Born in Bogotá is 1974, Antonio Ungar graduated as an architect before taking up writing as a profession. Besides working as a journalist and translator, he has published three collections of short stories and the novels Zanahorias voladoras (Flying Carrots), Las orejas del lobo (The Wolf’s Ears; shortlisted for the Courrier International prize) and Tres ataúdes blancos (Three White Coffins), which was awarded the Premio Herralde in 2010. He was also included in the Bogotá 39. While his fiction often deals with the issue of Latin American politics, Ungar professes to be a nomad with no specific national identity. He has lived in Colombia, Mexico, Spain and England and recently spent time in Jaffa with his Palestinian wife. In an interview in El Espectador, he states that the novel uses humour to deal with a hard, deformed reality, but has also said that that reality could be Colombia, could be Venezuela, could even be Spain…
Featured Reading Group Title
Tres ataúdes blancos (Three White Coffins)
Lorenzo, an overweight, alcoholic university teacher, spends his days slopping around in a dressing gown and concocting cocktails in the house he shares with his father. His only point of interest is a remarkable resemblance to Pedro Akira, the great hope of the opposition Yellow Party in the fictional state of Miranda. But when Akira is assassinated on the eve of disclosing incontrovertible proof of the corruption of the ruling party, led for the last twenty years by Tomás del Pito, Lorenzo’s life takes a bizarre turn: his old classmate, the coke-snorting Jorge Parra, a close associate of Akira, persuades him to cover up the candidate’s death by standing in as his double.
Tres ataúdes blancos is a Swiftian satire of Latin American political processes, a tragi-comedy and a poignant story of love, friendship and betrayal. Ungar’s deceptively simple prose style cuts through the surface detail to the essential contradictions of his characters and the unacceptable reality they inhabit. Recounted with an ample dose of black humour and irony, Lorenzo’s metamorphosis from antihero to a man of integrity in a world where such a concept seems farcical cannot fail to enthral readers.
Recommended by Christina MacSweeney and Ana Maria Correa
- Tres ataúdes blancos was featured in our Spanish-language Reading Group for Winter 2011-12
- Katherine Silver’s sample translation from Three White Coffins (285) is available to download for free. Let us know what you think by commenting below.