The Lisbon Syndrome Strategies from Asia
A sudden catastrophe in Europe exposes the slow-motion destruction of a generation of Venezuelans and their struggle against repression. In The Lisbon Syndrome, a disaster annihilates Portugal's capital. In Caracas, Lisbon's sister city and home to many thousands of Portuguese, few details filter through the censored state media. Fernando runs a theater program for young people in Caracas, teaching and performing classics like Macbeth and Mother Courage. His benefactor, Old Moreira, is a childless Portuguese immigrant who recalls the Lisbon of his youth. Fernando’s students suffer from what they begin to call “the Lisbon syndrome,” an acute awareness that there are no possibilities left for them in a country devastated by a murderous, criminal regime. A series of confrontations between demonstrators and government forces draw the students and their teacher toward danger. One disappears into the state secret prisons where dissidents are tortured. The arts center that was their sanctuary is attacked, and Fernando is pulled into the battle in the streets. The Lisbon Syndrome is the most trenchant contemporary novel to offer a glimpse of life and death in Venezuela. But Sánchez Rugeles’s bleak vision is lightened by his wry humor, and by characters who show us the humanity behind stark headlines.