My Documents

Alejandro Zambra

Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell

French paperback with flaps, 228 pages
Published 2 April 2015

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My Documents is the latest work from Alejandro Zambra, the award-winning Chilean writer whose first novel was heralded as the dawn of a new era in Chilean literature. Whether chronicling the attempts of a migraine-afflicted writer to quit smoking or the loneliness of the call-centre worker, the life of a personal computer or the return of a mercurial godson, this collection of stories evokes the disenchantments of youth and the disillusions of maturity in a Chilean society still troubled by its recent past. Written with the author’s trademark irony and precision, humour and melancholy, My Documents is unflinchingly human and essential evidence of a sublimely talented writer working at the height of his powers.

Shortlisted for the 2015 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize

‘People kept mentioning his name, but I was slow to encounter the Chilean writer Alejandro Zambra. I hadn’t read anything by him before opening his new story collection, My DocumentsMy Documents is the fourth book by Alejandro Zambra to be translated into English (this one very ably by Megan McDowell). All of them are very short and strikingly original, and display a wry self-consciousness about the obligations, difficulties, and pleasures of writing fiction…. In his new book, Zambra returns to the twin sources of his talent – to his storytelling vitality, that living tree which blossoms often in these pages, and to his unsparing examination of recent Chilean history. These come together magnificently.’

James Wood, New Yorker

‘[An] excellent collection … rich and thought-provoking … If you are going to read Alejandro Zambra, which you should, don’t just read My Documents, read everything he’s done.’
Chris Power, Guardian

‘These stories are graceful, grave, comical, disabused. I guess what I mean is: My Documents represents a new form. When I think about Alejandro Zambra, I feel happy for the future of fiction.’
— Adam Thirlwell, author of Lurid and Cute

‘Alejandro Zambra’s My Documents is also his best: an eclectic, disconcerting, at times harrowing read. His voice is unique, honest and raw, and there is poetry on every page. Zambra’s fiction doubles as a kind of personal history, full of anguish, humour and verve. A truly beautiful book.’
— Daniel Alarcón, author of At Night We Walk in Circles

‘Zambra is the author of small classics – short in length, but enormous in every other way. My Documents elevates him to a entirely new level.’
— Valeria Luiselli, author of Faces in the Crowd

‘I read all of Alejandro Zambra’s novels back-to-back because they were such good company. His books are like a phone call in the middle of the night from an old friend, and afterward, I missed the charming and funny voice on the other end, with its strange and beautiful stories.’ 
— Nicole Krauss, author of Great House

Ways of Going Home elevates Zambra to the status of living writers we “simply must read”, like Denis Johnson, Lydia Davis, and Mary Gaitskill. His voic is as natural and intimate as Roberto Bolaño’s, an obvious but healthy influence, and his subjects – love, memory, death, and guilt – are as big as he can find.’
— Clancy Martin, author of Love and Lies

‘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 … A total knockout.’
— Junot Díaz, author of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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 has translated many modern and contemporary South American authors, including Alejandro Zambra, Arturo Fontaine, Carlos Busqued, Álvaro Bisama and Juan Emar. Her translations have been published in the New YorkerMcSweeney’sWords Without BordersMandorla, and Vice, among others. She lives in Santiago, Chile.