23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Antonio Ungar

Antonio Ungar was born in Bogotá in 1974 and made the universe of books his world at an early age, since his grandparents ran one of Colombia’s oldest bookstores. Before studying architecture Ungar lived one year in Manchester. He later lived in the jungle around the Orinoco River, Mexico City, Barcelona and Jaffa, working as a part time journalist, and publishing in various international newspapers and magazines. In 2005, he was awarded the Premio Nacional de Periodismo Simón Bolívar for Colombian journalists.

He debuted as a writer in 1999 with the publication of the short stories book »Trece circos comunes« (tr: Thirteen Ordinary Circuses), unsettling narrations between reality and delusion, absurdity and illusion. Commenting on his first book, the author stated that »All of life can be a game. Maybe we can play it better if we understand that we are playing and also what we are playing«. His second book, »De ciertos animals tristes« (2001; tr: On certain sad animals), deals with the issue of memory and friendship. In Ungar’s first novel »Zanahorias voladoras« (2004; tr: Flying Carrots) the hero, a Colombian migrant in Barcelona, describes his ongoing physical and mental deterioration. In 2006 Ungar published the novel »Las orejas del lobo« (tr: The Ears of the Wolf), which describes the world of adults as seen from the perspective of a little red-haired boy, who does not talk much, but clearly depicts the shortcomings of the grown-ups. The loss of his father is an experience he has to cope with. The restless life of his mother is another problem he has to overcome. Ungar is also interested in the political situation of Latin America. He was awarded the prestigious Premio Herralde and was short listed for the Rómulo Gallegos Prize for »Tres ataúdes blancos« (2010; tr: Three White Coffins), a thriller that has been translated into seven languages and is currently being adapted into a movie. Lorenzo, an overweight and not really presentable loner adopts the identity of an opposition leader who has been killed. The story is set in Miranda, a fictive Latin American country. Dark humor is the essential tool Ungar uses to describe Lorenzo’s fight against the ruling totalitarian regime. His style is direct and unfussy, and the novel criticizes the political conditions not only in Colombia but also in other countries on the continent. In his 2018 thriller »Mírame« (tr: Look At Me), Ungar reflects on immigration and xenophobia. Two years prior, Ungar made his debut as a children’s book author when he published »Corazón de león« (2016; tr: Lion’s Heart), a story about a child’s outlook on order and disorder.

Antonio Ungar was chosen in 2005 to represent Colombia in the writer’s residence of the IWP (University of Iowa) and in 2007 was voted as to the »Bogotá 39«, the 39 best Latin American writers under 39. From autumn of 2020 he will be living in Berlin.