22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Sergio Álvarez

Portrait Sergio Álvarez
© Hartwig Klappert

The Columbian author and journalist Sergio Álvarez was born in 1965 in Bogotá. He studied philosophy, lived for several years in Colombia’s Orinoco lowlands, the Llanos Orientales, then worked in the advertising, television and cinema industry and eventually began to write.

In 2000 Álvarez published »Mapaná«, a book for adolescents depicting a generational conflict in Colombia’s Amazon River region and the ongoing environmental problems there. »La lectora« (2001; tr. The reader), which won the Silverio Cañada prize and was made into a film for Colombian television, is a novel about an abduction, the Bogotá subway, the drug trade and fast money. Zealous youths, aimless assassins, taxi drivers, prostitutes and drug dealers clash in a procession of personalities. Each seems be hopelessly tumbling into an abyss, while together they symbolize all the turbulence in modern-day Colombia. Álvarez published his most recent novel »35 muertes« (2011; tr. 35 deaths) after ten years of research that led him to a scattering of locations across Colombia. During this time he focused on people’s personal experiences of violence and incorporated them into his novel, which is set between 1964 and 1999 and recounts the history of Colombia, the emergence of guerilla groups and the process of narcotrafficking leading to civil war. »The protagonist has no name, for he is a metaphor for all Colombians. […] The violence comes not only from outside forces, but also stems from the condition that Colombians do not know who they are.« The protagonist is not only conceived in a night of violence after his father kills a soldier, but he also repeatedly engages in acts of savagery throughout the story. After the suicide of his father, he grows up in a communist-oriented commune in the 1970s with his mother’s sister. His continued existence is marked by political struggles, drug dealing, robberies, drunken sprees and a tough fight for survival. Subplots include various short episodes featuring many more realistically and believably rendered figures. Álvarez employs dialogue written in vigorously rhythmic slang to narrate his story from various perspectives. This polyphony of voices – not lacking in humor – creates a vivid and representative image of Colombian society.

In addition to his work as an author, Álvarez also writes for the Spanish daily newspapers »El País« and »La Vanguardia«. He lives in Barcelona and Bogotá.