Alejandro Zambra

Translated by Megan McDowell

French paperback with flaps, 96 pages
Published 17 August 2022

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Bonsai is the story of Julio and Emilia, two young Chilean students who, seeking truth in great literature, find each other instead. Like all young couples, they lie to each other, revise themselves, and try new identities on for size, observing and analyzing their love story as if it’s one of the great novels they both pretend to have read. As they shadow each other throughout their young adulthoods, falling together and drifting apart, Zambra spins a formally innovative, metafictional tale that brilliantly explores the relationship among love, art, and memory.

‘Every beat and pattern of being alive becomes revelatory and bright when narrated by Alejandro Zambra. He is a modern wonder.’
— Rivka Galchen, author of Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch

‘The most talked-about writer to come out of Chile since Bolaño.’
New York Times

‘Strikingly original.’
— James Wood, New Yorker

‘There’s a dreamy associative quality of the novella that made it feel true and beautiful and moving. I left Bonsai feeling a little melancholic ache in my ribs, as though some crucial part of me had been taken away.’
Brandon Taylor, New York Times 

Bonsai fulfills one of the requirements of the short novel: the search for perfection … supremely, effectively ambiguous.’
— J. A. Masoliver Ródenas, La Vanguardia

‘Rather than shrink in its conversion to bound covers, as most manuscripts do, Zambra’s text has swelled – and its effect on the world of Chilean literature has been entirely disproportionate to its size.’
— Marcela Valdes, The Nation

‘When I read Zambra I feel like someone’s shooting fireworks inside my head.’
— Valeria Luiselli, author of Lost Children Archive

‘Not a single word is wasted in this powerful, elegantly told story, which traces through a few episodes in the lives of Julio and Emilia, two young people who fall for one another at university – bonding over their love of literature and discussion – then retreat from one another’s lives.’
Literary Hub

‘At only seventy-four pages, Bonsai seems filled with far more characters, poignant turns, subplots and jokes than it should have room for, reaching far into the peripheral lives of both its protagonists. Its title evoked the novel’s domestic world as well as its own tiny, crafted form.… Bonsai is narrated with … such an intimate, improvisatory frankness, joining together the novel’s many fictions intricately but never whimsically. Zambra effectively captures the ambivalence involved in thinking of one’s life as a story.’
— Louis Rogers, Literary Review 

‘Alejandro Zambra’s book is written with stark simplicity, told through short vignettes that give us glimpses of the whole, and this sparsity is what gives Bonsai its cumulative power. We observe almost voyeuristically as the two young lovers slowly find themselves and each other through the books they read together. Their relationship feels authentic and true.’
Joshua Rees, Buzz Magazine

Alejandro Zambra was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1975. He is the author of Chilean Poet, Multiple Choice, Not to Read, My Documents, Ways of Going Home, The Private Lives of Trees and Bonsai. In Chile, among other honours, he has won the National Book Council Award for best novel three times. In English, he has won the English PEN Award and the PEN/O. Henry Prize and was a finalist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He has also won the Prince Claus Award (Holland) and received a Cullman Center Fellowship from the New York Public Library. His books have been translated into twenty languages, and his stories have been published in the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, the Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney’s and Harper’s, among other publications. He has taught creative writing and Hispanic literature for fifteen years and currently lives in Mexico City.

Megan McDowell is an award-winning Spanish-language translator. She has translated books by Alejandro Zambra, Samanta Schweblin, Mariana Enríquez and Lina Meruane, among others, and her short story translations have appeared in the New Yorker, The Paris Review, Harper’s and The White Review. She lives in Santiago, Chile.