Torn from the World

Torn from the World
A Guerrilla's Escape from a Secret Prison in Mexico

The real-life story of a political insurgent who was disappeared and tortured by the Mexican Army and miraculously escaped to tell the tale.

Andrés Tzompaxtle Tecpile was torn from the world. Abducted off the street, blindfolded and beaten, he was brought to a Mexican military facility and "disappeared."

Tzompaxtle, a young indigenous man and member of an insurgent guerrilla movement, was subjected to months of interrogation and torture as the military tried to extract information from him. In an effort to buy time to protect his family and comrades, and to keep himself alive, he lead his captors on fruitless journeys to abandoned safe-houses and false rendezvous locations for four months. Finally, faced with imminent execution, he decided to make what he thought was a suicidal attempt at escape; when he miraculously survived, he was able to return underground.

Gleaned from years of clandestine interviews, Tzompaxtle's story offers a rare glimpse into chronic injustice, underground resistance movements, and the practice of forced disappearance and torture in contemporary Mexico.

Praise for Torn from the World:

"At once harrowing and humane, John Gibler's wonderful new book Torn from the World shines a light on the darkest corners of the Mexican justice system. We cannot turn away from what we see there. This is a brave, daring book, equal in every way to the extraordinary life it documents."—Daniel Alarcón, author of The King is Always Above the People

"Once in a long while a brilliant writer happens on a story he was born to tell—a story that in its stark and unremitting horror gives us a glimpse of the world as it is, unvarnished and unredeemed. John Gibler is such a writer and Torn From the World is such a story. A wrenching, astonishing tale, brilliantly told."—Mark Danner, author of Spiral and The Massacre at El Mozote

"There are things that we would rather not know. Those are precisely the things that John Gibler investigates and comes back to tell us. Here he dwells on the unconscionable and methodic tortures to which the Mexican State submitted Andrés Tzompaxtle Tecpile. But, also, he tells the story of how this man didn't let himself be erased by his torturers, preserving his humanity. Torn from the World is the product of a thorough investigation and it is written with rage and humility at the same time. This is the work of one of the most important journalists of our time."—Yuri Herrera, author of Signs Preceding the End of the World

"Not since Rodolfo Walsh's classic Operation Massacre have I read a work of political and literary journalism as inventive and urgent as John Gibler's Torn from the World. With courage, empathy, and clear-sightedness, Gibler tackles questions most journalists won't go near. How to capture in language and via memory practices—torture and disappearance—designed to destroy meaning and erase the past? How to write without complicity or exploitation? How to listen, and to fight? How to take sides with truth? Torn from the World is at once gripping and profound. It is, to borrow Gibler's phrase, an 'insurgent embrace,' hopeful and defiant, a work of outrage and of love."—Ben Ehrenreich, author of The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine, and the novel Ether

"John Gibler's powerful recounting of the forced disappearance of Andrés Tzompaxtle Tecpile unearths the brutal machinery of state-sanctioned torture and terrorism in Mexico today. It is also a deeply lyrical story of survival against the odds, enabled by communities of resistance and solidarity. This book must provoke an outcry. We cannot know this story and see the world in the same way."—Sujatha Fernandes, author of Curated Stories: The Uses and Misuses of Storytelling

"Andrés Tzompaxtle Tecpile's terrifying account of his capture and torture by the Mexican military, and of his eventual escape against all odds, is a harrowing tale that speaks volumes. The North American journalist John Gibler not only presents here the guerrilla combatant's story, but also contextualized it within the broader, very troubled history of class relations in Guerrero and the contemporary proliferation of human rights abuses in Mexico, from Ayotzinapa to Ciudad Juárez."—Jesse Lerner, author of The Shock of Modernity and The Maya of Modernism

"John Gibler's brilliantly written story of the abduction, disappearance, and torture of Andrés Tzompaxtle Tecpile assembles the personal testimonies of Tzompaxtle, his wife, and his brother, and interviews with journalists, a former guerrilla leader, and human rights advocates to provide an approximation to the truth. Tzompaxtle is but one of the thousands of Mexicans who have been disappeared in recent years by the State, the cartels or a combination of the two. Writing against a proliferation of semi-official reports and denials claiming truth and that raise questions about the veracity of the testimonies and interviews, Gibler faces the phantom of writing violence: the violence one exerts when writing about violence. Can one avoid writing violence? Can memory provide evidence beyond its inevitable subjective anchorings? Anticipating these questions, Gibler's story of Tzompaxtle's disappearance includes theoretical reflections on memory and violence. In these times when truth is relativized for the sake of political expediency, Gibler's is a sobering account that provides readers with the materials from which he elaborates his story of Tzompaxtle. This book offers an implicit response to the denigration of journalism, hence of truth-telling."—José Rabasa, author of Writing Violence on the Northern Frontier

"John Gibler has produced a giant of a book. A combination of a political thriller, personal testimony, interviews, and deep, insightful reflection, Torn from the World is a work full of pain. It is also charged with hope—a hope born of the struggle against systemic violence, and of the struggle to survive and to live in a better world, one of equality for all."—Joseph Nevins, author of Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid

Praise for the Mexican edition of Torn from the World:

"In this great work of literary journalism we come to know a life of vertigo in a Mexico still more opaque and unjust than the one we see in the newspapers and social media. This is the shadow Mexico where armed struggle and fierce repression wage a decades-long battle. . . . Torn from the World proves that John Gibler—a Mexican infrarealist—views writing as a form of dissent, of going against the grain. It also shows, through the story of an impossible escape, that in the Mexico of the shadows, every once and a while, one finds a bit of light."—Diego Osorno, Más por más

"John Gibler has written a raw and forceful portrait to show the extremes of violence and torture."—Juan Carlos Talavera, Excelsior

"John Gibler mixes, with as much rigor as imagination, literary metaphor with narrative journalism, testimony with the theoretical essay, the open-ended interview with critical reflection."—Andrés Fabián Henao, Palabras al Margen

"Beyond the reporting or the mere description of the events, Torn from the World by John Gibler is a conversation from the shadows of clandestinity that seeks to step away from the power relations that characterize the journalist's labor. . . . Here one finds a bone-chilling testimony from the school of pain to which men and women with ideals and a thirst for justice are submitted in a country like ours, dominated by autocrats and criminals disguised as public officials."—Lobsang Castañeda, Revista Leemás

Title Torn from the World
Subtitle A Guerrilla's Escape from a Secret Prison in Mexico
Author John Gibler
Publisher City Lights Publishers
Title First Published 18 September 2018
Format Paperback
Nb of pages 260 p.
ISBN-10 0872867528
ISBN-13 9780872867529
Publication Date 18 September 2018
Main content page count 260
Weight 16 oz.
List Price $16.95

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forced disappearance, interviews, Memoir, Mexican guerrillas, shadow Mexico, underground resistance, violence and torture