22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Alberto Barrera Tyszka

Portrait Alberto Barrera Tyszka
© Hartwig Klappert

The Venezuelan author and screenwriter Alberto Barrera Tyszka was born in 1960 in Caracas. He studied literature as the Central University of Venezuela.

Barrera Tyszka’s literary oeuvre includes novels, short stories and poetry. His debut novel »También el corazón es un descuido« (tr. The heart is also an oversight) was published in 2001. In 2006 he followed with »La enfermedad« (Eng. »The Sickness«, 2010), a novella about a doctor who must inform his father of his impending death. Meanwhile, the doctor is being pursued by a hypochondriac obsessed with the idea that only the protagonist can cure him. The doctor’s receptionist begins to answer the hypochondriac’s emails under the doctor’s name. Barrera Tyszka combines these two plot lines in a story about illness, self-reflection and mortality. For the doctor and his father, the illness is palpable: cancer. For the hypochondriac patient, however, the illness is an illusion that manifests itself only psychologically, not physically. The entire novel is permeated by a philosophical question that the doctor customarily poses to his employees before every operation: »Why do we find it so hard to accept that life is pure chance?« Barrera Tyszka cites numerous quotations that introduce various perspectives on death without invoking religious conceptions of an afterlife. Indeed, the very search for underlying causes of suffering, decay or the hope of the hereafter is rejected. In 2005 Barrera Tyszka, together with Christina Marcano, published the first documented biography of the Venezuelan president: »Hugo Chàvez sin uniforme. Una historia personal« (Eng. »Hugo Chàvez: The Definitive Biography of Venezuela’s Controversial President«, 2007). Ten years later he followed with a novel titled »Patria o muerte« (2015; tr. Patria or death) about the former president of Venezuela, in which Tyszka focuses on the question of why Chàvez, who was roundly criticized in the West, was held in such high esteem in his own country until his demise, despite increasing violence and general devastation. He portrays people from various social classes, all of whom seem like marionettes of an inviolable system. »This grandiose novel never descends into didacticism, which is precisely why it is suitable as a teaching tool: the inner void activism leaves behind to the authoritarians can only be filled by new, profound lies, new perfidy« (Marko Martin, »Literarische WELT«).

For »La enfermedad« Barrera Tyszka won the 2006 Herralde Prize, and for »Patria o muerte« the Premio Tusquets de Novela in 2015. He also writes screenplays for telenovelas for the South American market articles for the literary journal »Letras Libres« and the portal www.prodavinci.com. Alberto Barrera Tyszka lives in Mexico City.