This book was translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer.
It Would Be Night in Caracas was a chaotic, difficult read. Many parts felt like they took place in some sort of post-apocalyptic hellscape. There was a constant stress and tension and always a looming threat over our main character and narrator. I’ll admit that my knowledge of Venezuelan politics, history, or current events are so slim that I wasn’t sure how much of the story was based in fact but it also felt at parts like reading a memoir.
The narrator is Adelaida Falcon, a woman in her thirties whose mother has just died. Adelaida’s life has been wrapped up almost entirely with her mother’s, also named Adelaida. They have little family, few close friends, living together in the same apartment in the city of Caracas. This has always been Adelaida’s life, interrupted with the occasional visit to her aunts in a smaller town nearby.
Now, however, her mother has died and Caracas is quickly devolving into madness. Political corruption has turned into violence. Inflation has made currency worthless and basics needed for survival impossible to find. What is available is quickly snatched up and sold on the black market. People are arrested and disappear, leaving their families to wonder if they are still alive. Soon after her mother’s funeral, Adelaida goes out one day to buy food only to return to her apartment to find it overtaken by squatters hoarding supplies. In a strange turn of events, Adelaida finds an unexpected place to shelter nearby and an opportunity opens up before her.
There is a lot of tension in this book and the author does well at evoking a feeling of constant danger. We understand quickly how tenuous any person’s safety has become and just how alone Adelaida truly is now in a city at the brink of destruction. The book’s blurb describes the action as involving a choice that Adelaida is forced to make but it honestly felt like she couldn’t have done much else.
Which is also one of the flaws of the novel. For all its tension, there isn’t a lot that happens to Adelaida. A significant portion of the story in the present consists of her being very quiet in an apartment. It’s tense because she’s in a dangerous situation not because anything is actually happening to her.
The book also devotes some sections to Adelaida’s memories of life as a child with her mother. This serves the dual purpose of showing the reader their relationship and showing the place that Caracas once was. We see a city where people once immigrated for new opportunities, a city of luxuries and simple pleasures. A city we can recognize, making the present setting of anarchy even unsettling. Personally, I would have liked to see and learn more about the city at large. I would have liked to see more of Adelaida outside of the apartment building and in the city of Caracas. This partially stems from my own ignorance of this area of the world and it isn’t necessarily this book’s job to educate me but I did get the sense that the author, who is from Caracas and now lives in Spain, wanted to show the world something of a place she knows well. That said, it has driven me to learn more about Venezuela so it does accomplish that.
It Would Be Night in Caracas first came on my radar after reading Naty’s review at Naty’s Bookshelf. You can check it out here.