Wednesday 25 September 2019

Book Review: The Sickness by Alberto Barrera Tsyzka Translated by Margaret Jull Costa

The Sickness The Sickness by Alberto Barrera Tyszka

An intriguing choice of topic for a novel. This is a beautiful tender subtle rendering of how illness affects people, how obession is addictive and drives our actions, how knowledge of imenent death affects us and our choices. The 4 characters of the novel Dr Javier Miranda, his son Dr Andrés Miranda, medical secretary Karina, and the patient Ernesto Durán are each afflicted in different ways. For Andrés and his father, sickness is tangible, it is cancer, and the subsequent changes that makes to ones body. For Durán it is unreal, an illusion but it is also an obsession as he stalks the Dr in order to get attention - the drug he needs. This he only receives because Katrina takes it upon herself to replay to his emails and in doing so begins at first to empathise and then to mirror Ernesto's symptoms. The plot of the story unfortunately runs dry leaving the reader only with the treatise itself, and some loose ends character wise. The writing is lovely, itself addictive, the English translation (translated by Margaret Jull Costa and shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2011) working really well for this reader who finished the novel pondering the big questions about informed consent, telling or not telling patients the truth about their condition and what to do when you are told you have a month to live.

ashramblings verdict 3* a mixed reaction to it due to the lack of development of plot and character but I was interested enough by the writing to read another of his novels in the future.

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