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Formas de volver a casa habla de la generación de quienes, como dice el narrador, aprendían a leer o a dibujar mientras sus padres se convertían en cómplices o víctimas de la dictadura de Augusto Pinochet. La esperada tercera novela de Alejandro Zambra muestra el Chile de mediados de los años ochenta a partir de la vida de un niño de nueve años. El autor apunta a la necesi Formas de volver a casa habla de la generación de quienes, como dice el narrador, aprendían a leer o a dibujar mientras sus padres se convertían en cómplices o víctimas de la dictadura de Augusto Pinochet. La esperada tercera novela de Alejandro Zambra muestra el Chile de mediados de los años ochenta a partir de la vida de un niño de nueve años. El autor apunta a la necesidad de una literatura de los hijos, de una mirada que haga frente a las versiones oficiales. Pero no se trata sólo de matar al padre sino también de entender realmente lo que sucedía en esos años. Por eso la novela desnuda su propia construcción, a través de un diario en que el escritor registra sus dudas, sus propósitos y también cómo influye, en su trabajo, la inquietante presencia de una mujer. Con precisión y melancolía, Zambra reflexiona sobre el pasado y el presente de Chile. Formas de volver a casa es la novela más personal de uno de los mejores narradores de las nuevas generaciones. Un libro que ratifica lo que Ricardo Piglia ha dicho sobre Alejandro Zambra: «Un escritor notable, muy perceptivo frente a la diversidad de las formas»


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Formas de volver a casa habla de la generación de quienes, como dice el narrador, aprendían a leer o a dibujar mientras sus padres se convertían en cómplices o víctimas de la dictadura de Augusto Pinochet. La esperada tercera novela de Alejandro Zambra muestra el Chile de mediados de los años ochenta a partir de la vida de un niño de nueve años. El autor apunta a la necesi Formas de volver a casa habla de la generación de quienes, como dice el narrador, aprendían a leer o a dibujar mientras sus padres se convertían en cómplices o víctimas de la dictadura de Augusto Pinochet. La esperada tercera novela de Alejandro Zambra muestra el Chile de mediados de los años ochenta a partir de la vida de un niño de nueve años. El autor apunta a la necesidad de una literatura de los hijos, de una mirada que haga frente a las versiones oficiales. Pero no se trata sólo de matar al padre sino también de entender realmente lo que sucedía en esos años. Por eso la novela desnuda su propia construcción, a través de un diario en que el escritor registra sus dudas, sus propósitos y también cómo influye, en su trabajo, la inquietante presencia de una mujer. Con precisión y melancolía, Zambra reflexiona sobre el pasado y el presente de Chile. Formas de volver a casa es la novela más personal de uno de los mejores narradores de las nuevas generaciones. Un libro que ratifica lo que Ricardo Piglia ha dicho sobre Alejandro Zambra: «Un escritor notable, muy perceptivo frente a la diversidad de las formas»

30 review for Formas de volver a casa

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    Zambra does a masterful job in this novel giving voice of the experiences of a silent group in Chile -- the generation that grew up under Pinochet's rule, living their childhoods in the shadow of a brutal dictatorship. Zambra reveals the uneasy balance between children's worlds of games and school and friends and parental rules, on the one hand, and those moments when the adult reality of politics and fear and frustration and loss came in through the cracks. Adding a new twist, Zambra focuses pa Zambra does a masterful job in this novel giving voice of the experiences of a silent group in Chile -- the generation that grew up under Pinochet's rule, living their childhoods in the shadow of a brutal dictatorship. Zambra reveals the uneasy balance between children's worlds of games and school and friends and parental rules, on the one hand, and those moments when the adult reality of politics and fear and frustration and loss came in through the cracks. Adding a new twist, Zambra focuses particular attention on the experiences of children whose parents were supporters of Pinochet, even simply from their armchairs. Zambra uses a metafictional frame to explore these experiences and genrational tensions, as he develops a story within a story: one narrator is telling his experiences writing a novel with narrator who, like him, grew up under Pinochet and now is trying to untangle the generational tensions and confusions that complicate his relationship with his parents. Zambra develops this structure masterfully, and in the process provides his readers with important questions about the value and impact of storytelling, the attempts of a generation to grow into adulthood, and the complications surrounding their attempt to find their way home as children and as adults. Below is my longer review for this book, which was posted at the California Literary Review: http://calitreview.com/34671 In spite of being described by some critics as “the next Roberto Bolaño” Alejandro Zambra makes his own mark in his third novel, Ways of Going Home. Like Bolaño, Zambra was born in Santiago, Chile. However, he was born later, in 1975, part of a generation that spent its childhood under Pinochet’s rule. In Ways of Going Home, Zambra depicts childhood experiences of trying to understand the cryptic comments and peculiar actions of adults, in an atmosphere where children’s simple pleasures – such as going to watch a soccer match at a municipal stadium — bring back memories of terror, incarcerations, and disappeared loved ones for their parents and neighbors. Perhaps more chillingly, Zambra also explores the other side of the Chilean experience of Pinochet’s rule – what happens when your parents sided for Pinochet, if not actively, passively, while watching TV and living their lives behind closed doors in Chilean suburbs? Is it possible to tell your story, your parents’ story, in an effort to understand, to meet them on equal footing? Zambra’s fictional narrator writes, “I thought about my mother, my father. I thought: What kinds of faces do my parents have? But our parents never really have faces. We never learn to truly look at them.” Ways of Going Home is a mirror Zambra holds up to his generation’s parents, in an effort to see them clearly, to make sense of a past that is not clearly shown in documentaries and books about Chile, and in so doing to navigate his way forward as an adult. The novel’s title is apt. Zambra skillfully weaves many ways of coming home, all of them entangled in the misunderstandings, connections, and tensions between generations. In the novel’s opening lines, Zambra describes one such event in the life of the fictional narrator: Once, I got lost. I was six or seven. I got distracted, and all of a sudden I couldn’t see my parents anymore. I was scared, but I immediately found the way home and got there before they did. They kept looking for me, desperate, but I thought that they were lost. That I knew how to get home and they didn’t. “You went a different way,” my mother said later, angry, her eyes still swollen. You were the ones who went a different way, I thought, but I didn’t say it. Zambra provides many different examples of coming home: as a lost child, as an adult visiting his parents, as an adult mourning her parents, as an act of memory, as a step towards understanding, as a confrontation, as an act of love. He threads these homecomings throughout the novel, through past and present, fiction and memory. And throughout, he questions parents’ ability to know the way forward. They are not omniscient, and neither are their children. Zambra eloquently represents a very human fumbling to understand the past and the present, to determine the correct path to follow into the future. Ways of Going Home is above all a novel about stories and the power of telling those stories as a means of understanding, of navigating memories and relationships and coming through the process with some sense of direction for the future. Zambra develops a metafictional structure for the novel, as he moves between telling the fictionalized story of our narrator, and framing it with the story of the author of that story. This author in turn sifts through memories and former relationships in an attempt to come to terms with the past – his past, his parents’ past, and their place in Chile’s past. Throughout the novel, the author and the narrator both describe their childhood place as secondary characters, living in the shadows of adults’ decisions and conflicts. The author first introduces secondary characters as the focus of his studies in literature classes as a child. As described by the author, Every test had a section of character identification, which included only secondary characters: the less relevant the characters, the more likely we would be asked about them, so we memorized names resignedly, though with the pleasure of guaranteed points… There was a certain beauty in the act, because back then we were exactly that: secondary characters, hundreds of children who crisscrossed the city lugging denim backpacks. The neighbors would test the weight and always make the same joke: “What are you carrying in there, rocks?” Downtown Santiago welcomed us with tear gas bombs, but we weren’t carrying rocks, we were carrying bricks by Baldor or Villee or Flaubert. As the narrator and the author look back on their childhood experiences as adults, they question how they can emerge from this role of being secondary characters. How can they take a place in the world in which they are responsible and central, as opposed to being irrelevant and marginal? Zambra’s exploration of the power of stories resonates with other manifestations of the centrality of stories in Chile, particularly the witness paid by friends and relatives to the torture, kidnapping, and murder of their friends and relatives by Pinochet’s regime. In his case, though, the witness he bears is to a parallel existence experienced by some children during the regime, as seen in these passages from the perspective of the narrator, Back then I was, as I always have been, and I always will be, for Colo-Colo. As for Pinochet, to me he was a television personality who hosted a show with no fixed schedule, and I hated him for that, for the stuffy national channels that interrupted their programming during the best parts. Later I hated him for being a son of a bitch, for being a murderer, but back then I hated him only for those inconvenient shows that Dad watched without saying a word, without acceding any movement other than a more forceful drag on the cigarette he always had glued to his lips. Now I don’t understand that freedom we enjoyed. We lived under a dictatorship; people talked about crimes and attacks, martial law and curfew, but even so, nothing kept me from spending all day wandering far from home. Weren’t the streets of Maipú dangerous then? At night they were, and during the day as well, but the adults played, arrogantly or innocently—or with a mixture of arrogance and innocence—at ignoring the danger. They played at thinking that discontent was a thing of the poor and power the domain of the rich, and in those streets no one was poor or rich, at least not yet. Even for children whose parents suffered the loss of loved ones under Pinochet, their childhood was marked by a strong sense of invisibility, of being secondary, even trivial. The author’s estranged wife Eme describes one such scene: She was seven or eight years old, in the yard with other little girls, playing hide-and-seek. It was getting late, time to go inside; the adults were calling and the girls answered that they were coming. The push and pull went on, the calls were more and more urgent, but the girls laughed and kept playing. Suddenly they realized the adults had stopped calling them a while ago and night had already fallen. They thought the adults must be watching them, trying to teach them a lesson, and that now the grown-ups were the ones playing hide-and-seek. But no. When she went inside, Eme saw that her father’s friends were crying and that her mother, rooted to her seat, was staring off into space. They were listening to the news on the radio. A voice was talking about a raid. It talked about the dead, about more dead. “That happened so many times,” Eme said that day, five years ago. “We kids understood, all of a sudden, that we weren’t so important. That there were unfathomable and serious things that we couldn’t know or understand.” The author continues this section with a passage that exemplifies the conflicts he and his peers faced in childhood, “The novel belongs to our parents, I thought then, I think now. That’s what we grew up believing, that the novel belonged to our parents. We cursed them, and also took refuge in their shadows, relieved. While the adults killed or were killed, we drew pictures in a corner. While the country was falling to pieces, we were learning to talk, to walk, to fold napkins in the shape of boats, of airplanes. While the novel was happening, we played hide-and-seek, we played at disappearing.” In essence, Ways of Going Home is Zambra’s attempt to put his generation at the center of the novel he is writing. The novel’s metafictional structure provides Zambra with a platform to explore the process of writing his way to understanding his past, while also conveying the many challenges posed by this effort. In addition to trying to see his parents clearly, the author also is trying to understand his own efforts clearly, as seen in a passage late in the novel, Today my friend Pablo called me so he could read me this phrase he found in a book by Tim O’Brien: “What sticks to memory, often, are those odd little fragments that have no beginning and no end.” I kept thinking about that and stayed awake all night. It’s true. We remember the sounds of the images. And sometimes, when we write, we wash everything clean, as if by doing so we could advance toward something. We ought to simply describe those sounds, those stains on memory. That arbitrary selection, nothing more. That’s why we lie so much, in the end. That’s why a book is always the opposite of another immense and strange book. An illegible and genuine book that we translate treacherously, that we betray with our habit of passable prose. In Ways of Going Home, Zambra is stepping out from the shadows of his childhood. He writes eloquently, intertwining memories, reflections, acts, and consequences of these acts for his characters. The structure of the novel is complex, and requires careful reading to trace the interconnections of the storylines and themes. It is also engaging, particularly in Zambra’s refusal to accept simple answers to understand the past or how to engage with the past in the present. If he is critical of adults’ decisions in the past, he is also critical of his generation. This novel provides valuable insight into the experiences of a generation of Chileans. However, its relevance is not confined to understanding Chile. In his exploration of generational conflict and connection, Zambra provides his readers with a touchstone to their own struggles coming home to their parents in a way that is honest and human.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    "Instead of screaming, I write books" R. Gary This is a redemptive tribute to those who went missing during the Pinochet regime. To all those unknown names whose blood still runs through the veins of the silenced generation which was growing up during this elusive period in Chile. Zambra’s unpretentious voice gets irretrievably tangled with the one narrating the story, a nameless writer, who simultaneously mirrors his life through his characters, creating a perfecty circled metanarration, overflo "Instead of screaming, I write books" R. Gary This is a redemptive tribute to those who went missing during the Pinochet regime. To all those unknown names whose blood still runs through the veins of the silenced generation which was growing up during this elusive period in Chile. Zambra’s unpretentious voice gets irretrievably tangled with the one narrating the story, a nameless writer, who simultaneously mirrors his life through his characters, creating a perfecty circled metanarration, overflowing with complex yet sophisticated symbolism. "The novel belongs to our parents," the narrator says, understanding that his childhood experience of censorship and brutality was indirect, diluted by his infancy. Zambra plays a magic trick in creating an evocative past even in such a distressing time, where children played to be either war correspondents or secret spy agents or, if you prefer, secondary characters, as the metafiction kicks in with force. The passage of time gives perspective to the ones now remembering. Zambra and his narrator dare to speak in an attempt to relieve the painful hungover which comes from a violent past and the arduous task of coming to terms with a disorienting history. The once oblivious child has no choice but to carry the heavy burden of guilt on behalf of his parents, who were passive supporters of Pinochet, and learn to live with the increasing tension and estrangement towards them. I felt disturbed with recognition about the way Zambra faced his conflicting emotions when evoking his parental figures. The abstract need, the unquestionable respect for his parents in his youthful days as opposed to the embarrassment and disapproval he feels for them in the present. It rings a bell. “You went a different way,” my mother said later, angry, her eyes still swollen. You were the ones who went a different way, I thought, but I didn’t say it.” The different ways of remembering which try to ease the anguish of knowing that you have become an orphan when you decided to start writing. “I thought about my mother, my father. I thought: What kinds of faces do my parents have? But our parents never really have faces. We never learn to truly look at them.” This novel is also a hymn to the vocation of writing, and it’s precisely this calling which urges the narrator to write down the slippery scenes of a long gone past to give first names to these secondary characters, to explain, in the end, his own story. "Although we might want to tell other people's stories we always end up telling our own." The courageous catharsis of giving up the fictional framing to write about oneself, to finally speak out loud. That is what pierced right through me. To see these survivors of a lost world dealing with their present the best they can. Some stay, some fly away.And the shock which comes with the understanding that it’s just because you want them to stay that you have to let them go. And that it really doesn’t matter. Either staying or going, each one has to find its own way of going back home.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chad Post

    "Ways of Going Home," Alejandro Zambra's third book to be published in English (and second translated by Megan McDowell), packs a lot of themes--historical memory, difficulties of love, honesty in art--into a brief 139 page novel taking place in the time between the two great Chilean earthquakes in 1985 and 2010. It's an ambitious project from one of Granta's "Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists," and one that is a bit of a mess. Before getting into the reasons why I think this book doesn't wo "Ways of Going Home," Alejandro Zambra's third book to be published in English (and second translated by Megan McDowell), packs a lot of themes--historical memory, difficulties of love, honesty in art--into a brief 139 page novel taking place in the time between the two great Chilean earthquakes in 1985 and 2010. It's an ambitious project from one of Granta's "Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists," and one that is a bit of a mess. Before getting into the reasons why I think this book doesn't work, here's a brief synopsis of the two storylines in this book: In the "novel" storyline, the narrator is growing up in Chile in the mid-1980s, at the time when Pinochet was finally forced out. On the night of the 1985 earthquake, he meets Claudia, a pretty, slightly older girl who is somehow connected to the boy's neighbor, Raul, the only single man in the neighborhood. Two years after the earthquake, he sees Claudia again, and she asks him to spy on Raul. That's part one. Part two--of this narrative--takes place twenty years later, with the narrator decides to try and find out what's going on with Claudia. Oh so coincidentally, she's returning home to deal with her father's death, during which time, she hooks up with the narrator, explains her life story (bit more on that later), and then breaks things off with the narrator. Interspersed between these two sections are two sections written by the "author" about his Claudia novel. The author and his wife have separated, he's a bit lonely and nostalgic, and having a really hard time writing this novel. He wants Eme--his estranged wife--to read it and approve of it, and he surrounds the explication of this basic desire with a ton of quasi-intellectual observations about life and forgetting, parents and love, and everything else. Eme and he reunite briefly, but that doesn't really work out. Then the 2010 earthquake takes place. Two earthquakes, two failed love stories, two tellings of the same story involving his mother, Eme claiming Claudia's story is just a retelling of hers, the end of Pinochet's realm kicks off the book and Sebastian Pinera's election ends it--there's a lot of doubling in this book. Also the two narrators--one pretty obviously the novelized reflection of the other. Overall, this set-up--which calls to mind tons of so-called metafictional works, such as "Lost in the Funhouse" and the vastly superior "Mulligan Stew"--is Zambra's attempt to break out of the writing style that defined his first two novels. This is a very difficult situation for a young author. Those two books have a very specific style, one that's emotionally affective, incredibly compelling to read, and instantly recognizable. The writing in those novels is very precise, almost poetic, and the stories are related from a restricted third-person point of view, allowing for certain "cheesy" moments to play more seriously than they might in a first-person voice. Anyway. "Ways of Going Home" feels like a novelist trying to change his aesthetic, maturing from something simple and direct into something more complex and respectably "Literary." Reading the representation of the author in this novel as Zambra himself, and the author's relationship to the novel about Claudia that he's writing as Zambra's relationship to this book, it's clear that there's a lot of anxiety, an awareness that this book might not live up to heightened expectations. And one of the best tricks for evading that is to foreground it (it's a book about an author who can't write his next novel!) and then bury it in a false postmodern trick (the novel isn't just a novel, but a novel about the difficulty of writing novels!). Everything about this rings false, and makes me feel sympathetic for Zambra--he doesn't have to hide his talents. But then again, I have no idea what it's like trying to create art after being anointed by just about everyone important in the world of letters. Put in that context--striving to evolve as a writer in a situation in which everyone expects huge things from you--makes the bad writing in this book nearly forgivable. But only nearly. "Claudia's first memory of the stadium is also happy. In 1977 it was announced that Chespirito, the Mexican comedian, would bring the entire cast of his show to perform at the National Stadium. Claudia was four years old then; she watched Chespirito's show and she liked it a lot. "Her parents refused to take her at first, but finally they gave in. The four of them went, and Claudia and Ximena had a great time. Many years later Claudia found out that for her parents that day had been torture. They had spent every moment thinking how absurd it was to see the stadium filled with laughing people. Throughout the entire show they had thought only, obsessively, about the dead." This is a pretty trite set-piece, and one that comes off as uber-manipulative and totally unbelievable. (I distrust all writing that hinges on memories of a child, since most of these memories are way more specific than any person would actually have.) It's the sort of manipulative sequence you'd find in story from a mediocre creative writer. But it gets worse: "I'll always remember the pain, one night, years ago: in the middle of an argument we started caressing each other and she got on top of me, but in the middle of penetration she couldn't control her rage and she shut her vagina completely." SHUT IT! SHUT THAT VAGINA! "A few days ago Eme left a box for me with the neighbors. Only today did I dare open it. There were two shirts, a scarf, my Kaurismaki and Wes Anderson movies, my Tom Waits and Wu-Tang Clan CDs, as well as some book I lent her these past months." God, that is SO PRECIOUS. At this point in time, can you really do something like this in an unironic fashion? Your Wes Anderson movie? Oh, you, Mr. Narrator, are SO SMART AND SENSITIVE. (And have very questionable taste in directors.) This isn't the Zambra book I wanted to read. In part because one of the challenges Zambra's trying to face--how to write about Pinochet and the violent history of Chile when that wasn't something you experienced first hand--could result in an absolutely fascinating book. In the Claudia section of "Ways of Going Home," the one that opens in 1985, just a few years before Pinochet is deposed, the narrator is 9 years old, fairly confused about the politics of the country, in part because his parents have remained on the sidelines during the Allende-Pinochet periods. He is a character forcibly disconnected from the past, living in a sort of constructed world: "We arrived, finally, at a neighborhood with only two streets: Neftali Reyes Basoalto and Lucila Godoy Alcayaga. It sounds like a joke, but it's true. A lot of the streets in Maipu had, and still have, those absurd names: my cousins, for example, lived on First Symphony Way, near Second and Third Symphony, perpendicular to Concert Street, and close to the passages Opus One, Opus Two, Opus Three, et cetera. Or the very street where I lived, Aladdin, between Odin and Ramayana and parallel to Lemuria; obviously, toward the end of the seventies some people had a lot of fun choosing names for the streets where the new families would later live--the families without history, who were willing or perhaps resigned to live in that fantasy world. "'I live in the neighborhood of real names,' said Claudia on the afternoon of our reencounter, looking seriously into my eyes." In case you don't catch the subtext--and this sort of obvious beat-it-over-your-head allusions and metaphors is another flaw in this book--Claudia's family is political, was part of Allende's government, is reactionary. "I vote with a sense of sorrow, with very little faith. I know that Sebastian Pinera will win the first round I'm sure he will also win the second. It seems horrible. It's obvious we've lost our memories. We will calmly, candidly, hand the country over to Pinera and to Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ." It's an interesting artistic conundrum: How to write about a childhood taking place during a very important time in history, but one that you, and a lot of your characters, weren't directly impacted by. Tricky. Which brings me to David Shields. If you read enough David Shields, your relationship to literature is irrevocably altered. The part of Shields that always sticks with me is the idea that the best works of art are those in which the creator's consciousness as he/she creates is revealed in the course of the work of art. Frequently, these are hybrid works that aren't exactly autobiographical or fictional--what Shields refers to as "lyric essays." There are hints in "Ways of Going Home" that this sort of "coming clean" is something that Zambra was aiming for: "It's strange, it's silly to attempt a genuine story about something, about someone, about anyone, about oneself. But it's necessary as well." Or, more explicitly (if there's one thing this book is, it's explicit in explaining its aims): "Today my friend Pablo called me so he could read me this phrase he found in a book by Tim O'Brien: 'What sticks to memory, often, are those odd little fragments that have no beginning and no end." I kept thinking about that and stayed awake all night. It's true. We remember the sounds of the images. And sometimes, when we write, we wash everything clean, as if by doing so we could advance towards something. We ought to simply describe those sounds, those stains on memory. That arbitrary selection, nothing more. That's why we lie so much, in the end. That's why a book is always the opposite of another immense and strange book. An illegible and genuine book that we translate treacherously, that we betray with our habit of passable prose. "I think about the beautiful beginning of 'Family Sayings,' Natalia Ginzburg's novel: 'The places, events, and people in this book are all real. I have invented nothing. Every time that I have found myself inventing something in accordance with my old habits as a novelist, I have felt impelled at once to destroy everything thus invented.'" The sort of honesty and directness that Zambra is talking about and aiming for is much more evident in his earlier works. See the opening of "Bonsai": "In the end she dies and he remains alone, although in truth he was along some years before her death, Emilia’s death. Let’s say that she is called or was called Emilia and that he is called, was called, and continues to be called Julio. Julio and Emilia. In the end Emilia dies and Julio does not die. The rest is literature:" The unveiling of the creative process in "Ways of Going Home" is way more dishonest. Instead of seeing the real Zambra struggle with the above themes and his attempt to create a more "mature" style, we get two manipulative narrators, each as "novelistic" as the other. Going back to the doubling mentioned way back in the beginning of this review, instead of having two narratives--one fictional, one an autobiographical reflection on that--we get two fictional bits, which play off each other in a way that, unfortunately, isn't very satisfying. All that said, I eagerly await Zambra's next book. He is one of the best young Latin American writers, and even this book, as disappointing as it might be to me, is better than a lot of books that will come out this year. He is still an author to watch.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    "Parents abandon their children. Children abandon their parents. Parents protect or forsake, but they always forsake. Children stay or go but they always go." "Parents abandon their children. Children abandon their parents. Parents protect or forsake, but they always forsake. Children stay or go but they always go."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Jeffrey Keeten posted a review today of Too Late to Turn Back: Barbara and Graham Greene in Liberia which included a lengthy citation by the author Barbara Greene, speaking of her cousin Graham Greene. "Apart from three or four people he was really fond of, I felt that the rest of humanity was to him like a heap of insects that he liked to examine." I have digested that observation all day. Such was percolating as I finished Ways of Going Home. Zambra's wonderful novel reaches back to childhood, Jeffrey Keeten posted a review today of Too Late to Turn Back: Barbara and Graham Greene in Liberia which included a lengthy citation by the author Barbara Greene, speaking of her cousin Graham Greene. "Apart from three or four people he was really fond of, I felt that the rest of humanity was to him like a heap of insects that he liked to examine." I have digested that observation all day. Such was percolating as I finished Ways of Going Home. Zambra's wonderful novel reaches back to childhood, allows a detour into a creative alternative and dovetails back to our shared messy reality. I must evaluate my ranking protocol. I found this superior to Siegfried Lenz's Stella by an order of magnitude and yet rated them identically.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Jackson

    Better than "The Private Lives of Trees." A fascinating exploration of the intersection between private memory and public history, the nature of storytelling, the self-delusions of love, and how the insidious Pinochet dictatorship subtly shaped the lives of several generations. 4.5 stars Better than "The Private Lives of Trees." A fascinating exploration of the intersection between private memory and public history, the nature of storytelling, the self-delusions of love, and how the insidious Pinochet dictatorship subtly shaped the lives of several generations. 4.5 stars

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    first book in spanish 4 stars probably just cause i'm proud of myself first book in spanish 4 stars probably just cause i'm proud of myself

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    “It’s strange, it’s silly to attempt a genuine story about something, about someone, about anyone, even oneself. But it’s necessary as well” I had just recently finished Karl Ove Knausgaard’s excellent biography/fiction work “My Struggle” that experiments with truth and memory when I came across this book. This book through its scant 160 pages seems obsessively intent on doubling and tripling down on the concept. Nominally set in Chile circa 1985, in the immediate aftermath of a large earthqua “It’s strange, it’s silly to attempt a genuine story about something, about someone, about anyone, even oneself. But it’s necessary as well” I had just recently finished Karl Ove Knausgaard’s excellent biography/fiction work “My Struggle” that experiments with truth and memory when I came across this book. This book through its scant 160 pages seems obsessively intent on doubling and tripling down on the concept. Nominally set in Chile circa 1985, in the immediate aftermath of a large earthquake, faultlines both real and existential are everywhere to be seen. This is Pinochet’s Chile and the young boy in the story is persuaded by an attractive girl next door to “watch” her uncle for any suspicious activity. He does so not out of any political sense but because like most young boys (and older ones unfortunately as well) he just likes spending time with a pretty girl. What happens next is told through generations where they lose contact and reconnect, exposing a multitude of bitter memories that always simmered under the surface demanding to stay buried. On its own, this is an extremely compelling and well written story. What makes it extraordinary are the intermittent breaks where Alejandro Zambra cuts into the story he’s telling to interject how his characters are based on his own life, how the parents in the story are like his own, how he doesn’t know why he is creating these characters or if he should even bother. These digressions are not only laced with poignant memories and philosophy but at times seemingly dissolve into the story. There were several moments where I was unsure whose voice it was I was hearing until I was a few paragraphs in, if ever. It is an intriguing concept and one that could feel easily forced or pretentious but in Zambra’s hands, never does. It becomes clear that his characters pain is his pain. That despite the author’s insistence that he is at a loss as to where to take these characters, it is only because he is at a loss as to where to take himself. Fiction and reality become a kind of battle between unpleasant truth and nostalgia which is best summed up, as well as the book itself, when the author writes: “But I’m against nostalgia. No, that’s not true. I’d like to be against nostalgia. Everywhere you look there’s someone renewing vows with the past. We recall songs we never really liked, we meet up with our first girlfriends again, or classmates we didn’t get along with, we greet with open arms people we used to reject. I’m amazed at the ease with which we forget what we felt, what we wanted. The speed with which we assume that now we want or feel something different. And at the same time we want to laugh at the same jokes. We want to be, we believe we are again, children who are blessed by shadow.”

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sandee

    I was so enthralled by the language of this novel that I buttered my raisin bread with one hand because I couldn't put this book down for a second. easy to read in a single session and you will want to...maybe even with some raisin bread. "do we really recognize someone twenty years later? can we recognize now, in some luminous sign, the definitive features irrevocably adult, of a bygone face? I've spent the afternoon thinking about that, deliberating that." once again without always being aware o I was so enthralled by the language of this novel that I buttered my raisin bread with one hand because I couldn't put this book down for a second. easy to read in a single session and you will want to...maybe even with some raisin bread. "do we really recognize someone twenty years later? can we recognize now, in some luminous sign, the definitive features irrevocably adult, of a bygone face? I've spent the afternoon thinking about that, deliberating that." once again without always being aware of your indirect influence on my literary intelligence RSS you strike again...I miss you giving me smart books behind shabby counters and staring at the grey ocean with you. San fran sometime soon...my turn to come to you.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sofia

    This was the sweetest book I have read. If not ever for sure this year. I would love to mention a number of powerful quotes regarding our childhood memories, our relationship with our parents and our past but I don't want to have spoilers in my review so I will only quote this "Our parents were there for us to not be afraid. But we weren't afraid. They were the ones who were afraid." Last, this was a fictional novel that in my heart had the effect of poetry. This was the sweetest book I have read. If not ever for sure this year. I would love to mention a number of powerful quotes regarding our childhood memories, our relationship with our parents and our past but I don't want to have spoilers in my review so I will only quote this "Our parents were there for us to not be afraid. But we weren't afraid. They were the ones who were afraid." Last, this was a fictional novel that in my heart had the effect of poetry.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    Alejandro Zambra's novella, Ways of Going Home, which was first published in 2011, was chosen for the stop in Chile on my Around the World in 80 Books challenge. I had originally decided that the novella would be the last stop on my reading journey, but I was so intrigued that I just had to pick it up earlier. This particular winner of the English Pen Award is set in Pinochet's Chile, circling around districts of the capital city, Santiago. This particular edition has been translated from its or Alejandro Zambra's novella, Ways of Going Home, which was first published in 2011, was chosen for the stop in Chile on my Around the World in 80 Books challenge. I had originally decided that the novella would be the last stop on my reading journey, but I was so intrigued that I just had to pick it up earlier. This particular winner of the English Pen Award is set in Pinochet's Chile, circling around districts of the capital city, Santiago. This particular edition has been translated from its original Spanish by Megan McDowell. Every single review which I had seen of Ways of Going Home prior to reading it myself was highly positive. Nicole Krauss notes that 'Zambra's novels are like a phone call in the middle of the night from an old friend, and afterward, I missed the charming and funny voice on the other end, with its strange and beautiful stories.' Edwige Danticat proclaims: 'I envy Alejandro the obvious sophistication and exquisite beauty of the pages you are about to read, a work which is filled with the heartfelt vulnerability of testimony.' The Observer calls it 'Complex yet sophisticated... Zambra [weaves] some of the continent's most difficult historical themes into an exciting modern art form.' The blurb on the Granta edition is beguiling in its sparsity: 'A young boy plays hide-and-seek in the suburbs of Santiago, unaware that his neighbours are becoming entangled in the brutality of Pinochet's regime. Then, one night a mysterious girl appears in his neighbourhood and makes a life-changing request.' Claudia, this 'mysterious girl', meets the narrator on the 3rd of March 1985, the night of an earthquake in Santiago. Of their ensuing relationship, which is more of an infatuation than a friendship, the narrator tells us: 'She was twelve and I was nine, so our friendship was impossible. But we were friends, or something like it. We talked a lot. Sometimes I think I'm writing this book just to remember those conversations.' Ways of Going Home uses a structure of very short, and often quite poignant, vignettes. These are made up at first of retrospective memories and memorials from the narrator's childhood, and then from his adulthood. This structure works wonderfully; I often find that books made up of vignettes build a wonderful story, allowing us to learn about the characters, as well as the conditions under which they live, piece by piece. Zambra's writing style is gripping from the very first page; it begins in the following manner: 'Once, I got lost. I was six or seven. I got distracted, and all of a sudden I couldn't see my parents anymore. I was scared, but I immediately found the way home and got there before they did. They kept looking for me, desperate, but I thought they were lost. That I knew how to get home and they didn't.' The undercurrents of politics are interpreted by the child narrator in very thoughtful ways. The angle from which the perspective has been shaped is fascinating, and adds so much depth to the whole. Zambra shows rather than tells, demonstrating that though young, his child narrator knows that horrendous things are happening to people he knows due to the regime. He cannot quite fathom why, however and, quite like Scout in Harper Lee's wonderful To Kill a Mockingbird, he devotes a lot of thought to the hatred present around him, and whether any justified reasoning can possibly explain its existence. Of his young life in Santiago, for instance, the present-day narrator writes: 'Now I don't understand that freedom we enjoyed. We lived under a dictatorship; people talked about crimes and attacks, martial law and curfew, but even so, nothing kept me from spending all day wandering far from home.' He goes on to say, rather poignantly, 'While the adults killed or were killed, we drew pictures in a corner. While the country was falling to pieces, we were learning to talk, to walk, to fold napkins in the shape of boats, of airplanes.' Zambra has been selected as one of Granta's Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists for a reason. Ways of Going Home drips with beauty, and vocalises the impact of violence in such a harrowing and memorable manner. It is beautiful; it is striking; it is profound. It is my first taste of Zambra's work, but I am certain that it will not be the last.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    Ways of Going Home tells two stories in four fleeting chapters. The first begins with an earthquake in 1984. The protagonist, unnamed, is nine years old (as was Zambra at that time). Augusto Pinochet had been in power for over ten years, since the coup d'état on September 11, 1973, and he would continue to be the dictator for six more. Much of Roberto Bolaño's fiction deals with Pinochet's time in power; indeed, Bolaño had personal confrontation with the regime: after the coup he was arrested on Ways of Going Home tells two stories in four fleeting chapters. The first begins with an earthquake in 1984. The protagonist, unnamed, is nine years old (as was Zambra at that time). Augusto Pinochet had been in power for over ten years, since the coup d'état on September 11, 1973, and he would continue to be the dictator for six more. Much of Roberto Bolaño's fiction deals with Pinochet's time in power; indeed, Bolaño had personal confrontation with the regime: after the coup he was arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist and was in custody for eight days, only to be rescued by prison guards who happened to be former classmates (see his story "Dance Card" for a fictional account). It should be noted that doubts have arisen as to whether this ever happened at all; nevertheless, Bolaño's fiction gets up close and personal with the Pinochet regime. In contrast, the characters in Ways of Going Home, though living directly under the thumb of Pinochet, don't have any of those kinds of encounters. This novel is, in part, a rumination on those children who were relatively well off, who grew up hearing stories of kidnappings and torture but who never knew anyone who suffered in such a way. It's about one of those children growing up and becoming a writer, and wondering just what he has to write about. For my complete review, please visit my blog, The Mookse and the Gripes.

  13. 5 out of 5

    lark benobi

    It's great to have read this book at the same time as Ban en Banlieue, another novel where the author struggles to write truthfully about things that are too terrible, or too hidden, to be written about truthfully. This novel succeeds magnificently in turning that contradiction into art. The novel is from the point of view of a novelist trying to make sense of his childhood during the Pinochet years, and to come to terms with the choices that his parents and the other adults in his life made to It's great to have read this book at the same time as Ban en Banlieue, another novel where the author struggles to write truthfully about things that are too terrible, or too hidden, to be written about truthfully. This novel succeeds magnificently in turning that contradiction into art. The novel is from the point of view of a novelist trying to make sense of his childhood during the Pinochet years, and to come to terms with the choices that his parents and the other adults in his life made to survive those years. An excerpt: I'd spent the afternoon with a group of classmates, and we were exchanging family stories in which death appeared with urgent insistence. Of all those present I was the only one who came from a family with no dead, and that realization filled me with a strange bitterness: my friends had grown up reading the books that their dead parents or siblings left behind in the house. But in my family there were no dead and there were no books. I come from a family with no dead.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    another 3.5 stars. More later... I did like it, some great stuff about childhood, anecdotes about growing up under the Pinochet regime, and 20 years later coming to terms with having complicit parents. Lots of meta-fiction about writing this novel and asking his ex to read through it, and about cinema and his tastes and re-meeting a (girl) friend who, when young, asked him to spy on a neighbour. Some gentle observations in parks and restaurants (eg watching a woman read in a park: reading is cove another 3.5 stars. More later... I did like it, some great stuff about childhood, anecdotes about growing up under the Pinochet regime, and 20 years later coming to terms with having complicit parents. Lots of meta-fiction about writing this novel and asking his ex to read through it, and about cinema and his tastes and re-meeting a (girl) friend who, when young, asked him to spy on a neighbour. Some gentle observations in parks and restaurants (eg watching a woman read in a park: reading is covering your face; writing is showing it.) At first it was a five star experience, but I gradually lost interest in it, not completely, but I wasn’t rushing to read at the end.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katia N

    "There is a pain but also happiness when you give up on a book," Writes Alejandro Zambra on behalf of his protagonist, also a writer. I have not givin up on his little book. But I certainly felt both emotions when I finished reading. There is a promise in this novel and he definitely has got a lot of interesting thoughts. But he was trying to pull out some post modernist trick, and, I think, in this case the form prevailed over substance. He has tried to write a novel within a novel, but ended u "There is a pain but also happiness when you give up on a book," Writes Alejandro Zambra on behalf of his protagonist, also a writer. I have not givin up on his little book. But I certainly felt both emotions when I finished reading. There is a promise in this novel and he definitely has got a lot of interesting thoughts. But he was trying to pull out some post modernist trick, and, I think, in this case the form prevailed over substance. He has tried to write a novel within a novel, but ended up writing the same thing twice. I certainly plan to read "My documents" by him. But I was left dissatisfied with this one as a finished piece of writing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    The best and the worst thing about a reading-the-world-challenge is that I often pick up a book simply because it is from a country I have not checked off my list. In the case of Alejandro Zambra's Ways of Going Home, I am glad that this challenge brought me to this peculiar book. The narrative seems to float like a piece of driftwood: it does not really have a plot except that everything just goes onwards while the narrator reflects on the past. What I liked was the blurring of voice within the n The best and the worst thing about a reading-the-world-challenge is that I often pick up a book simply because it is from a country I have not checked off my list. In the case of Alejandro Zambra's Ways of Going Home, I am glad that this challenge brought me to this peculiar book. The narrative seems to float like a piece of driftwood: it does not really have a plot except that everything just goes onwards while the narrator reflects on the past. What I liked was the blurring of voice within the novella. The first 34 pages, there is a first person narration of a man looking back on bits and pieces from his childhood memories. After that, there is a first person narration of a man looking back on bits and pieces from his childhood memories ... except it is made clear that the first 34 pages are the beginning of a novel, and the subsequent pages consist of the writer of that sapling novel talking about his past and present and about his writing of this novel. I love how confusing and problematic this is - as a reader, you cannot really depend on one or the other being true. And that is what this novel is all about: not truth, but memory, and in my opinion these two things would oppose each other if they were similar enough for comparison, but they are not. The overall atmosphere of this brief novel is that it is fleeting. It is light to the touch: there is simply not much there. You don't really get to know the narrator(s), politics is very much in the background, the characters' physical attributes are not mentioned, we barely know what the narrator does for a living, and the crumbs that Zambra throws us are hardly enough to form a complete picture, especially in this restricted form of only 140 pages. So, is this then a bad novel, if it doesn't engage, mean something, say something, if it doesn't makes us feel something? Well, no, obviously. Not at all. The topic of Ways of Going Home is the past, memory, and how we should relate to it. It doesn't dive into the substantial practical details you may need in storytelling. This little book is like skipping a stone over the water: a few times it makes some brief contact with the water, but mostly it soars just above the surface. It's not the story of someone talking about memory, it is like memory itself.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

    This short novel of 138 pages moves about - between a writer and his own life and the life of his characters in his writing , between the present time and the past - a past in Chile during and after the Pinochet years. It represents not just the voice of the post revolution generation but of todays Latin American writers from the generation post Marquez. First there is the story of the young nameless boy and Claudia, the girl he adores, and her Uncle Raul, the boys neighbour. Then there is the s This short novel of 138 pages moves about - between a writer and his own life and the life of his characters in his writing , between the present time and the past - a past in Chile during and after the Pinochet years. It represents not just the voice of the post revolution generation but of todays Latin American writers from the generation post Marquez. First there is the story of the young nameless boy and Claudia, the girl he adores, and her Uncle Raul, the boys neighbour. Then there is the storyline of the nameless writer, who is writing their story and his ex Eme. Both stories coalesce off the paper as the four chapters alternate between the writer's fiction and his reality. But this is also a novel about writing, about telling a story, with initially fictional scenes being based on real ones, and real ones reutilised in the fiction. There is a melange of the real and the fictional, a doubling of everything, a redrafting of everything just as any writer would when working on his novel. It has some memorable passages as this author's style is very natural, smooth in translation (which won the English PEN Award in 2013) the reader feeling she is listening to the man remember. For example, "I prefer writing to having written" "That's what we grw up believing, that the novel belonged t oour parents. We cursed them, and also took refuge in their shadows, relieved. While the adults killed or were killed, we drew pictures in the corner. While the country was falling to pieces, we were learning to talk, to walk to fold napkins in the shape of boats, of airplanes. While the novel was happening, we played hide-and-seek, we played at disappearing." Beautifuly poignant ambiguity there! "To read is to cover one's face. And to write is to show it." "I want a quiet, simple life. A life with walks in the park" And finally as he ponders a quote attributed to Tim O'Brien 'What sticks to memory, often, are those odd little fragments that have no beginning and no end', he writes "We remember the sounds of images.......We ought to simply describe those sounds, those stains on memory"

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia

    I was browsing the "Short Reads" display at Waterstones, when a bookseller walked by, picked up this book, put it in front of me (while walking) and said "it's the best book in the pile, I love it, I've read it 10 times". It takes a lot to convince me, so here we are. Understand this. I had just abandoned The Shadow of the Wind, which was supposed to be this book-centered masterpiece, and, just, meh. Then I picked this up, and I was immediately gripped by it. The UK edition is only 139 pages, so I was browsing the "Short Reads" display at Waterstones, when a bookseller walked by, picked up this book, put it in front of me (while walking) and said "it's the best book in the pile, I love it, I've read it 10 times". It takes a lot to convince me, so here we are. Understand this. I had just abandoned The Shadow of the Wind, which was supposed to be this book-centered masterpiece, and, just, meh. Then I picked this up, and I was immediately gripped by it. The UK edition is only 139 pages, so a quick read, but, damn, this was dense. The historical setting was subtle in the beginning (as we're looking at the 'memories' of a child that cannot fully process the situation), but then it became a main character. This was full of juxtapositions, and it worked so, so well. Things that stayed with me: - the way it looks at literature and writing as a way of making sense of the world, your memories, and your history (essentially, as a 'way of going home'). - the juxtaposition between "literature for the parents" and "literature for the children" and the juxtaposition between literature as a way of coping and reality. This is a story within a story, but also the personal story of so many people living in Chile during the time. - understanding your memories and processing trauma. - understanding your place in history, while it's still happening. - learning to live with/moving on from history. - human relationships throughout all of it - family + romance / what keeps people together and what eventually drives them apart. - the equation (and interaction) of all of the above [childhood + memory + history] + [adulthood + literature + reflection + survival] = ways of going home

  19. 4 out of 5

    Atiya

    This was a fantastic, short, terse and brief novel on the art of writing, being political and being authentic. I am amazed at the quality of this translation because it was so readable and well written in short simple sentences. Just beautiful prose.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Meric Aksu

    About a boy, about a man, about a writer & his confessions about his parents, about Claudia and his father whom Zambra wanted to be the part of this story, about the Earthquake, about Madame Bovary, about Pinochet, about Peugeot 404.. Page116-17 the questions and answers among the family was the best and the brave part, for me. The husband and wife, while getting the answers, they showed the sides that they've chosen years ago. People don't change, only times change. "Families" also; if they sto About a boy, about a man, about a writer & his confessions about his parents, about Claudia and his father whom Zambra wanted to be the part of this story, about the Earthquake, about Madame Bovary, about Pinochet, about Peugeot 404.. Page116-17 the questions and answers among the family was the best and the brave part, for me. The husband and wife, while getting the answers, they showed the sides that they've chosen years ago. People don't change, only times change. "Families" also; if they stood still the same. I liked the book, I liked the atmosphere. It was short but enough. “To read is to cover one's face. And to write is to show it.” ==> A. Zambra

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elise Ryan

    It was short, but intense, and I found myself reading it in small sections here and there, and it almost began to feel as though I was sitting down for a moment to reflect on my own memories. The way that Zambra rights is evocative and thoughtful. An incredibly interesting read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    Take a hint from the author. Read the first 2 pages and the last 2 pages. Then maybe find a few in the middle.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    3,5 stars

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stacia

    A thoughtful, understated little novel that looks at life as a child who grew up as Pinochet was in power. Kids know some things, but are quite oblivious to others, so they're still able to maintain an innocence & hope in some ways. It's also a novel within a novel as it is partly a novel & partly the story of the author who is writing the novel, both covering similar topics. As an adult & with Pinochet no longer in power, the author in the novel comes to realize that his childhood might not hav A thoughtful, understated little novel that looks at life as a child who grew up as Pinochet was in power. Kids know some things, but are quite oblivious to others, so they're still able to maintain an innocence & hope in some ways. It's also a novel within a novel as it is partly a novel & partly the story of the author who is writing the novel, both covering similar topics. As an adult & with Pinochet no longer in power, the author in the novel comes to realize that his childhood might not have been as bad as others' were because his parents supported Pinochet. Or, if they didn't support Pinochet outright, they did nothing to disagree -- no action being an action in & of itself. It's meant as a bit of a wake-up call to realize that by sitting on the sidelines, you are playing a part & supporting a side. The whole childhood part of growing up under a shadow of fear & oppression (even though, as a child, you may not entirely realize it as such) also reminded me of the Colombian novel The Sound of Things Falling (great book!), which was about the impact on a generation of people who came of age as the violent & uncertain times of the initiation of drug wars.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Frederico

    Framed between two earthquakes, and the right wing governments of Pinochet and Piñera, this book is a representative of the current trend of autofiction - or it's disguised as autofiction. By that I mean that there's a story and, in alternating chapters, the story of the writing of the story. Maybe it's the purported fiction of the first story that's actually closer to Zambra's memories, and therefore it's the story of the story that's farther away from Zambra's life, or maybe it's vice versa. M Framed between two earthquakes, and the right wing governments of Pinochet and Piñera, this book is a representative of the current trend of autofiction - or it's disguised as autofiction. By that I mean that there's a story and, in alternating chapters, the story of the writing of the story. Maybe it's the purported fiction of the first story that's actually closer to Zambra's memories, and therefore it's the story of the story that's farther away from Zambra's life, or maybe it's vice versa. Maybe both are complete inventions and Zambra wasn't even in Chile during the events of the book. Anyway, the book is about memory and memories as ways of going back home, or close to the idea of home, that is, childhood and parents. Can we ever go back? I really like the idea that during childhood we're just secondary characters in our parents' stories; that certainly points to how a child feels growing up, since the main action, the main stage, seems to be happening elsewhere from where we're playing and doodling and squabbling. This is definitely a worth read to reflect about childhood in relation to parenthood.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Booktart

    It took me a while to finish this but I think that was just due to my reading mood...I'm now into fiction again so I finished it pretty quickly. I started this book while in Chile. It is a fascinating exploration of life in Chile under Pinochet and subsequently and overall, of the power of memory and the meaning of love. It amazed me that Zambra was able to capture so much in just 139 pages! I hope to read more of his work. It took me a while to finish this but I think that was just due to my reading mood...I'm now into fiction again so I finished it pretty quickly. I started this book while in Chile. It is a fascinating exploration of life in Chile under Pinochet and subsequently and overall, of the power of memory and the meaning of love. It amazed me that Zambra was able to capture so much in just 139 pages! I hope to read more of his work.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ansel Hsu

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was tired of postmodern fictions. Full of narcissistic and self-ego. Just like a literati can talk freely about his own life and some made-up stories. The structural scheme is a bit lame. The last half part is better. The story about Claudia wanted to get the memory back so she screwed the protagonist and came back from the state was good, which actually shows she found a way of going home, as I assume. But the other part maybe was about Chilean History, and politics, which were a little borin I was tired of postmodern fictions. Full of narcissistic and self-ego. Just like a literati can talk freely about his own life and some made-up stories. The structural scheme is a bit lame. The last half part is better. The story about Claudia wanted to get the memory back so she screwed the protagonist and came back from the state was good, which actually shows she found a way of going home, as I assume. But the other part maybe was about Chilean History, and politics, which were a little boring to me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anjali

    Interesting voice and structure. It's like the prompt was to tell a story without really telling the story. I chose this book because it's a short read, but then wished it was longer and meatier. I am pretty much writing this review because 3-star books blend together and I want to remind myself that I would like to read more by Zambra. Interesting voice and structure. It's like the prompt was to tell a story without really telling the story. I chose this book because it's a short read, but then wished it was longer and meatier. I am pretty much writing this review because 3-star books blend together and I want to remind myself that I would like to read more by Zambra.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Camila

    Captivating in a very humanizing way

  30. 4 out of 5

    Angus Mcfarlane

    I liked the link between the title of this book and its recurring theme, although novels in which the protagonist is a novelist grate on me. Ironically for me, I've just read Allende's contemplation on Chilean nostalgia: the key part of this for me was the childhood memories during the dictatorship years (and a view of nostalgia that mimics my own). I enjoyed the view of childhood as both innocent and yet filled with conspiracies produced from limited access to adult knowledge and an active imag I liked the link between the title of this book and its recurring theme, although novels in which the protagonist is a novelist grate on me. Ironically for me, I've just read Allende's contemplation on Chilean nostalgia: the key part of this for me was the childhood memories during the dictatorship years (and a view of nostalgia that mimics my own). I enjoyed the view of childhood as both innocent and yet filled with conspiracies produced from limited access to adult knowledge and an active imagination. Australia didn't inspire the grand political conspiracies that Chile of old might have, but I remember contemplating the circumstances of the person in the run down corner house... But I don't know how much I enjoyed the book. The adult did not seem to manage too well in nurturing adult relationships - is this the lot of authors, or Chileans who grew up during the dictatorship years? Or an effort to contrive a more interesting storyline? Was it supposed to be autobiographical in some way? There was a section that seemed to be repeated, which was strange. Now I'm living in chile, the theme of finding a way home is certainly a poignant one, as living overseas forces contemplation about family and home, and motivations for the choices made and their impact on others. An inspiration for reflection but somehow in spite of the story rather than because of it.

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