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The Sickness

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  558 ratings  ·  103 reviews
“Blood is a terrible gossip, it tells everything.”

Dr. Miranda is faced with a tragedy: his father has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has only a few weeks to live. He is also faced with a dilemma: How does one tell his father he is dying?

Ernesto Duran, a patient of Dr. Miranda’s, is convinced he is sick. Ever since he separated from his wife he has been presenting
Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Tin House Books (first published November 6th 2006)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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Aug 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2006
The Sickness is a novel about a doctor, his father, the doctor’s secretary and one obsessed hypochondriac. But mostly it is about sickness. The novel concerns a perfectly healthy man convinced he is gravely ill and a very sick man who doesn’t know he has terminal cancer because his own son and doctor cannot bring himself to break the news.

Dr Miranda is a believer in telling the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth. He has always advocated a no-nonsense approach towards the patients and h
Zainab Ali
“Talk to me,” he says again. “Don’t let me die in silence.”

This is a 2006 Venezuelan novel with two interwoven storylines: one of a doctor who finds that his father has terminal illness, and doesn't know how to tell him; the other of a hypochondriac patient who stalks that same doctor and wins the compassion of his secretary. Through these characters, the novel explores people's different ways of dealing with sickness; how sickness affects patients and those who surround them.

The novel
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

"Tears are very unliterary: they have no form."

This is possibly the most dog-eared book I've ever had. Folding down corners is my method for marking significant (to me) passages, but it clearly wasn't working with this fiction novel because I was marking every page. I'd never read this Venezuelan author before, but I hope to find more of his work translated into English.

Delicate prose, deep moral questions, and a stunning pace are what kept me ho
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: around-the-world
This was really excellent & might’ve had a 5 star rating from me, if not for the frequent and unnecessary clumsy literary references.
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ever since I finished reading this novel, I have been thinking about how I might speak about it. What is it about? What point does it make? How did I experience it?
Each time I do so, I answer those questions differently, which is, in and of itself, very fascinating to me.
So, starting with the obvious, it is a novel about sickness, real and fatal or perceived and just as crippling.
It is also a novel about obsession, that of others for us, and that of ourselves turned inwardly.
It is about grief, a
Oct 09, 2011 rated it liked it
I didn't like the omniscient narration. I didn't like the use of the present tense. I didn't like the frequent quoting of other writer's material by the omniscient narrator, in what seemed to be a plucking of bricks from the fourth wall. I also didn't find the book that inspired or inspiring. However, this latter may be because I read about health and healthcare 5-days a week, and I recognize that others may well find the book both of these things. Plus, I did like it more as it progressed, and ...more
Sep 25, 2019 rated it liked it

An intriguing choice of topic for a novel. This is a beautiful tender subtle rendering of how illness affects people, how obession is addictive and drives our actions, how knowledge of imenent death affects us and our choices. The 4 characters of the novel Dr Javier Miranda, his son Dr Andrés Miranda, medical secretary Karina, and the patient Ernesto Durán are each afflicted in different ways. For Andrés and his father, sickness is tangible, it is cancer, and the subsequent changes that makes to
Why do we find it so hard to accept that life is pure chance?

This was oddly similar to I Called Him Necktie in the themes of deceit, both men can't tell their loved ones the hard truths. Dr Miranda, who delivers terrible news for a living, can't tell his father that he (the father) is dying of cancer. And thus begins a story about sickness and the enormous space it occupies in the lives of those who and whose are ill, the fragility of life, love pain and death. It's very tough to read in some
Ciaran Monaghan
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a really good short novel. On my edition, the blurb sells the book as a stalker thriller, but it is more about people coming to terms with various forms of sickness and how it affects their relationships with each other. For something so short, it packs in a lot of pathos and all the characters felt quite real and relatable; even the relationship between the obsessive hypochondriac, Ernesto, and the sympathetic medical secretary, Karina.

I would recommend it to anyone as long as you know
❀ Susan G
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-reads
This book is our September book club pick with a theme of Venezuela. It was a sad tale of a son dealing with his father's terminal cancer diagnosis while a patient of his, deals with his own sickness. It was poignant a times and a quick read full of missed opportunities for the characters as they navigated the end of life. ...more
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
I thought it was a well-paced narrative, each scene and character introduced at just the right time in the story.
The subject matter might not be for everyone given it deals with imminent death of the main character's father. The parallel story within the book kept me interested and it was a good relief from the depressing subject matter.

May 28, 2018 rated it liked it
A fine translation of an interesting book. I am not sure I appreciated its full meaning as I felt there is probably another level beyond the literal story of a doctor, his dying father, his secretary and a hypochondriac. Possibly something about the state of Venezuela. A thinking book.
Danielle D
Its beautifully written and I found it very easy to care about the characters quickly.... but the book left me feeling a bit depressed that's why I gave it the rating I did.
I know a subject such as this is never going to be joyous and I am glad I read it.
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think this book was well-written and excellently delivered to me a general feeling of melancholy, but the constant use of the literary references was very annoying. I am also left confused by Ines and the reasoning behind her presence in the story. Nevertheless, a good book.
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really very touching.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a good one. It really hooked you in and becomes a pleasure to read, despite the sadness of some of the subject matter. It’s haunting and moving, impressive.
Daniel Bastardo
May 22, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Only enjoyed the end, which was very well written and absorbing. A couple of the storylines didn't go anywhere — they did not get resolved, which was disappointing. ...more
Nicole Kroger Joy
#readtheworld Venezuela

Beautiful and heartbreaking story of a doctor who must decide how to tell his own father that he is dying of terminal cancer. Would you want to know if you only had a short time left on earth? Would you want to be the one responsible for telling a loved one their fate? How do you cope with knowing you're going to die or lose a loved one?

While Dr. Miranda must explore these questions, he must also face the hypochondriac who has been obsessively trying to contact the doctor
Mike Smith
"Why do we find it so hard to accept that life is pure chance?"

I chose this book under the premise that I was going to read an exhilarating story about a hypochondriac who is so convinced he was ill that he has resorted in stalking his doctor. This was to be mixed with the personal turmoil of said doctor who has discovered that his father has inoperable cancer and can't bring himself to tell him.... This is did not happen!

Instead of the above I was introduced to Dr. Andreas Miranda and his fath
J.T. Therrien
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
In The Sickness Alberto Barrera Tyszka ("the Venezuelan Ian McEwan")explores the phenomenon of sickness from a variety of perspectives: Dr. Miranda, an oncologist more interested in books than in surgeries; a patient (Dr. Miranda's own father, dying of cancer); Ernesto Duran (another of Dr. Miranda's patients). The man has already been given a clean bill of health but persists in his belief that he is ill; and Karina Sanchez (Dr. Miranda's secretary), who feels compassion for the patient that Mi ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
I read this because it is set in Venezuela and was translated from the original language. It has also won several prizes. However I was quite disappointed overall. I never got attached to the characters and while the premise in intriguing, I was not thrilled with the execution of it.

This is the story of Dr. Andres Miranda. When his dad is not feeling well, he goes in for tests which all come back indicating that his dad is fine. However, instinct or something makes Dr. Miranda request different
Dean Tsang
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a massive hypochondriac, I went into this thinking it would help give me some insight into my condition. Unfortunately, instead of presenting the condition in a sympathetic light it delves into other forms of sickness and deals with some pretty tough moral dilemmas.

The language is fantastic, and the characters are likeable. Duran's letters were exciting, but I felt like they (view spoiler)
Feb 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Andres Miranda is a doctor in the middle of a lot of drama--he's just found out his father is dying but can't bring himself to tell him, AND he's got a uber-hypochondriac patient who desperately wants the doctor to validate his firmly possessed notion that he is gravely ill. This slim novel covers a lot of ground in a quiet way, introducing philosophical questions about illness and dying, pain and lying. Translated from the original Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa, the lyric style comes alive and ...more
To be labelled "the Venezuelan Ian McEwan" (or the anything Ian McEwan) is a lot to live up to.

I was a little worried that any McEwan-esque depth of prose would be lost or damaged in translation; I can't say if it has been or not as my Spanish is beyond abysmal, but I can say that the translator seems to have done a wonderful job. The prose is weighty (in a good way) and thoughtful, powerful and sinister. The growing claustrophobia of sickness is chilling, and grows to something I can only descr
Russell George
Nov 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
A curious book in some ways; although it was quite short, I found it hard-going. Perhaps this had something to do with the translation from the Spanish, but structurally it didn’t quite work either. Two stories run parallel; the diagnosis of a doctor’s father with cancer, and a neurotic patient writing to the same doctor about his apparently phantom illness. But the stories don’t really join up to make a larger narrative, so the book has the feeling of two half formed ideas rather than one solid ...more
Sep 13, 2016 rated it liked it
A story about dying and the relationship between a father and a son. The son is a doctor and has difficulty in telling his father he's terminally ill. He's Always been in favour of telling his patients the truth about their condition but his father's cancer makes him doubt that. Although the book is well written and offers a careful account of a terminal disease, it's difficult to engage with the characters. The parallel story of the patient who tries to communicate with the doctor detracts more ...more
Feb 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, novel
I won this book from Goodreads/First Reads

The Sickness is about a doctor who can't find a way to tell his own father that he is dying. There is also another perfectly well patient that has convinced himself he is dying and a secretary that interfears inappropriately. This all adds up to a great story. This book is not very long, about 150 pages but really does have a lot to say. I would recommend this book.
Daniel Lowen
May 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Good book, and avoids the saccharine platitudes of the death of a loved one. Better, like Mrs. Dalloway, there's a sub-plot with an alter-ego. So the main story is about a physician and his rapidly dying father, while the subplot is his overly anxious hypochondriac patient. But not good enough to justify winning one prize and being short-listed for another, ...more
Hatori .j.
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: To anyone above the age of 14
Recommended to Hatori by: No one, found it in a book store!
Shelves: already-finished
It is such a sad book, and just proves how special our lives are. One minute your perfectly healthy and the next you've got a sickness thats already in it's last stages. Sickness is something nobody wants, and it divides us, and seperates people and family. Alberto shows just how much life can change when something so small can move mountains (Technically speaking) ...more
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
A good page-turner to the end. The kind of story that stays with you and leaves an everlasting impression for the rest of your life, I'm sure of it. It brings up many questions about death.. either one's own, or of a loved one. I actually caught myself counting the last page hoping there were at least 2-3 pages more to read. I highly recommend this book to everyone. ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Spanish Edition 3 9 Oct 02, 2018 05:03AM  
Ending -Ernesto Duran 1 3 Dec 18, 2013 02:00AM  

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Alberto José Barrera Tyszka es un guionista, poeta y narrador venezolano.
Se Licenció en Letras por la Universidad Central de Venezuela, de la que es profesor en la cátedra de Crónicas. En la década de los años ochenta participó en los grupos de poesía Tráfico y Guaire. Colaboraciones suyas han aparecido en diversas antologías y publicaciones de España, México, Argentina, Cuba y Venezuela. Articuli

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