Watch Out, Mr McEwan

With Mario Vargas Llosa now ennobled with the laurel leaf, it seems like a good moment to remind you all about a new South American import, hailing this time from Venezuela.

The Sickness, the first novel in English by Alberto Barrera Tyszka (pictured right), has quietly gone about its business gathering starred reviews since we published in July, giving its author, according to Booktrust’s Translated Fiction website, ‘a claim to be[ing] the Venezuelan Ian McEwan’.

The plot hinges on a sharp comparison between the rational fear of death and the hypochondriac’s refusal to believe that death has not singled him out. Dr Andrés Miranda struggles to face telling his father that tests have confirmed terminal cancer, while all the while being bombarded with emails from a patient who insists he has a debilitating but undiagnosed disease. Tyszka skillfully softens his potentially daunting subject matter by drawing from it a subtle and philosophical appraisal of life’s little absurdities and

unlikely alliances.

The Sickness won the Premio Herralde in its original form, a prize open to the entire Spanish-speaking world, and to make sure we did it justice in English, we enlisted Margaret Jull Costa to take care of the translation.

Jull Costa is probably the most distinguished translator from Spanish and Portuguese we have, with a CV as long as the arm of the law, that includes works by Javier Marias, Jose Saramago and Eça de Queirós, as well as two Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prizes.

Praise for The Sickness:

‘The Sickness is refreshingly clean in its storytelling yet very complex in character’
Anthony Furey, Times Literary Supplement


‘Tyszka is a perceptive, original writer. He has brought an unusually sophisticated understanding to a wonderfully intense, little novel. No sentimentality, no polemic, just emotion at its most resonant’
Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

‘Powerful writing [which does] not let you off or let you down’
Susan Hill, The Lady

‘Well-pitched, gentle and suggestive … philosophy in the story’
Renée Rowland, Skinny

All in all, The Sickness is a wonderful, wonderful novel, and we’re all waiting expectantly for Tyszka’s next outing. Since it was published in Spanish, he has co-authored an acclaimed biography of Hugo Chavez, and c0-written a film, Zamuros Way, with director Javier Mujica.


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