Torn from the World

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

Interview on "Democracy Now"
Oct 21, 2020

John Gibler, author and independent journalist based in Mexico, discusses how Mexican soldiers were involved in the 2014 disappearance and apparent massacre of the 43 students in Ayotzinapa.

Review in H-Net Socialisms
Jun 1, 2019

"Torn from the World remains a compelling call to action and an indispensable source for understanding the persistent use of torture against dissidents and political prisoners in Mexico."—Jorge Puma

"Freeman's" Contributors Weigh in on their Favorite Books of 2018.
Dec 17, 2018

"The book that most shocked me this year for its literary quality is called Tzompaxtle, although in English it has another title, Torn from the World. The author is John Gibler, a real outlaw." –Diego Enrique Osorno, author of El Cártel de Sinaloa

Interview with John Gibler in Kirkus Reviews
Jul 20, 2018

"This story was never going to be easy: to revisit, to report, to publish, and in many ways, to read. For many people involved or on the periphery, the story of Andrés Tzompaxtle Tecpile is unbelievable. For John Gibler, Tzompaxtle's story, imaginatively and remarkably crafted in his newly translated work, Torn From the World: A Guerilla’s Escape from a Secret Prison in Mexico, is one that must be heard."

Publishers Weekly

"Journalist Gibler (I Couldn't Even Imagine That They Would Kill Us) presents a raw and stirring portrait of Andres Tzompaxtle Tecpile, a member of the Popular Revolutionary Army, a guerrilla group in Guerrero, Mexico, who survived kidnapping, imprisonment, and torture by the Mexican army. In October of 1996, Tzompaxtle was kidnapped and taken to a secret prison, where for four mouths he was beaten and repeatedly tortured by electric shocks in an effort to coerce out of him information about his group's whereabouts. Drawing from numerous interviews with Tzompaxtle and his family, as well as others involved in Mexico's underground resistance, Gibler constructs an account of the entire ordeal including Tzompaxtle's unlikely escape, which he presumed was a suicide mission, and his continued clandestine fight 'against a criminal state' in the years since. In his telling of Tzompaxtle's story, Gibler reflects on the economically and politically deprived state of Guerrero, the decades-long struggle between armed resistance and Mexico's repressive government, and to what extent he can write about violence without perpetuating it. Gibler’s fervent glimpse into Mexico's underground succeeds in his goal to bring to light the struggles of the oppressed and traumatized people there."—Publishers Weekly

Library Journal

"An important story that needs to be told. Gibler does Tecpile justice in sharing his experience eloquently and truthfully. This work will hold wide appeal for anyone interested in social activism, civil rights, and Mexican history."—Library Journal


"Andrés Tzompaxtle Tecpile, a member of a guerrilla group in the Mexican state of Guerrero, was abductedby the Mexican military one evening in October 1996, held for four months, and brutally tortured. Gibler, the author of the shattering I Couldn't Even Imagine That They Would Kill Us (2017), presents another devastating but necessary book. Reading this in light of the confirmation of the latest director of the CIA, Gina Haspel, who oversaw 'enhanced interrogation techniques' in an earlier CIA position, is especially poignant in that this is a powerful reminder of the dreadful cost the use of torture entails, and of the U.S.’ role in perpetuating torture on the American continents. Gibler’s interviews with Tzompaxtle Tecpile provide the marrow for a carefully researched, meticulously constructed, and often excruciating narrative. While honoring Tzompaxtle Tecpile’s story, Gibler honors the reader’s intelligence, nimbly deconstructing the roots and the legacy of torture. This is an important look at the price exacted by the legitimatizing of state-sponsored violence and the concealment of the truth about such operations, and their disastrous consequences for everyone."—Sara Martinez, Booklist, Starred review

Kirkus Reviews

"An account of a guerrilla prisoner's torture in—and eventual escape from—a secret Mexican prison. Like Gibler's previous book on Mexican disappearances (I Couldn't Even Imagine that They Would Kill Us: An Oral History of the Attacks Against the Students of Ayotzinapa, 2017), this is a work of advocacy journalism, one that dispenses with any pretense of objectivity in pursuit of a deeper truth. Even more provocatively, the author recognizes that in matters involving torture, the whole story may never be known. The experience transcends language and short-circuits memory, and it can't be captured in the wo rds of a cohesive narrative. 'Torture is an extreme act of rupture and isolation,' writes Gibler before continuing to explore 'the impossibility of communicating such pain, and the disconnection from language within the experience of pain.' The testimony of the captured guerrilla and the torture he experienced provides the heart of the narrative, rendered in the second person: 'You don't know if you'll make it. That depends on them, they might even kill you by accident.' The author provides contextual elaboration for the direct quotes as well as accounts from journalists and officials, some of whom were skeptical of the veracity of the account, particularly of the prisoner's ability to escape. Some of his former comrades feared that he'd cooperated with his captors, providing sensitive information and naming names. Gibler clearly believes his subject, but his inclusion of so many other perspectives suggests the difficulty of reporting on a subject so fraught with secrecy, where even crucial information from the man who is the subject of the book must be shielded to protect him. 'This isn't a dead man's book,' says the escaped guerrilla. 'This book is about someone alive. The book won't tell the whole story.' The reasons why this book can't tell the whole story—and how the stories it tells conflict—are fascinating tales in their own right."—Kirkus Reviews

"Spring 2018 Announcements for History books in Publishers Weekly"
Dec 8, 2017

"Torn from the World: A Guerrilla's Escape from a Secret Prison in Mexico by John Gibler provides a glimpse into the horrors of state violence in Mexico by relating the story of a guerrilla fighter who was forcibly disappeared and tortured by the Mexican Army, but escaped his planned execution." —Publishers Weekly