Christianity has always preached love. Camilo Torres’s concern was for the practice of an efficacious love, that is, to achieve in practice the conditions demanded by love. In rejecting the concept of charity he said “we must search for effective means to bring about the welfare of the majority.” The search took him from the university, to government service, to the political arena, and to death with the guerrillas of Colombia. Camilo returned from Louvain as a reformer, not a revolutionary. He tried to bring about change in Colombian society by every means. He eventually denounced the path of developmentism and electoral democracy. In his search for efficacious means to demonstrate Christian love Camilo finally decided that the way of force was the only way.
Germán Guzmán was a close friend and collaborator of Camilo Torres and his sometimes effusive treatment of the man is very much in the Colombian style. His account is not uncritical, however. As he traces the growing radicalization of Camilo he sees his understanding of politics as insufficient. He questions the soundness of Camilo’s management of the paper Frente Unido, his unbounded confidence in the “un-aligned,” and his naiveté in assuming that the Colombian masses had achieved a sufficient realization of their subhuman condition and would immediately respond to a movement to achieve justice.
Guzmán’s book contains a wealth of material for understanding Camilo Torres: interviews, speeches, statements, letters and correspondence, editorials, personal documents, even snatches of poetry. All but two of the “Messages” are here. While Guzmán occasionally preaches at the reader, his excursion on the “old sophisms” is helpful in comprehending Colombian reality. The thirteen-page transcript of an interview with Jaime Quijano Caballero throws light on Camilo’s intellectual development.
Camilo said that “ ‘The Violence’ constitutes the most important and profound socio-political change in the life of Colombia from the time of independence up to today.” Germán Guzmán is the Colombian authority on “The Violence” and his published works are the best studies of it. Guzmán, too, is a Colombian, a sociologist, a Christian, and a priest; he parallels Camilo, too, in being reduced, at his own request, to the lay status.
The translation is frequently cumbersome and at times inaccurate. On two occasions dates are mistranslated, introducing chronological confusion (pp. 129 and 161). An unforgivable error is introduced in Camilo’s “Message to the Peasants” where he challenges the Colombian government to invite a United Nations investigating commission to the country. The translator has him proposing an investigating commission from the United States! Despite this lapse, there seems to be no “deradicalization of Camilo Torres” such as Professor Karl Lenkersdorf has discovered in the English translation of the CIDOC publication: Camilo Torres por el Padre Camilo Torres Restrepo.