Tag Archives: alejandro zambra

New Zambra Book, Plus Interview

Alejandro Zambra, well-known to many as the author of Bonsai (see The Quarterly Conversation’s review here), has just published a new novel (his third) in Spanish: Formas de volver a casa (“Ways of Returning Home”).

No word yet on an English translation date for that book, but The Millions does have an interview with Zambra.

TM: Tell us a little about Formas de volver a casa—is it much of a departure from your first two books?

AZ: It’s a book about memory, about parents, about Chile. It’s about the 80s, about the years when we children were secondary characters in the literature of our parents. It’s about the dictatorship, as well, I guess. And about literature, intimacy, the construction of intimacy. I don’t know if it’s very different from my previous books; the truth is I feel like it’s close to The Private Lives of Trees. In fact it starts from there, from some of the intuitions or images of the past that were in that book. Maybe the main difference is that it’s in large part narrated in the first person. It also includes a writer’s diary, a kind of center or heart in which the fiction breaks, and the only thing left is the writer’s voice searching for its origins. It’s my most personal book, without a doubt, although the others were that as well.

New Book: The Private Lives of Trees by Alejandro Zambra

This is a note to let everyone know that Open Letter has just published The Private Lives of Trees by Bonsai-author Alejandro Zambra. (Amazon lists a July pub date, but Chad states that it’s available now.)

Bonsai remains one of my favorite titles in translation of the past couple years (in fact, I chose it for the June book in my translated fiction book group at The Booksmith), and I’ll definitely make a little time for The Private Lives of Trees sometime this summer.

If you’re unfamiliar with Zambra, Bonsai is pretty much a metafictional, Moibus-strip-like novella, sort of like something a decaffeinated Cesar Aira might come up with. The review in The Quarterly Conversation makes a great introduction:

The first novel by an up-and-coming Chilean poet, Bonsai won Chile’s national critics’ prize for best novel when it was published in 2006, and it is now available in English through Melville House’s series, “The Contemporary Art of the Novella.” Its plot is very basic. Zambra himself described it as “a very simple story whose only peculiarity is that nobody knows how to tell it well.”1 In fact, it is summed up by the very first line: “In the end she dies and he remains alone, although in truth he was alone some years before her death.” As we read on, the details get filled in. We learn their names (Julio and Emilia), their age (college students), what they do together (read literature before sex), and what happens after they break up (she goes to Madrid and dies, he stays in Chile and raises a bonsai). Yet it perhaps disservices the book to splay the characters out in this way, for they are charming, wistfully funny, and completely believable. Take, for example, the narrator’s remark that, “Julio and Emilia’s peculiarities weren’t only sexual (they did have them), nor emotional (these abounded), but also, so to speak, literary.” The tone, both disarmingly intimate and bemusedly detached, is completely engaging.

At times, the book reads almost like a dream, littered as it is with so many telling and seemingly significant details . . .

More Notable Books You Won’t Find in the Times

Contributing editor Scott Bryan Wilson took me up on yesterday’s open invitation to pick some notable titles from this year’s coverage at The Quarterly Conversation. A few of these were actually published in late 2008, but they were books that I liked a great deal, so I’m leaving them on the list.

Ghosts – Cesar Aira (review)

This Nest, Swift Passerine – Dan Beachy-Quick (review)

The Skating Rink – Roberto Bolano (review)

Tracer – Richard Greenfield (review forthcoming)

Waste – Eugene Marten (review)
The Mighty Angel – Jerzy Pilch (review)

Inherent Vice – Thomas Pynchon (review, essay)

My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (review)

Imperial – William T. Vollmann (review)

Bonsai – Alejandro Zambra (review)

Bonsai in The Nation

The Nation has had some excellent Latin American fiction coverage of late. Now there's a piece on Bonsai, the novella from Chileno Alejandro Zambra.

This book was one of my favs from the 2008 Best Translated Book longlist, and we also reviewed it in the spring issue of The Quarterly Conversation.

Alejandro Zambra Story

For the Alejandro Zambra fans out there, he has a new short story in the Spanish-language publication Letras y Libres.

For those wondering who Zambra is, see our review of his recently translated novel, Bonsai:

The first novel by an up-and-coming Chilean poet, Bonsai won Chile’s national critics’ prize for best novel when it was published in 2006, and it is now available in English through Melville House’s series, “The Contemporary Art of the Novella.” Its plot is very basic. Zambra himself described it as “a very simple story whose only peculiarity is that nobody knows how to tell it well.” In fact, it is summed up by the very first line: “In the end she dies and he remains alone, although in truth he was alone some years before her death.” As we read on, the details get filled in. We learn their names (Julio and Emilia), their age (college students), what they do together (read literature before sex), and what happens after they break up (she goes to Madrid and dies, he stays in Chile and raises a bonsai). Yet it perhaps disservices the book to splay the characters out in this way, for they are charming, wistfully funny, and completely believable. Take, for example, the narrator’s remark that, “Julio and Emilia’s peculiarities weren’t only sexual (they did have them), nor emotional (these abounded), but also, so to speak, literary.” The tone, both disarmingly intimate and bemusedly detached, is completely engaging.

THE SURRENDER

The Surrender is Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning his lifelong desire to be a woman.


LADY CHATTERLEY'S BROTHER

Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


THE LATIN AMERICAN MIXTAPE

5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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