About Katie Brown

Katie Brown is a Teaching Fellow in Hispanic Studies at University of Bristol, book-lover and translator.

Venezuelan Play in London: Tales of Bed Sheets and Departure Lounges

As part of CLAW Festival (Contemporary Latin American Writers), which takes place at the Cervantes Theatre in London from 3-9th July, there will be daily performances in English of Montague Kobbe’s play Tales of Bed Sheets and Departure Lounges. 

Adapted from his 2014 book of microfiction of the same name, Tales of  Bed Sheets and Departure Lounges offers brief glimpses into everyday lives and deep emotions, moments of desire and frustration.

On Saturday 8th, there will also be a reading in Spanish and a party for Crude Wordswhich Kobbe co-edited.

For more information, and to book tickets, see https://www.clawfestival.com/bed-sheets-and-departure-lounges

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Rodrigo Blanco Calderón

Rodrigo Blanco Calderón (Caracas, 1981) is a writer, editor and university lecturer. His short stories have earned him recognition both in Venezuela and abroad. In 2007 he was selected for the group Bogotá39, which gathered the best Latin American writers under the age of thirty-nine. In 2013 he was guest author in the international writing programme of the University of Iowa. In 2014 his short story ‘Emunctories’ was included in issue number forty-six of McSweeneymagazine, titled Thirteen Crime Stories from Latin America. Presently he is completing a doctorate in linguistic and literary studies at the Université Paris XIII.

Short Story Collections

Una larga fila de hombres (2005)

Los Invencibles (2007)

Las rayas (2011).

Novels

The Night (Editorial Madera Fina, 2016)

Rating

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.

Click here to download a free sample in .epub format from Anagrama.

Prizes:

Runner-up of the 2011 Premio de la Crítica de la Novela

Reviews/articles:

Rating presented on Anagrma’s website

‘Ese corazón partido’ by J.A. Masoliver Ródenas in La Vanguardia

‘El melodrama latinoamericano’ by Juan José Becerra in Letras Libres

Happening wins Premio de la Crítica de la Novela 2014

Gustavo Valle has again won the Premio de la Crítica de la Novela for his surreal adventure Happening, having been awarded the 2009 prize for Bajo Tierra.

happeningJudges Luis Miguel Isava, Adriana Cabrera and Luis Alfredo Álvarez, chose Happening out of a shortlist of 12 for the prize, run by Ficción Breve and the Fundación de la Cultura Urbana. They announced:

For the coherent execution of its aesthetic project, manifest in the use of narrative techniques ranging from humour, pain, drama, melancholy and reflection, we declare Happening by Gustavo Valle the winning novel. This novel constitutes, in our opinion, a work which, while exploring an existential vein, presents a vision of the world as a thriller in which uncertainty and chance are the critical axes, all of which is held up in the idea of the happening as the central thread [of the novel].

Valle’s novel was also awarded the XIII Premio Anual Transgenérico and was recently republished in Argentina by Autoría Literaria.

The three other finalists were Jinete a pie by Israel Centeno, La ciudad vencida by Yeniter Poler and Los escafandristas by Fedosy Santaella. Read more about them from Ficción Breve.

Blood by Tibisay Rodríguez Torres

In April 2014, Tibsay Rodríguez Torres’ short story Blood, translated below, beat 124 other entries to win the Premio del Cuento de la Policlínica Metropoliana. The judges praised her blend of literary and youth language, and the bold, brave narrative. If you’d like to read more from Tibisay, click here to download her short story collection Un hielo en mi boca for free.

Blood* by Tibisay Rodríguez Torres

“Do you want to go up to San Antonio?”
“What for?”
“To have a drink”.
“Ok”.

You picked me up at the exit to the University.

“And what did they talk about today?”
“About Foucault”.
“How nice!”
“Oh, have you read him then?”
“No, but I know that he’s complicated”.
“Aha…”

We looked for your friend, the funny one*, we could sense him behind us.

“How you doing, girl? You bring a friend along?”
“No”.
“Too bad, too bad, I want to get to know them all, y’know”.

We started the journey, we suffered the motorway.

“Can you put some music on?”
“Of course, what do you want to hear?”
“Anything but reggaeton”
“Do you like Kraftwerk?”
“If there’s no other option…”

Infernal queuing, Kraftwerk, and my overwhelming need to pee seasoned the ride. I had lived similar scenes before. I remembered one in particular. My tendency to narrate painful situations obliged me to tell you about that analogous incident from a few years earlier:

Someone from the Faculty had invited me to the cinema and then for a few beers. We went to los chinos, the damned Caracas routine that I never got used to but pretended to enjoy. He spoke to me all night about some poetry jams that they did in Bello Monte, in which people were encouraged to read their poems in public. How boring, I thought. I thought but I didn’t say, because I already knew how these comments of mine end.

I tried to get interested, I laughed at his bad jokes and I feigned amazement at his analysis of the books that he said he read. I looked at him nicely, I smiled even when he told me that his professors were “the greatest” and that Gabriela Pérez – an extremely young lecturer who I had baptised with the oxymoron irreverent flatterer– was one of the most erudite scholars of Russian literature in the country. He ordered two more. I understood that I didn’t need to smile at him, he had his plans from the beginning and the game was in my hands but I wasn’t sure. I thought he was cute, yes, but his literary optimism and arrogance put me off him. That and his manner of exhibiting himself: the “Join me for a smoke” as a euphemism for wanting to touch me up, for example. I decided that no, this guy wasn’t going to work out tonight, despite my dry spell. I mentioned the Metro and the fight to say goodbye began. The “Don’t worry, I’ll call a taxi”. No, it’s better if I go now. The “Have another drink and go later”.

The Metro closed. The chinos closed. We ended up wandering around at midnight and had to walk forever to reach the avenue. We crossed that moribund plaza, we stayed there for a while, stopped on a bench. That’s when the damned need to pee appeared. “Look for a bush”. I can’t. “Don’t be embarrassed because of me”. It’s not because of you, there are strange people looking at us. I didn’t feel fear, just discomfort. I NEED TO PEE. I had to move. “I know a place, babe”. We had to turn around to change direction, but the circumstances of desolation and darkness didn’t improve at all, they even got worse. We had to cross a bridge almost running, between rubbish, vomit, and crackheads strewn across the floor. I could barely slide my legs because of my incontinence. We arrived. “You see? That’s all it took, beautiful. We should have come here from the start, you can go to the toilet, no problem”.

A budget hotel. I peed. I saw his naked chest and imagined what it would be like to perforate a thorax.

Comparisons are loathsome, or so they say. Differences on the other hand… But instead of telling you this story, which shot through my memory while we looked for somewhere I could expel my anxiety, I asked:

“Is there still a long way to go?”
“Yes”.
“Couldn’t we make a stop? It’s just that I really need to go to the toilet”.
“Yes, I’ll stop at the next gas station, don’t worry”.

My friends would say that you behaved like a gentleman.

“Ready, here’s the station”.
“Oh! It’s closed”.
“Let’s ask at the pharmacy, they’ll surely have a toilet there”.
“Ok”.
“Excuse me, ma’am, could we use the bathroom?”
“We don’t let people use the bathroom”.
“But it’s an emergency!”
“You’ll forgive me but the last time we let someone use the bathroom they left it in an absolute state”.
“We’re not those people. Look, you know that…”
“I was going to let you use it… but not now!”

We asked another employee, after you advised me to let you talk first.

“Excuse me, sir, would it be possible for the lady to please use your bathroom? She’s not feeling well”.
“Of course”.

I looked out of the window, without paying much attention to the conversation that you tried to start while you drove. We arrived at that moment when, having drunk a few cans, a connection is made beyond words, the spark set off by the involuntary grazing of skin, a fleeting movement to change the speed of the car that makes you touch me. The hand on the knee that is barely felt, but yes, I felt it.

“You know? I always wanted to be a dandy: extravagant, rich, stylish”, you tell me.
“Ah, really? Well I always wanted to be a cocosette”, I said spitefully.

We arrived at the apartment and at the date. You smoked a few cigarettes in the car park observing the mountain, the woods, rallying for the climb up eleven floors!

“Mate! I didn’t know it’d be like this! Eleven floors?!” you tell your friend, the funny one.
“Yes, the thing is, the light went out…”
“No, mate, it’s better if we stay down here”.
“Fuck, but Luis is waiting for us upstairs”.
“Haha, tell him to come down”.
“That one isn’t going to come… let’s hang out here a while”
“Exactly”.

An electric fault covered the city and the building in delicious darkness. We climbed the stairs with the scarce light provided by our mobile phones. Either way there would be a party.

“Go on, go on, turn it on there… that’s it, light”
Marico, I can’t do any more… I swear… Ah, I’m sweating!”
“We’re only at the third floor”.
“Oh, mate, you need to climb up the Waraira at least twice in your life”.

I meekly attended the social ritual. Anyway there were only five boys, and me, the only woman, I went about unnoticed opposite the leader of the group: the owner of the house and his travel anecdotes, the reigning theme for the night. Europe this, Europe that. I kept quiet and smiled, and took the hand that you offered me every now and then.

The apartment lit with candles was the centre of the complicity and laughter of your most intimate friends who accompanied you that night. The narration was impeccable, stories of journeys and returning, and why-I-had-to-return. Throwing your passport into the Mediterranean, now that’s poetic, I said (to you). At the same time, I separated myself from the laughs, I looked for the balcony. I lifted my gaze for the second time that night to the mountain, the mist, and the chaos on the motorway due to the absence of light. I got sucked in, as I so often do; anxious, breathing uneasily. Like that, absent, mine was to feel the cold from the balcony. That’s what I was doing, that and listening to the mix of sounds from nature and from the street, thinking about why I said this or that, and if only everything between us – everything that we call “ours” – had started another way: when your hands around my waist and a kiss on my neck suddenly roused me.

“What are you thinking about?”
“About how I need to stop being such a slut”. I laughed, we laughed.
“What are you doing here?”
“Nothing, looking. It’s chaotic outside, you know, with no light. It’s a beautiful night”.
“Don’t you like my friends? I’m sorry, they’re just like that”.
“You don’t have to apologise for your friends, or for anything, I’m fine, honestly”.
I looked at you fixedly for a while, stare**, I think the gringos say. I smiled, thought about the possibilities.

2

Neither of us knew the signs. You were at the door to my house at the agreed time, you’d printed a map from Google Maps, we studied it, we got lost. A surrounded clinic: bordered on one side by the biggest University in the country, on the other, by the immense mountain that seemed to follow us from the first moment. We arrived late.

At the reception they gave us a little laminated number. We didn’t care what the doctor’s name was, we didn’t know anyone. Waiting list, queue. I got out my book of pathologies to cope with the wait. I went to the toilet some ten times, my hands remained impregnated forever with the smell of antiseptic soap. I itemised every wall, every poster that insinuated the ideology of that place, one of them caught my attention because it was corroded, I thought it was, the first phrase had been rubbed out and all you could read was “….is an option”.

I heard my name through a loudspeaker and I went into that consulting room alone. You waited outside, in the car, listening to Kraftwerk, or that’s what I imagined you listening to. When I came out, I got in the car, and after two seconds I tried to talk about Foucault, educate you in the matter, but you wouldn’t stop interrogating me. I didn’t say anything, I stopped talking about Foucault and I replied by asking about that funny friend of yours. You finally gave in: “That Foucault has some treatises about violence, right?”

3

One day I returned to San Antonio Street, this time I went by foot and sober. Not needing to pee, I yearned to find a toilet like an insomniac desires the sleep of the night. My hands… I didn’t want to see them.

The cars passed at a speed that was difficult to calculate and the wilderness hurt my ankles, although my pain was another, an indescribable one. I came across that pharmacy with neon lights that seemed so familiar to me. I thought about you, even though forgetting had already begun to stick its claws in ferociously, I remembered your friends and the party without light.

My pale skin seemed occupied by a thought: although I never told you, dear Scott, I always thought that when you put on that leather jacket you really did look like a dandy. I went in anxious and unaware of how I looked.

“I’m bleeding, can I use the bathroom?” I said, or I thought.

This time the receptionist did not let me enter.

* In English in the original

** The author notes that there is no one word equivalent of ‘stare’ in Spanish, which is why she is drawn to the simplicity of the English word.

Venezuelan poets adorn the streets of Pittsburgh

The streets of Pittsburgh were adorned with portraits of some of the greatest Venezuelan poets in July as part of ‘River of Words’, the project from graphic designer Carolina Arnal, artist Gisela Romero and writer Israel Centeno which won a prize from the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art.

Guillermo Parra and Ramos Sucre

José Antonio Ramos Sucre and Guillermo Parra, translator of Sucre’s Selected Works.

 

cadenas pittsburgh Eugenio Monejo

La escribana del viento by Ana Teresa Torres wins Premio de la Crítica 2013

la escribana del viento

La escribana del viento (Editorial Alfa) by Ana Teresa Torres (Caracas, 1945) is the winner of this year’s Premio de la Crítica de la Novela, organised by Ficción Breve Venezolana, with the support of the Sociedad de Amigos de la Cultura Urbana and Librería Noctua. The judges Violeta Rojo, Álvaro Contreras and Miguel Marcotrigiano chose La escribana del viento from the list of 17 finalists announced in July for being “an historical novel in which the narration of a real event which took place in Caracas in the 17th Century is an analysis of the manipulation and abuse of power”

Read the full report from Ficción Breve.