It Would Be Night in Caracas is a timely novel, taking place in present-day Venezuela, a country that has been in the news for the large number of protests going on in the country. Being a foreigner I didn’t have a deeper understanding of the conflict and why the protests were going on, but reading this book prompted me to start doing research in order to understand the context around the events of the novel. For this reason, I think that this novel was good, it helps shed light on what is going on in Venezuela politically that are lesser-known to those outside of South America.
“I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one they plundered. I was pleased to know that in this empire of trash, everyone stole from everyone else.”
The deeply internal narrative drifts seamlessly between the present day and the past, from Adelaida’s childhood memories at the start of the Latin American debt crisis in the 1970s and 1980s. The debt crisis started when capitalist economies for several countries dropped when the price of oil plummeted and the national currencies inflated. She relives the Bolivarian Revolution, the way that her country evolved and changed over the years, and eventually details the horrifying events that lead up to the present day, including the student protest killings in 2014. At times the narrative drifts back and forth in time could be a bit difficult to follow and place the time frame, it made the pacing extremely slow.
The book does not shy away from the gritty detail of the deep corruption on all levels that presents a city that is oppressive, eating away at its inhabitants as they all lose bits of their former lives over time. The setting feels desolate and more like a battlefield at points, with clashes between protesters, gangs, and state police blurring the lines of who is who. The novel opens with the death of Adelaida’s mother and namesake. The naming is allegorical in that it shows both the literal and proverbial death of Adelaida Falcón, a Venezuelan woman trapped in a city that is dying. Adelaida’s state of mind is somber and even monotonous as she steadily loses her grip on her life and her identity. This loss of identity and later, death of the self plays into a literal shedding of her old identity which I think in a way was smartly written if a little heavy-handed and too literal.
“Like my mother, I was dead too. She was below the ground. I was on the surface.”
I appreciated the insight that this novel has into the role that one’s nationality can play in a person’s identity, and how the deterioration of society and poverty can have negative effects on a person’s mental health. I wanted to love this book for the intelligent dialogue about identity, but I found myself struggling to get through it. The story moves at a snail’s pace and is bogged down by random character’s stories in order to establish the setting or a plot device later on in the story.
The closer I got to the ending of the novel, the more bored I became with the most ridiculous tie-in of identity and death with the events in the novel, which is reiterated multiple times. I think that this story had potential and after taking some time to reflect on it, I was better able to dissect and appreciate the themes. However, the slow-burning plot, drifting narrative, and bloated details made this a less enjoyable read overall. It would have been better with more concision and focus on the central ideas without getting bogged down with so many side character details that come out of nowhere.