143119982 | 544 pages | 30 Aug 2011 | Penguin | 8.26 x 5.23in | 18 - AND UP
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"Betancourt's riveting an unforgettable epic of moral courage and human endurance." -Los Angeles Times

In the midst of her campaign for the Colombian presidency in 2002, Ingrid Betancourt traveled into a military-controlled region, where she was abducted by the FARC, a brutal terrorist guerrilla organization in conflict with the government. She would spend the next six and a half years captive in the depths of the Colombian jungle. Even Silence Has an End is her deeply moving and personal account of that time. The facts of her story are astounding, but it is Betancourt's indomitable spirit that drives this very special narrative-an intensely intelligent, thoughtful, and compassionate reflection on what it really means to be human.

Among the things detailed in the book:

  • Betancourt's memory is almost photographic—she gives a day by day account of how she had to acclimate to life imprisoned in the Amazon jungle: kidnapped as she was campaigning for the presidency of Colombia (the daughter of an international diplomat and Colombian senator) to living in camps infested with disease, limited food, and sanitary conditions that amounted to holes dug in the ground and covered with dirt. She frequently slept in a "cage," side by side with fellow prisoners (men and women) on wooden boards (if lucky), or simply on the ground. Regularly chained by the neck to a tree, not permitted to talk or be spoken to, Betancourt depicts in astonishing detail and in moving prose how years of humiliation, abuse, and starvation can work to strip away that which makes us feel human.

  • Because of her status as a former presidential candidate, Betancourt was often singled out for particular humiliations—she was sometimes not allowed to bathe, was denied medical care for a chronic hepatitis condition (from which she almost dies), and made to endure years of cruel punishments from an assortment of sadistic guards. Betancourt goes into riveting detail about her escape attempts, the first one with her former political aid Clara Rojas (who was kidnapped with her), their re-capture, and the slow unraveling of their relationship.

  • Betancourt describes the physical toll of living in the jungle for six and a half years: she and her companions were constantly menaced by an assortment of venomous spiders, ants, and snakes—everything the Amazon had to offer. Her closest friend and fellow captive was a diabetic who often went into shock from lack of insulin. Betancourt saves his life on a number of occasions with secreted packets of sugar, and at one point must witness his near-fatal heart attack (about which her captors did nothing to help). She made a later escape attempt with this man, survives a week in the jungle, only to be recaptured and harshly punished.

  • Betancourt gives an emotional account of how the human spirit can disintegrate in captivity: hunger, physical exhaustion from forced marches, the lack of medical care, and the constant threat of violence and execution reduce her and her fellow captives to their basest behavior. Rarely described so eloquently or in such detail, the world Betancourt recreates is filled with jealousy, paranoia, and petty grievances that turn good people into enemies. But under the bleakest conditions possible, Betancourt explains how she found an inner strength and spirituality that, miraculously, sustain her. We witness a soul-changing transformation, and accompany her on her life-or-death struggle (literally) to remain human. This is perhaps the most striking quality of the book, for very few people can convey this as powerfully as Betancourt does here.

  • Betancourt for the first time talks about her introduction to the three American hostages held with her and her impressions of them. Until now, she has never addressed these relationships, or the accusations one of the Americans made against her in the press.

Even Silence Has an End is a meditation on the very stuff of life—fear and freedom, hope and what inspires it. Today Betancourt is determined to draw attention to the plight of hostages and victims of terrorism throughout the world and it is that passion that motivates Even Silence Has an End. The lessons she offers here—in courage, resilience, and humanity—are gifts to treasure.

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