Now Entering Make-Believe Country

Urbania, My Imaginary Land, Gave a Weird, Curious, and Somewhat Lonely Kid a Shorthand for the World at Large

Last year, my friend Jesús passed away when he was hit by a car while riding his bike. He was one year older than me. We both had been college professors in Venezuela, where we developed a friendship over our shared humanities-focused geekery. Jesús was also the only other person I knew at the time who had constructed a world inside his mind as a hobby. When Jesús was buried, his casket was draped with the blue, white, and green of his make-believe country’s flag. As far as I know, …

In Venezuela, Dystopian Fiction Hits Close to Home | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

In Venezuela, Dystopian Fiction Hits Close to Home

J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise Shows What Happens When a Liberal Democracy Crumbles and Its Worst Vices Take Over

There’s a certain absurdity that comes with trying to explain—in calm, simple, and objective words—a life that has become too strange to be real. At least, that’s how I feel …

Just Before Madrid’s Quarantine Began, Getting a Last Look at Goya | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A Letter from Madrid, Where Impending Quarantine Permits a Last Look at Goya

In Times of Uncertainty, Art Is a Reminder That Beauty Can Endure

The day the Spanish government announced a two-week closure of all schools and colleges in Madrid due to coronavirus, I was in Berkana, the city’s oldest gay bookstore, considering whether …

How Venezuela’s Oil Riches Fueled a Literary Explosion

In the Mid-20th Century, Writers Seized on the Conflicts Laid Bare by Petroleum's Power to Reshape Society

On December 14, 1922, a gusher of petroleum was discovered in Zulia, a rural area of western Venezuela. For nine days the oil showered onto the surrounding farmland, scaring the …