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Bonsai: A Novel Paperback – March 27, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Alejandro Zambra's Bonsai

"The ‘last truly great book’ I read has to be Alejandro Zambra’s Bonsai. A subtle, eerie, ultimately wrenching account of failed young love in Chile among the kind of smartypant set who pillow-talk about the importance of Proust. You get the cold flesh of the story in that chilling first line: “In the end she dies and he remains alone, although in truth he was alone some years before her death.” But only by reading to the end do you touch the story’s haunted soul. A total knockout."
—Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

"The herald of a new wave of Chilean fiction..."
—Marcela Valdes, The Nation

“One of the greatest literary events of recent years.”
—Alfonso Cortínez, Las Últimas Noticias

“An unclassifiable object of unusual beauty ... one of the best Chilean novels of recent times.”
—David Lacalle, Capital

"Bonsai
is an appealing miniature, a novella that, despite its brevity, feels airy and full … an enjoyable, pleasantly surprising, and clever read."
The Complete Review

"Bonsai won the Chilean Critics Award for best novel of the year in 2006…and it's easy to understand why."
—Jonathan Messinger, Time Out Chicago

"What is remarkable about Zambra’s novella is the space between ending and beginning—the progressive prose that relates a true story with emotional and artistic implications extending far beyond its 83 pages."
Bookslut

"Zambra flexes some serious artistic muscle...."
Rain Taxi

"For such a small book to have such well-rendered characters is impressive and this, in the end, is what is essential to the novella. A good novella must impress you with its tiny size and the power of its language."
The Phoenix (PA)

"Undeniably fascinating...the kind of story that lingers in the mind for weeks after being read."
The Quarterly Conversation

About the Author

Alejandro Zambra is a poet, novelist, and literary critic who was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1975.  He was selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists and was elected to the Bogotá39 list and is acclaimed as the greatest writer of Chile’s younger generation. He is also the author of Ways of Going Home and The Private Lives of Trees.

Translator CAROLINA DE ROBERTIS was raised in England, Switzerland, and California by Uruguayan parents. Her fiction and literary translations have appeared in ColorLines, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Indiana Review, and elsewhere. She is the author of The Invisible Mountain and Perla.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 86 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612191681
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612191683
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 10, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alejandro Zambra is a Chilean poet whose first excursion into fiction (Bonsai) created a literary sensation. His poetic talent infuses every page of this little novel. The writing in English is so exquisite that the original Spanish must be really exquisite. Every sentence gives pleasure. The prose is subtle, suggestive, playful, steeped in irony.

At the same time, Zamba is a good storyteller. And he's not shy about tangling with the great questions of life.

The story concerns two young people, Julio and Emilia, who have an intense physical relationship curiously influenced by the books they read. The psychology of their interactions is brilliantly portrayed. Lurking in the background is the fear that love may be an illusion.

And both Julio and Emilia have other dimensions and experiences outside their love for each other. These tidbits and vignettes interwoven with the main story are quite fascinating.

How does the bonsai fit in? It does appear, and I have theories about what it means, but you will too. Zambra's somewhat open-ended style invites a philosophical mood.

I wasn't always in my comfort zone as I read this book. But I think that's good. I'd definitely recommend Bonsai to readers who like edgy fiction and have a literary bent.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Darryl R. Morris on January 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
This novella, by the Chilean writer Alejandro Zambra, is his first novel after he published two books of poems, Useless Bay and Change. Bonsai won the Chilean Critics' Award for the Best Novel of the Year in 2006, and it is one of the 10 shortlisted books for the Best Translated Book of 2008 by Three Percent.

The main characters are two Chilean university students, Emilia and Julio, who become lovers after a drunken study session. They are inseparable, almost indistinguishable in their likes and dislikes, and their lovemaking sessions are preceded by excerpts from their favorite works of literature. Eventually they begin to drift apart, and Emilia soon disappears from Chile.

Anita, Emilia's old roommate and best friend since childhood, eventually tracks her down years later in Madrid, and makes a startling and disturbing discovery, which is hinted at in the opening paragraph of the book.

Emilia and Julio are lovingly painted, and even though you know what will eventually happen to Julia, it is still shocking and achingly sad, and the ending is heartbreaking.
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By Hillary W. on March 25, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very quick read, very basic though. Nothing about this challenges the reader really, I'm not sure why all the fuss over this writer. The writing is interesting, but not particularly advanced, the story is very predictable.

The style is interesting though, I think, from this author, I would like to see longer books, because the short fiction comes off as rushed and average.
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I bought this book because I enjoyed the movie. The book of course is better. Two book lovers fall in love and then break up. One of them stays in love while the other one moves to Spain and becomes a drug addict. The book has more about Proust than the movie which is AOK with me.
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Utterly heartrending. And man, what an opening line! A svelte novella the tells a heartbreaking story about two former lovers and the ripple effects of that love.
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