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The Private Lives of Trees

We wanted to post this article about Alejandro Zambra in The Nation when it came out a few weeks ago, but we were in the middle of trying to sign Zambra up, so we wanted to wait until it was official.

Readers who consider Roberto Bolano the pole star of contemporary Chilean fiction will be jolted by Zambra’s little book. For though Zambra has been stamped as the Next Great Chilean Writer in many circles, he’s in no way Bolano’s heir. (But then, who is?) Where the heroes of Bolano’s novels are resolutely proletarian, Zambra’s characters are mostly downwardly mobile bourgeoisie. (At one point, Bonsai even refers to working-class beachgoers as lumpen, or riffraff.) Where Bolano wrought romantic detective stories showcasing the virtues of courage and integrity, Zambra’s protagonists lead mundane lives rife with small deceptions. It’s no surprise that Zambra says he reads Bolano very little. He doesn’t care much for Bolano’s literary hero Julio Cortazar, either.

(Chad just shuddered a little when he read those last two sentences)

Well, it’s now official. In 2010, Open Letter will be publishing Zambra’s second novel, The Private Lives of Trees, in a lovely translation by Megan McDowell. Bonsai was one of our favorite books last year, and we couldn’t be more excited to be publishing this new book.

A ways back, we published a short review of the book than Megan wrote:

Zambra’s second book, La vida privada de los arboles (The Private Lives of Trees) has not been published in English. This book is slightly longer and more intimate in its feel—we are brought deeper into the everyday tragedy of the main character, Julián. Julián is waiting for his wife, Verónica, to come home from her drawing class. This is the premise of the book, Julián’s ever more desperate waiting, the thoughts and memories that accompany his vigil: “the story goes on and Verónica hasn’t arrived, best to keep that in view, repeat it one and a thousand times: when she comes home the novel ends, the book continues until she comes home or until Julián is sure that she will never come home again.”



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