- Paperback: 96 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
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,346,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bonsai: A Novel Paperback – March 27, 2012
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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."
"Zambra flexes some serious artistic muscle...."
"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.
Top customer reviews
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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.
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.
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.
Zambra follows this tradition. The story of Bonsai is, basically, how it was written. A book about how the book you have in your hands came to life. It also contains several references to other authors, real and fictional--the couple reading classics to each other after lovemaking, the famous writer that needs to transcribe his handwritten novel. But even though this may sound complicated, the story is fairly simple, and that's both Zambra's strength and weakness.
In his simplicity, the book tells you the whole plot in its first paragraph. And then develops a very short novel (nouvelle) in the rest of the 80+ pages with extremely big fonts. This simplicity gives this book about a book some coherence, but at the same time the story is so straightforward that one is hard pressed to find layers of meaning. In several places I had the feeling of reading cute sentences just for the sake of it. It is also that the plot of a young couple that never finds love again may not be worth a longer development.
Bonsai is a decent attempt, but the author needs to go a long way before jumping from young promise to successful writer.