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The Sickness Paperback – March 6, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Tin House Books (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935639250
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935639251
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,234,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[I]n 'The Sickness' Mr. Tyszka confronts 'illness's infinite power' in its corporal and psychosomatic forms. The strength of this bold and devastating book (translated by the always dependable Margaret Jull Costa) is that the author neither moralizes about sickness nor uses it as a metaphor. It is simply there, its meaning altogether inexplicable." —Wall Street Journal

"This is great book by a great writer."
—Chris Adrian, author of The Great Night

"Barrera Tyszka not only presents the would be medicine with confident realism, creates sympathetic characters and writes gorgeous prose, he's also a thinker and peppers his narrative with meditations on illness, the complications of lying, and the nature of physical pain."
Shelf Awareness

"Tyszka's novel does not belabor the moral ambiguities of illness but draws them with clean, scalpel-sharp precision."

"The Sickness is refreshingly clean in its storytelling yet very complex in character."
Times Literary Supplement

"Alberto Barrera Tyszka distills an eerie fableof identity from a hypochondriac's psycho-drama and a looming family crisis."
—The Independent

"Tyszka is a perceptive, original writer. He has brought an unusually sophisticated understanding to a wonderfully intense, little novel. No sentimentality, no polemic, just emotion at its most resonant."
—Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

"Powerful writing [which does] not let you off or let you down."
The Lady

"Well-pitched, gentle and suggestive . . . philosophy in the story."

About the Author

Alberto Barrera Tyszka, poet and novelist, is well known in Venezuela for his Sunday column in the newspaper El Nacional. He cowrote the internationally best-selling and critically acclaimed Hugo Chávez (2007), the first biography of the Venezuelan president. The Sickness won the prestigious Premio Herralde—an honor previously bestowed on Roberto Bolaño and Javier Marias, among others—and was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2011.

Margaret Jull Costa is the translator of many Portuguese, Spanish, and Latin American writers, among them Javier Marías, Bernardo Atxaga, Fernando Pessoa, and Eça de Queiroz. She has won many awards, most recently, the 2011 Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize for José Saramago's The Elephant's Journey.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amy Henry TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

"Tears are very unliterary: they have no form."

This is possibly the most dog-eared book I've ever had. Folding down corners is my method for marking significant (to me) passages, but it clearly wasn't working with this fiction novel because I was marking every page. I'd never read this Venezuelan author before, but I hope to find more of his work translated into English.

Delicate prose, deep moral questions, and a stunning pace are what kept me hooked into reading this in one sitting. The story itself is rather simple: a successful doctor discovers that his father is seriously ill. Their close relationship is strained as the son weighs the consequences of telling his father the details of his illness. In the meantime, another man, virtually unknown to the doctor, begins stalking him, imagining that he holds the cure for the the list of complaints he suffers from. There's a push and pull to the narrative, as the poignant moments between father and son,nuanced with shared memories of grief, intertwine with the creepy certainty of the stalker.

Because of the health issues that permeate the novel, questions about the nature of health and wellness are explored, but in a brief, compelling way. The author cites quotes of famous authors, ethicists and physicians, but he's not showing off, they are actually appropriate observations of how the human body deals with illness. These asides never go too long or feel like a lecture, they fit the material in the most uncanny way.

For example, Tyszka quotes Julio Ramon Ribeyro, who provides possibly the best explanation for the euphoria that exists after an episode of physical pain:

"Physical pain is the great regulator of our passions and ambitions.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A novel searing in emotional power that will be felt especially by readers who have lost a parent to a difficult illness, THE SICKNESS qualifies as a necessary book. It is the most accomplished piece of literature I've read recently, and unquestionably the most moving.

Tyszka's formidable achievement starts with a simple formal structure -- two intertwining storylines that play out over the course of a month or so, involving a handful of people living in contemporary Caracas, Venezuela. The primary focus is on Dr. Andres Miranda and his relationship with his sixty-nine-year-old father. In the opening pages the son learns his father has an aggressive form of cancer that will kill him in only a few weeks' time. (Their reticent love may remind you of the father-son relationship in Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses: A Novel). A secondary story traces the emotional entanglement of the doctor's secretary with a hypochondriac patient, charted through a fevered exchange of email messages.

I'm hoping THE SICKNESS receives the attention of careful critical reviews in places that allow for expansive analysis. So finely packed with incident and insight is this novel, so expertly orchestrated are its emotional revelations, and so sure-footed is the author's blending of erudition and raw truths, that you will be caught in its influence long after reading its final pages. (The American novelist Chris Adrian, who supplies a short Introduction, confesses he was at first afraid to open the book with its wrenching report of terminal illness; then, having read it, he found himself eager to read it again.) There is so much to talk about! This novel is an ideal selection for a book club discussion.
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By Homeschool Mom on February 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a book club choice, this one generated deep discussion. The nature of relationships, truth and lies, and the many sicknesses that accompany being human. While it doesn't stir as much emotion as a reader might expect from a novel about a dying man, it certainly generates thinking about the human condition.
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