Skip to content

Powerful literary debut by Colombian Lorena Salazar Masso

With The river is a wound full of fish Colombian Lorena Salazar Masso makes a powerful literary debut.

What does it mean to be a mother, when do you actually BE a mother? Can you be a mother even if you did not give birth to your child yourself? As a mother without a child, are you still a mother? That is the theme of the beautiful, atmospheric novel The river is a wound full of fish.

An unnamed mother and her infant son - she is white, he black - travel by boat from Quibdó to Bellavista. It is a long journey down the Atrato, a river that winds through western Colombia, bringing both salvation and devastation to neighbouring villages: 'The Atrato connects markets and separates people. The river washes clothes, feeds you, carries children, bathes women, hides the dead. The river makes no distinction: it blesses and drowns.'

It is a journey that is not risk-free, due to the death and terror that guerrilla movements are sowing across the country. As the journey progresses, shots sound closer and closer.


Slowly, the purpose of the mother and child's journey becomes clear: they are on their way to Gina, the boy's biological mother, because she is eager to see him. The unnamed narrator answers that call, but with every metre they get closer to Bellavista, she feels the fear inside rising more violently. She is terrified that she will lose her son and have to hand him over to his 'real' mother.

And that fear becomes even stronger when it turns out that Gina has lost her three other children - the youngest to malaria, the two older ones to the war - and so is now a mother without a child.

30-year-old Lorena Salazar Masso tells a moving story of parenthood in this compelling debut novel. She sprinkles beautiful images and metaphors throughout her book and draws sentences that invite you to pause for a moment: 'I give my boy a mother every day. I hand her over dressed in the clothes I wear to go to the market.'

In addition, The river full of fish also paints a poignant picture of Colombia, especially the department of Chocó, where the electricity goes out at seven o'clock in the evening and the poor people use candles to light up the evening. From a writer who dares to end her first novel the way Lorena Salazar Masso does, we are definitely going to hear more.

Lorena Salazar Masso, The river is a wound full of fish (184 p.). Translated from the Spanish by Irene van Mheen, Signatuur, €24.99.

Appreciate this article!

Happy with this story? Show your appreciation with a small contribution! That's how you help keep independent cultural journalism alive. (If you don't see a button below, use this link: donation!)

Donate smoothly

Why donate?

We are convinced that good investigative journalism and expert background information are essential for a healthy cultural sector. There is not always space and time for that. Culture Press does want to provide that space and time, and keep it accessible to everyone for FREE! Whether you are rich, or poor. Thanks to donations From readers like you, we can continue to exist. This is how Culture Press has existed since 2009!

You can also become a member, then turn your one-off donation into lasting support!

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

Private Membership (month)
5 / Maand
For natural persons and self-employed persons.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Own mastodon account
Access to our archives
Small Membership (month)
18 / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of less than €250,000 per year
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
All our podcasts
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Posting press releases yourself
Extra attention in news coverage
Large Membership (month)
36 / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of more than €250,000 per year.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Share press releases with our audience
Extra attention in news coverage
Premium Newsletter (substack)
5 trial subscriptions
All our podcasts

Payments are made via iDeal, Paypal, Credit Card, Bancontact or Direct Debit. If you prefer to pay manually, based on an invoice in advance, we charge a 10€ administration fee

*Only for annual membership or after 12 monthly payments

en_GBEnglish (UK)