AUTHOR: Alberto Barrera
PUBLISHER: TusQuets Editores
READER’S NAME: Jamie Feliu
DATE: April 26, 2016
Patria o Muerte by Alberto Barrera Tyszka is a novel set in Venezuela during the period between the cancer diagnosis and death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. While the storylines center around the lives of the characters living in the complex political, social and economic climate of Venezuela at that time, the figure of Chávez is felt throughout in the various political, social and economic realities the characters must confront.
The main character is Miguel Sanabria, a retired oncologist who lives with his wife in an apartment complex that he manages. While Miguel avoids politics in his daily life, his nephew, an official in the Chávez administration, asks him to safeguard a cell phone containing a video of Chávez during the advanced stages of his illness.
In this role as manager of the apartment complex, Miguel is drawn into the plight of his neighbor, Fredy, an unemployed journalist who is subletting an apartment with his wife and son and desperately avoiding the apartment’s owner, Andreína, who set to return and like Fredy, has nowhere else to go. Faced with impending eviction, Fredy sets out to write a novel about Chavez’s illness.
Fredy’s son Rodrigo develops an online relationship with Maria, a girl who is homeschooled due to her mother’s fears for her safety in light of frequent shooting and deaths.
Through the intertwined plotlines, we gain insight into the dynamics of the housing crisis, the impact of the increasing violence, death, inflation, the role of journalism, and human interactions in a polarized political climate.
I believe this book is suitable for translation and that it may offer a new perspective to US readers of Chavez and his legacy, as well as the struggles and realities faced by Venezuelans.