En la televisión, la realidad también es un espectáculo.
In television, reality is also a show.
With his third novel, Rating (Anagrama, 2011), Alberto Barrera Tyszka brings his experience of writing for television to the page. It is the story of literature student Pablo Manzanares who becomes the assistant to Rafael Quevedo, Vice President of Special Projects for a major television channel. Obsessed with ratings, Quevedo dreams up a cross between a telenovela and a ‘reality’ with people left homeless by landslides as contestants. Veteran screenwriter Manuel Izquierdo is hired to craft the programme and his ruminations on life, death and telenovelas compliment Pablo’s youthful concerns about status and sex.
As well as traditional prose, the novel incorporates fragments of television scripts and technical reports, questioning the border between reality and fiction and the absorption of television into everyday lives. The main theme of the novel is telenovelas as key Venezuelan cultural expression. It examines the rules of telenovelas, their purpose, and how this reflects the Venezuelan people. It presents television as aspirational, serving to distract the people from their problems, allowing Barrera Tyszka to consider the poor conditions in which a large amount of Venezuelans live despite being an oil-rich country. Other key themes of the text are the commodification of culture and the division between high culture (poetry/literature) and low culture (mass media), which draws on the classic civilisation/barbarism divide.
Runner-up of the 2011 Premio de la Crítica de la Novela
‘El melodrama latinoamericano’ by Juan José Becerra in Letras Libres