Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | July 19, 2012

Amy Hempel’s “The Man in Bogotá”

I came across this story recently.


“The Man in Bogotá”

By Amy Hempel


“The police and emergency service people fail to make a dent. The voice of the pleading spouse does not have the hoped-for effect. The woman remains on the ledge – though not, she threatens, for long.

“I imagine that I am the one who must talk the woman down. I see it, and it happens like this.

“I tell the woman about a man in Bogotá. He was a wealthy man, an industrialist who was kidnapped and held for ransom. It was not a TV drama; his wife could not call the bank and, in twenty-four hours, have one million dollars. It took months. The man had a heart condition, and the kidnappers had to keep the man alive.

“Listen to this, I tell the woman on the ledge. His captors made him quit smoking. They changed his diet and made him exercise every day. They held him that way for three months.

“When the ransom was paid and the man was released, his doctor looked him over. He found the man to be in excellent health. I tell the woman what the doctor said then – that the kidnap was the best thing to happen to that man.

“Maybe this is not a come-down-from-the-ledge story. But I tell it with the thought that the woman on the ledge will ask herself a question, the question that occurred to that man in Bogota. He wondered how we know that what happens to us isn’t good.”


I just discovered the work of Amy Hempel. Language is very important to her.

Here, watch a video in which she discusses her writing process. She said, “I read people who are incredibly inventive with language. People who say things I’ve never heard before. People who have sentences with a kind of rhythm like music. I like the sounds of a sentence, the acoustics of a sentence, not just what it’s saying or the information in it. In fact, information for me is often the least important part of the story. ..”


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