When We Were Happy but Didn’t Know We Were
Four trips between Colombia and Venezuela in apocalyptic times
Original title: Cuando éramos felices pero no lo sabíamos. Cuatro viajes entre Colombia y Venezuela en tiempos apocalípticos.
Author: Melba Escobar
Melba Escobar’s first narrative non-fiction work is a fascinating look at Venezuela: a country that shares a destiny of forces, encounters and disagreements with Colombia. It is not an ideological work, nor a political thesis on the consequences of the Fifth Republic – established by Hugo Chávez Frías when he won the 1998 elections after a failed coup in 1992. Instead, it is an honest story which includes a handful of characters discovered by Melba Escobar on her trips to Venezuela, visiting various hot spots such as La Guajira or Cúcuta.
In 2019, Melba Escobar decided to take a trip to understand, know and feel a reality that thousands of Colombians have seen walking on the streets of their cities and thousands of citizens of the world have seen in their cities or through their televisions. Venezuelan migration has reached enormous platitudes in the last five years and this book asks, genuinely, who those are that are “gone” and those “left behind”, as they call themselves – sometimes seriously, sometimes jokingly.
Through brilliant dialogues, this book full of beauty, humanity and respect for human nature, of suffering and contradictions, is about those who wish to leave and those who stay. It encompasses all: the man from the local neighborhood who believes in the system, the middle-class woman who decided to stay, those who migrated looking for another air; people like any of us who leave their lives behind with all that that means.
Inspired by universal works such as Voices of Chernobil by Svetlana Alexievitch and Salvador by Joan Didion, this is an important and necessary book conformed by the testimony of a writer who wanted to live the lives of those she was writing about instead of observing from a comfortable distance.
SPANISH (World) | Seix Barral/Planeta