About Katie Brown

Katie Brown is studying for a PhD in Contemporary Venezuelan Fiction at King's College, London. She blogs about literature, languages, and all things cultural at katiebrownonculture.blogspot.com

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.

Las horas claras and El lejano oeste winners of the 2013 Premio de los libreros

las horas clarasFor the second year running, Venezuelan booksellers have voted for their favourite books of the year. The winners were Jacqueline Goldberg’s Las horas claras (Cultura Urbana) for narrative, and Alejandro Castro’s El lejano oeste (bid&co) for poetry. As a novel written by a poet, Las horas claras was said to ‘combine with great skill the best of both genres’, while El lejano oeste was praised for ‘Its force, its ironic humour and its cheek’.

The bookshops involved were Alejandría, El Buscón, Noctua, Kalathos, Sopa de Letras and Lugar Común. Special mentions were also given in poetry to Gina Saraceni for Casa de pisar duro (Cultura Urbana) and in narrative to Ana Teresa Torres for La escribana del viento (Alfa).

Click here to read the full report and judges verdict at Ficción Breve.

Interview with Sudaquia Editores Founder Asdrúbal Hernández

VERSIÓN EN ESPANOL ABAJO.

sudaquia logoBased in New York, Sudaquia Editores publishes great new and recent works of Latin American literature to cater for the Spanish speaking market in the States and beyond. Thanks to them, works from Venezuelan authors including Fransisco Massiani, Hector Torres, Eduardo Sánchez Rugeles, Gisela Kozak, Lucas García, José Urriola, Salvador Fleján, Slavko Zupcic and more are now easily and cheaply available throughout the world. I spoke to the founder and president of Sudaquia, Asdrúbal Hernández, to find out more.

Venezuelan Literature: Tell me more about Sudaquia’s mission.

Asdrúbal Hernández: Sudaquia’s mission is to offer the opportunity to Latin American authors to reach the US market of books in Spanish, and to Spanish readers in the US, to be able to discover a whole new level of Latin American literature, which is completely unknown and charged with a huge artistic and literary value.

How did it begin?

The idea came to our mind, the moment when, as readers, we tried to find some authors and books that interested us, but it was impossible to find them, or if they were available online, they were extremely expensive to acquire. In 2011, I carried out a market analysis of books in Spanish in the US as the final essay for a Master in Publishing that I did at Pace University NYC, and found out that there was a great opportunity. After I graduated. I started to work on a business plan, and by the end of the year the company was registered and we were working on putting together our first catalogue that was published by the end of 2012.

What has the response been? 

So far we have received a great response, especially from authors, agents and professionals from the publishing industry. We have built up our network of bookstores, and little by little we’re building up our brand recognition among Spanish readers in and beyond the USA.

How do you chose which authors to publish?

Our policy is all about quality, so if a manuscript is well written and we think that it is of great artistic value, we will be interested in it. Other factors are the public recognition and track record of the author, and if the topic of the book would be interesting for readers.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about a new ‘Boom’ or ‘Golden Age’ in Venezuelan fiction, which seems to be backed up by the large amount of Venezuelans being published by Sudaquia. What do you find so appealing about contemporary Venezuelan literature?

I think that what is perceived as a “Golden Age” for Venezuelan fiction is just the hard work that many authors are doing to conquer spaces beyond Venezuela, because many of them are immigrants due to the political situation that the country is going through at the moment. I believe that Venezuelan literature is very rich in general starting from Andrés Bello all the way to Francisco Massiani, but the problem is that it is unknown beyond Venezuela’s frontier. There is a lot to discover in Venezuelan literature beyond Romulo Gallegos and Arturo Uslar Pietri, some of them are: Andrés Eloy Blanco, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, José Rafael Pocaterra, Miguel Otero Silva, Adriano Gonzalez León, Francisco Herrera Luque, or Eugenio Montejo among many others.

The reason for [the amount of Venezuelans in our catalogue] is that because both María Angélica and I are Venezuelans, the natural thing would be to reach out to Venezuelan authors because they are more accessible to us. However, our goal is to promote Latin American (not Latino, which has become a stereotype in the US) literature. I want to say that there is an extraordinary literature being written nowadays by Venezuelan authors who live abroad or in the country.

Do you have any plans to branch into translation of your catalogue, to bring these books to an even wider audience?

At the moment, our market is Spanish readers in the US and abroad. We have in mind to create an imprint to offer translated books from Latin American authors, but we think that currently we’re not ready and it is not the right moment.

************

sudaquiaBasado en Nueva York, el editorial Sudaquia publica lo mejor de la narrativa nueva y reciente latinoamericana para servir al mercado hispanohablante en los Estados Unidos y más allá. Gracias a ellos, obras de autores venezolanos tales como Fransisco Massiani, Hector Torres, Eduardo Sánchez Rugeles, Gisela Kozak, Lucas García, José Urriola, Salvador Fleján, Slavko Zupcic, entre otros, ya están disponibles, de manera fácil y económica, en todos partes del mundo. Hablé con el fundador y presidente de Sudaquia, Asdrúbal Hernández, para saber más.

Venezuelan Literature: Cuéntame más sobre la misión de Sudaquia

Asdrúbal Hernández: La misión de Sudaquia es ofrecer a los autores latinoamericanos la oportunidad para entrar en el mercado hispanohablante estadounidense, y a los lectores hispanohablantes de los Estados Unidos, poder descubrir una gama nueva de literatura latinoamericana, que queda completamente desconocida y es cargada de un

¿Cómo empezó?

La idea nos vino en mente al momento en que, como lectores, intentábamos encontrar algunos autores y libros que nos interesaban y nos resultaba imposible encontrarles, o, si eran disponibles en línea, costaban muchísimo. En 2011, hice un análisis del mercado de libros en español estadounidense como último ensayo por la maestría en la industria editorial que hice a Pace University NYC, y encontré que aquí había una gran oportunidad. Después de graduarme, empecé a elaborar un plan de negocio, y al in del año la compañía era registrada y estábamos trabajando en compilar nuestro primero catálogo que se lanzó al fin de 2012.

¿Cómo ha sido la reacción?

Hasta ahora hemos recibido una reacción muy positiva, sobre todo de autores, agentes y profesionales de la industria editorial. Hemos desarrollado una red de librerías, y poco a poco aumentamos nuestro reconocimiento de marca entre los lectores hispanohablantes dentro y fuera de los Estados Unidos.

¿Cómo eligen a los autores que publican?

Nuestra política es de calidad sobre todo, así, si un manuscrito es bien escrito y pensamos que tiene un gran valor artístico, nos interesará. Otros factores son el renombre y la trayectoria del autor, y si el sujeto del libro puede interesar a nuestros lectores.

En los últimos años se habla mucho de un nuevo ‘Boom’ o ‘Edad de oro’ de la narrativa venezolana, del que la cantidad de autores venezolanos publicados por Sudaquia parece una prueba. ¿Qué hay de tanto interés en la narrativa venezolana contemporánea?

Pienso que lo que se percibe como una ‘Edad de oro’ de la narrativa venezolana es solamente el resultado de todo el trabajo que hacen muchos autores para conquistar espacios fuera de Venezuela, ya que muchos de ellos se han emigrado a causa de la situación política que vive el país en este momento. Creo que la literatura venezolana es muy rica en general, de Andrés Bello a Fransisco Massiani, pero el problema es que queda desconocida fuera de las fronteras venezolanas. Hay mucho para descubrir en la literatura venezolana más allá que Rómulo Gallegos y Arturo Uslar Pietri, entre tantos: Andrés Eloy Blanco, José Antonio Ramos Sucre, José Rafael Pocaterra, Miguel Otero Silva, Adriano Gonzalez León, Francisco Herrera Luque, o Eugenio Montejo.

La razón por la que se encuentran tantos autores venezolanos en nuestro catálogo es que como tanto María Angélica como yo somos venezolanos, lo natural es estirar el brazo a autores venezolanos, ya que nos resultan más accesibles. Sin embargo, nuestra meta es de promocionar la literatura latinoamericana (no latino, lo que ha llegado a ser un estereotipo en los Estados Unidos). Quiero decir que se escribe una literatura extraordinaria hoy en día escrita por autores venezolanos dentro y fuera del país.

¿Tienen planes para expandirse hacia la traducción del catálogo, para hacer llegar estos libros a un público aun mayor?

En este momento, nuesto mercado son los lectores hispanohablantes dentro y fuera de los Estados Unidos. Tenemos en mente crear un editorial que ofrezca libros traducidos de autores latinoamericanos pero todavía no estamos listos y no es el momento adecuado.