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Saturday 18 June 2016

Crimes by Alberto Barrera Tyszka

Translated from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa 
Published by Maclehose Press,
6 August 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-85705-315-2

Venezuelan Alberto Barrera Tyszka tells stories about crimes, some of which are very violent, and looks at their effects on people's minds as they suffer pangs of conscience. 

These stories are full of violence both overt and hidden within people's minds.  Violence could be said to be more present in Latin America than elsewhere and Alberto is illustrating the obvious and insidious effects.  The visceral references which surface at intervals shock but so do the frightening  areas within the consciences of the protagonists and the ultimate banality of these individuals.  The ten stories vary tremendously but all feature a person, male or female, who finds him or herself worrying about a situation that may involve a crime but always involves feelings of guilt.  Some tales are surreal, for example the man who is developing a compulsion to bite dogs or the man who finds a severed hand and tries to inform the authorities but is told "no hand was reported missing last night. Sorry.".  Others start from the obvious - Aranguren volunteers in a prison teaching a creative writing class and experiences the smell of criminality in the air.   In Alberto's stories lives are changed forever by violence but it is the indirect effects that linger in the mind rather than the direct ones; a family see a relative apparently shot during a demonstration and cannot find him afterwards, they are then caught up in the political and media ramifications that follow.

The stories are often quite short and expressed in clear, simple prose, however, certain memorable uses of language stay in your mind.  A bullet is referred to as"capricious" as it disappears into a body deciding to inhabit it; two boys are disappointed when the guerrilla father of one of them returns and proves to be bald, small and unathletic, they look at each other and see that  "his father, all too soon, had ceased to be a myth."  This is writing of a high standard and, presumably, translating of an equally high level.

The stories certainly held my interest!
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer

Alberto Jos√© Barrera Tyszka, was born 18 February 1960 in Caracas Venezuela where he grew up.  He graduated from the Central University of Venezuela, where he is now a professor in the Department of Literature.  He is a regular columnist (since 1996) for the daily newspaper El Nacional, and a regular contributor to the magazine Letras Libres. In 2006, he received the Herralde Prize for his novel La enfermedad.  
He has published four novels, a poetry collection, and three books of history.Barrera's works have been translated into Mandarin, French, English, and Italian.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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