The Last Days of El Comandante
By Alberto Barrera Tyszka
A vivid portrait of life in Hugo Chávez's Venezuela, focusing on the secrets, lies and traumas of the inhabitants of a Caracas apartment block on the eve of his death
Venezuela 2012: The President's illness casts a shadow over the lives of his citizens - he divides opinion, but life without him is almost unimaginable.
Miguel Sanabria is a retired oncologist, ambivalent towards the President but caught between a virulently anti-Chávez wife and a equally vehement pro-Chávez brother. He is asked by his nephew to hide a mobile phone carrying secret footage that could shed new light on the President's condition.
His neighbour Fredy has found a fresh angle for a new book about Chávez, but to take advantage he must agree to a "green-card" marriage and leave his girlfriend and their son for two months, even as their landlady plots to repossess their home.
In another apartment live nine-year-old María and her neurotic, near-agoraphobic mother. Taken out of school to be educated at home, María turns to internet chat rooms for company, while her mother's fears about the city's endemic violence are proved tragically prescient.
The fates and fortunes of these neighbours will prove inextricably entwined as the hour of the President's death draws ever closer.
REVIEWS FOR THE SICKNESS
"A great book" Michael Morpurgo
"Powerful themes and powerful writing" Susan Hill
Translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey
Alberto Barrera Tyszka, poet and novelist, is well known in Venezuela for his Sunday column in the newspaper El Nacional. He co-wrote the internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed Hugo Chávez (2007), the first biography of the Venezuelan president. His novel The Sickness won the prestigious Herralde Prize and was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Homeland or Death was the winner of the Tusquets Prize.
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- Publication date:
08 Aug 2019
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Tyszka is a perceptive, original writer. — Eileen Battersby, Irish Times.
The Venezuelan Ian McEwan. — Booktrust.
The best novel about charisma I've read in a long time. Everything it tells us rings true. — Babelia
His devilish ability to bring together distinct storylines that converge in the apotheosis of a brilliant finale is proof of Barrera's awareness of the finer points of deft and intelligent writing. — El Periódico.
Barrera's prose is clear, rousing, borne of authenticity when it comes to expressing the contradictions of human beings. — La Vanguardia.
Why is Alberto Barrera Tyzska's novel so good? Because, from the first phrase to the last, he keeps us interested, curious, and concerned for what will happen. Because this flair of his reveals a great deal of cultivation, study, and insight into the art of creating suspense. Because his ability to create a redoubtable literary space, which we inevitably associate with the International Sanatorium Berghof in The Magic Mountain, Leopold Bloom's Dublin, or mad Ahab's Pequod, is breathtaking. — El Nacional.