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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for Sacrifices
Book cover for Sacrifices

These revelatory short stories tread the line between surrealism and realism with strange, appealing characters who take on a sacrifice in spite of themselves.

Translated by Thomas Bunstead

A followup to his first novel, The Night (winner of the Rive Gauche à Paris Prize for foreign books in 2016), this collection of short stories by Venezuelan literary star Rodrigo Blanco Calderón features a taxidermist painter, a blind man lost in Mexico City, a female motorcyclist who rides naked through the night, a foreigner who learns a language making confessions in Paris churches, and a dying pilot who finds peace in a reading of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Impeccable and masterful in his storytelling, Calderón constructs a nocturnal cast of characters who become the victims and executioners of a sacrifice in the midst of a floundering Venezuela, others with the threat of terrorism in France, or in a Mexico symbolizing the first shots of the revolution.

Book cover for Sacrifices
Book cover for Sacrifices

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“Rodrigo Blanco Calderón is one of the most ambitious narrative voices of his generation. His prose is violent and unrelenting. Effective. Sordid.”

“Venezuelan writer Calderón (The Night) returns with a wonderfully bizarre and dreamlike collection. The narrator of “Petrarch” confides how it felt to finally graduate from high school at 21 in Mexico City, to be named for a 13th-century poet, and how his hair turned white as a kid. “Black Holes” follows a new taxi driver trying to support his teenage son. Late at night, while shooting the breeze with other cabbies, the driver learns about “Big Tits,” his colleagues’ name for a woman whose supposedly rides naked around town on her motorcycle, and becomes obsessed with seeing her. “The Mad People of Paris” follows the aftermath of the Bataclan massacre in 2015 as the narrator, a researcher visiting the city 10 days after the attack, meets people still in recovery and describes the grief carried by Parisians as “a kind of invisible shawl.” Calderón’s precise prose here (and throughout) is wonderfully translated by Bunstead, as the narrator remarks how “the silence of those days was a scarf made of the very air, wrapped close around the necks of the locals and we foreigners alike.” Calderón brings a delicate focus to his characters’ strange encounters. This writer continues to impress.

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. 

Thomas Bunstead has translated some of the leading Spanish-language writers working today, including Agustín Fernández Mallo, María Gainza, and Enrique Vila-Matas, and his own writing has appeared in publications such as Brixton Review of BooksLitHub, and The White Review. He is a former co-editor of the translation journal In Other Words and currently a Royal Literary Fellow, teaching at Aberystwyth University (2021-2023).