2012 Crime Fiction Alphabet U is for Ungar, Antonio Ungar

The Crime Fiction Alphabet arrives this week to letter “u”, and my U is for Ungar. Antonio Ungar was born in Bogotá in 1974 and made the universe of books his world at an early age. His Jewish grandparents emigrated to Colombia from Vienna and owned the country’s oldest bookstore in Bogotá. However, Ungar studied Architecture and lived in the jungle at the Orinoco River for one year. He moved on to Mexico, Barcelona and Manchester, worked as a journalist and published his reportages and chronicles in various international newspapers and magazines.

In 2005, he was awarded the Premio Nacional de Periodismo Simón Bolívar for journalists. He gave his debut as a writer in 1999 with the first of so far three anthologies of short stories Trece circos comunes (tr.: Thirteen ordinary circuses), unsettling narrations between reality and delusion, between absurdity and illusion. “All of life can be a game. Maybe we can play it better, if we understand that we are playing and also what we are playing” the author wrote about his first book. In Ungar’s first novel Zanahorias voladoras (2004; tr.: Flying carrots) the hero, a Colombian migrant in Barcelona, describes his ongoing bodily and mental deterioration. In 2006 he published the novel Las orejas del lobo (tr.: The ears of the wolf), which describes the world of adults as seen from the perspective of a little red-haired boy, who does not talk much, but clearly depicts the shortcomings of the grown-ups. He has lost his father, an experience he has to cope with. The restless life of his mother is another problem he has to overcome. Ungar is also interested in the political situation of Latin America.

His latest book Tres ataúdes blancos (2010; tr.: Three white coffins), for which he was awarded the prestigious Premio Herralde and which has been translated into several languages, is a political satire and thriller. Lorenzo, an overweight and not really presentable loner adopts the identity of an opposition leader who has been killed. The story is set in Miranda, a fictive Latin American country. Black humour is the essential tool Ungar chooses to describe Lorenzo’s fight against the ruling totalitarian regime. Mercilessly the author brings to light the contradictions of his figures and the unacceptability of the violent reality. His style is direct and unfussy, and the novel criticizes the political conditions not only in Colombia but also in other countries on the continent, for example Venezuela and Peru. “The country is a fiction, yet everything is real” says the author.

Antonio Ungar received a scholarship at the University of Iowa and is one of the “Bogotá 39”, the 39 best Latin American writers under 39. He currently lives with his wife, the Palestinian writer Zahiye Kundos, in Jaffa.

Information taken from internationales literaturfestival Berlin

See additional information about Three White Coffins at Anagrama.

The 2012 Crime Fiction Alphabet is a Community Meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. By Friday of each week participants try to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week. Click HERE to visit other suggestions from fellow participants.

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