Ways of going home by Alejandro Zambra
Original title Formas de volver a casa,
Translator – Megan McDowell
Source Review copy
I have read him before Kim from reading matters sent me The private lives of trees a couple of years ago ,I read it but never review it so with Spanish lit month in July I decided to review this now and The private lives of trees .Alejandro Zambra is a Chilean born writer he studied in Chile a degree in Hispanic languages ,and currently teaches in Santiago and contributes to magazines and papers in Chile his first novel was describe stunningly as “The publication of Bonsai … marked a kind of bloodletting in Chilean literature. It was said (or argued) that it represented the end of an era, or the beginning of another, in the nation’s letters” in El Mercurio .
THE NIGHT OF THE EARTHQUAKE I WAS SCARED
But I also, in a way enjoyed what was happening .
In the front yard one of the house ,the adults put up two tents for the children to sleep in ,and at first it was chaos because we all want to sleep in the one that looked like an igloo
As I said halves scared /but enjoyed
SO we get to ways of going home it is one of those short novellas that seem much longer and deeper after you have put it down if you know what I mean .It’s a book of memory and halves .The book is in two section we meet a young boy in the dark days of Pinochet’ s regime ,but our narrator has a fairly normal life as it appears to him in fact if anything slightly boring ,but then there is an earthquake and almost like the Shibbolth artwork (the crack in the floor of the turbine hall of Tate modern Doris Salcedo a fellow Latin american ),out of this crack of the earthquake appears Claudia a slightly older girl than him, we sense our narrators immediate attraction and liking of this girl as he spies on her from afar but getting closer ,they get to know one another and she gets him to look at her uncle to she what he is up to.No as quickly as she appears, no sooner has her and her family disappeared from his life but he never forgets her ,til they meet in adult life ,he is full of remorse for the violence of the Pinochet years and how him and his family didn’t do a lot ,Claudia family did that is why she went ,find out how these two getting together changes our narrators life for ever .Also what really happened during those years though unspoken at times is always lurking in the background .
When I was a child I liked the word Blackout .My mother would come and get us and bring us into the living room.”In the past,people didn’t have electricity “, she would say as she lit the candles .It was hard to imagine a world without lamps , without outlets in the wall .
As an adult remembering the past .
I said this is a book of memories our narrator rather like my self ,ok I didn’t have a violent dictatorship ,but had a bad divorce of my parents a step father I didn’t get on with and a being clumsy skin and tall was a target for bullying .But now as I look back on my younger years these events thou there are second place to family holidays ,evening spent with friends ,day trips in fact all the best bits .I feel this is our narrators problem his is the reverse as a child to him it all seemed wonderful he almost blanked out the bad parts ,til they reappeared in adulthood .I also said halves well-being young /being old ,being safe /having to run ,being quiet like the narrators parents / speaking out like Claudia’s parents ,moving on /not forgetting.Also the shadow of the dark days of being Chilean in the 80’s looms large in the background .Zambra is a writer of true style in fact that sparse writing style that yet seems fuller ,like Carver did in his short stories the novella has been worked to a delicate lace of words that thou fragile and thin is truly beautiful .
Have you read Zambra ?
Do you have a favourite Chilean writer ?