Laura Restrepo writes about Colombia, her native land, but she spends a good deal of her time in Mexico, and to read her latest novel, "Delirium," is to understand why. Most of the action takes place in the Colombian capital, Bogotá — a city, one character says, "where everyone's at war with everyone else" — at a time when the whole country seems either insane or, perhaps worse, in love with insanity and helpless to change. Although Restrepo doesn't specify the year, it appears to be 1983: "E.T." and "Flashdance" are in the movie theaters, Ronald Reagan is president of the United States, and the most powerful man in Colombia is Pablo Escobar, darkly presiding over the vast cocaine empire of Medellín. Escobar "doesn't like being called the King of Coca," though; according to someone who knows him, "he prefers Father of the Nation." And "Delirium" is about his nation of frightened, maddened children, the Colombia he sired.
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