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March 3, 2021

Patricia Engel's Playlist for Her Novel "Infinite Country"

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Patricia Engel's new novel Infinite Country is a pitch perfect tale of immigration and family that deserves to be required reading for our present time.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"The immigrant’s story might be well-traveled ground, but Engel (The Veins of the Ocean, 2016) constructs a layered narrative outlining how the weight of every seemingly minor choice systematically cements into a crushing predicament... Lively folktales of the Muisca peoples punctuate Engel's remarkable novel as it illuminates the true costs of living in the shadows. Told by a chorus of voices and perspectives, this is as much an all-American story as it is a global one."

In her words, here is Patricia Engel's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Infinite Country:

Algo Está Cambiando, Bomba Estéreo

To be an immigrant is to exist in a constant state of change. This song speaks to the need to evolve, to be the person you need to be in order to grow, and that inner push toward an uncharted space. Mauro and Elena are first inspired to go abroad by that sense of exploration, and over an accumulation of seemingly small moments, see their lives change radically and irrevocably.

Soñemos un Bosque, Aterciopelados

This song reminds me of the magic of the landscapes of Colombia, forested, green and mountainous, valleys, jungles, golden coasts and so much untouched land, which Mauro spends a good amount of time dreaming about, especially in relation to the ancestors and their sacred terrain.

Colombia Tierra Querida, Cabas

This is a classic by Lucho Bermúdez, reinterpreted by Cabas, that describes the inherent joy and optimism in Colombians despite being from a nation that has endured, and continues to endure, so much hardship. The biodiversity, culture, music, and spirit of Colombia is really unparalleled and its people have a profound love for its beauty and charms.

Me Muero de Amor, El Viejo Márquez

Everyone loves a good cumbia. Elena and Mauro, as young sweethearts in Bogotá, love to hit the music festivals and parties benchmarked by cumbia and aguardiente.

El Preso, Fruko y sus Tesos

A salsa classic and a tune you will hear on any respectable Colombian dance floor. Dancing figures into Infinite Country in subtle but important ways. It brings Elena and Mauro together early on as well as later on in the novel after their years of separation.

Bajo El Agua, Manuel Medrano

When they meet, Mauro tries to prove he's worthy of Elena's love and they slowly move from strangers to friends, and finally to lovers who will have a family and a story that spans continents and decades. This song captures the hope that inspires new love and sustains it over the long haul, when it seems the world is doing all it can to pull you and your beloved apart.

Te Invito, Herencia. de Timbiqui

This song is an invitation for someone to love you for the sum of who you are, from your childhood, your roots, your firsts, your lasts, your future, your past, your ancestors, and every crinkly life detail in between. It's the kind of intimacy beyond intimacy that Elena and Mauro share, born from love, respect, and admiration that helps them see beyond each other's errors, traumas, and sorrows.

La Tierra del Olvido, Carlos Vives

Nostalgia and longing are the children of migration. A better word is the Spanish, añoranza, which is closer to capturing the profound ache for one's homeland that occurs through distance and time in another country. With that can come some idealizing, remembering only the good, rather than the things that pushed you to leave your country in the first place. This song portrays that blend of love, longing, and appreciation for what you left behind with innocence, which in a way can only happen in one's memory. In our mind's, our lost homeland becomes something new, and a refuge of sorts in order to better face the reality of this foreign and often challenging landscape.

Patricia Engel is the author of The Veins of the Ocean, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; It's Not Love, It's Just Paris, winner of the International Latino Book Award; and Vida, a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway and Young Lions Fiction Awards, New York Times Notable Book, and winner of Colombia's national book award, the Premio Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her stories appear in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and elsewhere. Born to Colombian parents, Patricia teaches creative writing at the University of Miami.

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