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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for The Night
Book cover for The Night

For readers who love Bolano, a new voice of Latin American fiction, winner of the Mario Vargas Llosa Prize.

Recurring blackouts envelop Caracas in an inescapable darkness that makes nightmares come true. Real and fictional characters, most of them are writers, exchange the role of narrator in this polyphonic novel. They recount contradictory versions of the plot, a series of femicides that began with the energy crisis. The central narrator is a psychiatrist who manipulates the accounts of his friend, an author writing a book titled The Night; and his patient, an advertising executive obsessed with understanding the world through word puzzles. The author shifts between crime fiction and metafiction, cautioning readers that the events retold are both true and manipulated. This is a political novel about the financial crisis and socio-political division in Venezuela from 2008 to 2010. The title of the book, originally also in English, is a gesture towards Chavism's failure to resist US influence. Yet, the form is unapologetically literary, a reflection on the depiction and distortion of reality through storytelling. Blanco Calderón said about the potential of language, "I am convinced that all the evil in the world begins in them: in words" (Caracas, 2010).

Published with the support of Acción Cultural Española.

Book cover for The Night
Book cover for The Night

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“Fiction, reality and popular culture knit a web of parallels and echoes, reminiscent of the work of Agustín Fernández Mallo, with nods to Roberto Bolaño’s marginal writers — briskly deromanticized. The winner of the Mario Vargas Llosa Prize in 2019, The Night, which now appears in translation by Daniel Hahn and Noel Hernández González, is unabashed literature about literature and, most originally, its building blocks in language.”

“This novel is messy, exhilarating and hugely enjoyable. It is to the credit of Noel Hénandéz Gonzalez and Daniel Hahn that they engage so exuberantly with the technical and creative challenge of conveying such a linguistically imaginative novel into English.”

“The Night is about palindromes and murderers, anagrams and social chaos, how words work and countries break down. A daring and smart novelistic debut.”

“Jean Genet argued that it was impossible to commit a truly criminal act in a criminal society. He was thinking of Vichy France, but much the same is true in Rodrigo Blanco Calderón's subtle, intricate, very literary thriller set in the Venezuela of today. A page-turner for intelligent readers.”

“Venezuelan writer Blanco Calderón weaves a labyrinthine study of language, writers, and obsession against a backdrop of rampant femicides and the energy and political crises in contemporary Caracas... What emerges is a wild and complex celebration of language and storytelling. While dense, the result is exhilarating and entertaining.”

“Rodrigo Blanco Calderón’s The Night is a kaleidoscopic, deeply-felt portrait of a country in crisis. Set in Caracas in the midst of a series of femicides and a deepening energy crisis causing erratic, wide-sweeping blackouts, the story’s perspective shifts between characters wrestling with the intensifying collapse of their country and a deepening sense of existential anxiety.”

“The Night is Rodrigo Blanco Calderón’s first novel, but you might be forgiven to think the Venezuelan author wrote it with the certainty that it would be his last one as well. Such is its ambition and scope, metafictional scaffolding, ever-revolving door of characters, and the cacophony of genres it contains; it’s as if the author wanted to get in everything he likes or, more to the point, everything he’s obsessed with, and that reverence transcends and is contagious. The Night is a tale of tales, of interweaving narratives from which one glimpses the tapestry of a country upon which darkness has fallen. But it’s also a novel about novels—about the strangeness, wonder, and power of the written word.”

blog — March 11

SIMPATÍA Longlisted for the 2024 International Booker Prize!

We are extremely pleased to report that Simpatía by Rodrigo Blanco Calderón, translated by Noel Hernández González and Daniel Hahn, has been longlisted for the 2024 International Booker Prize!

Cover of Simpatia with International Booker Prize logo affixed to the front

Rodrigo Blanco Calderón has established himself as one of the great voices of Latin American literature with his debut novel The Night, and his short story collection Sacrifices. His latest book to be translated into English, Simpatía is a suspenseful novel with unexpected twists and turns about the agony of Venezuela and the collapse of Chavismo.

Simpatía is set in the Venezuela of Nicolas Maduro amid a mass exodus of the intellectual class who have been leaving their pets behind. Ulises Kan, the protagonist and a movie buff, receives a text message from his wife, Paulina, saying she is leaving the country (and him). Ulises is not heartbroken but liberated by Paulina's departure. Two other events end up disrupting his life even further: the return of Nadine, an unrequited love from the past, and the death of his father-in-law, General Martín Ayala. Thanks to Ayala’s will, Ulises discovers that he has been entrusted with a mission—to transform Los Argonautas, the great family home, into a shelter for abandoned dogs. If he manages to do it in time, he will inherit the luxurious apartment that he had shared with Paulina.

This novel centers on themes of family and orphanhood in order to address the abuse of power by a patrilineage of political figures in Latin America, from Simón Bolívar to Hugo Chávez. The untranslatable title, Simpatía, which means both sympathy and charm, ironically references the qualities these political figures share. In a morally bankrupt society, where all human ties seem to have dissolved, Ulises is like a stray dog picking up scraps of sympathy. Can you really know who you love? What is, in essence, a family? Are abandoned dogs proof of the existence or non-existence of God? Ulises unknowingly embodies these questions, as a pilgrim of affection in a post-love era.

Each year the International Booker Prize introduces readers to the best novels and short story collections from around the world that have been translated into English and published in the UK and/or Ireland.  

The prize recognises the vital work of translators with the £50,000 prize money divided equally: £25,000 for the author and £25,000 for the translator (or divided equally between multiple translators). In addition, there is a prize of £5,000 for each of the shortlisted titles: £2,500 for the author and £2,500 for the translator (or divided equally between multiple translators).  

The 13 books on the longlist have been chosen by the 2024 judging panel: broadcaster and journalist Eleanor Wachtel, as chair; award-winning poet Natalie Diaz; internationally acclaimed novelist Romesh Gunesekera;  groundbreaking visual artist William Kentridge; and writer, editor and translator Aaron Robertson.  

Their selection was made from 149 books published between 1 May 2023 and 30 April 2024 and submitted by publishers – the highest number since the prize was relaunched in its current format in 2016. 2024’s submissions were made up of books originally written in 32 languages, up from 27 in 2023. Since 2016, books representing 63 languages have been submitted for the prize, ranging from Farsi and Vietnamese to Kikuyu and Welsh.

The shortlist of six books will be announced on 9 April 2024. The winning title will be announced at a ceremony on 21 May 2024, which will be livestreamed.

Picture of Rodrigo Blanco Calderon taken by Emilio Morales

Rodrigo Blanco Calderón © Emilio Morales

Rodrigo Blanco Calderón

RODRIGO BLANCO CALDERÓN is a writer and editor. He has received various awards for his stories both inside and outside Venezuela. In 2007, he was invited to join the Bogotá39 group, which brings together the best Latin American narrators under thirty-nine years old. In 2013, he was a guest writer at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. In 2014, his story “Emuntorios” was included in Thirteen Crime Stories from Latin America, volume number forty-six of the prestigious magazine McSweeney's. With his first novel, The Night (Seven Stories Press, 2022), he won the 2016 Paris Rive Gauche Prize, the Critics Award in Venezuela, and the 2019 Mario Vargas Llosa Biennial Prize. His story “The Mad People of Paris,” included in his 2022 collection, Sacrifices(Seven Stories Press, 2022), won the O. Henry Prize and was included in The Best Short Stories 2023: The O. Henry Prize Winners, guest edited by Lauren Groff. 

Daniel Hahn is an award-winning writer, editor, and translator with about a hundred books to his name. He lives in Lewes, England.