Chilean poet A novel

Alejandro Zambra, 1975-

Book - 2022

"The internationally acclaimed author, heralded as one of the most important writers of his generation, returns with the most substantial work of his career: an emotionally captivating, very funny novel about fathers and sons, ambition and failure, and the many forms of family"--

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Domestic fiction
New York : Viking [2022]
Physical Description
pages cm
Main Author
Alejandro Zambra, 1975- (author)
Other Authors
Megan McDowell (translator)
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Chilean writer Zambra (Multiple Choice) is best known in English for his experimental stories and novellas, tendencies he sheds to mixed results in this multigenerational story about South American poets. The reader first meets Gonzalo in 1991, when he is a teenager working out his first poems and his love for the beautiful Carla, who breaks up with him. Nine years later, the two meet by chance in Santiago, by which time Carla has a precocious son named Vicente. Nominally more responsible than the boy's birth father, Gonzalo becomes a de facto stepfather to Vicente. In the second half, Zambra covers Vicente's teenage years and his early efforts as a poet as he becomes entangled at 18 with an American journalist named Pru, 31, who has fled an abusive relationship to write a history of Chilean poetry, and with a duplicitous fellow poet, Pato López López ("You guys are like Bolaño characters," Pru says of them). Eventually, Gonzalo and Vicente's paths cross again, reuniting them as a surrogate family of poets. The painstaking details and plodding pace can make this a slog, but there's no questioning Zambra's deep affection for writers grasping at love. The author always shows a great deal of heart, but it comes through best in his shorter work. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (Feb.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Zambra's (Multiple Choice; Ways of Going Home) literary novel is full of tender connection, romance, humor, and love for poetry. Parts one and two follow the passionate connections between Gonzalo, a tender-hearted poet, and Carla, an assertive, no-nonsense knockout. Later, the novel moves on to Carla's son, Vicente, who comes of age as an aspiring poet in present-day Santiago and is faced with his own set of romantic highs and lows. Zambra provides a lighthearted homage to the legacy of Chilean poetry while following his characters through their entanglements, heartbreaks, and reunions. While sometimes sad, there is so much humor and sweetness woven into this novel that listeners will be left with a sense of joy. Gisela Chipe's narration is lively, and her tone matches the playful, tongue-in-cheek style of Zambra's storytelling. Chipe's fluent Spanish ensures a seamless listening experience. Those familiar with the tradition of Latin American poetry, as well as fans of Zambra's previous works, will find much to love here. VERDICT An excellent choice for anyone desiring a lighthearted, philosophical, and distinctive literary novel about relationships and finding meaning in the world. Recommended.--Halie Theoharides

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A unique and personal novel about what it means to be part of a family. Who is the Chilean poet of the title? Is it Gonzalo, the main character of the first section, who meets a girl named Carla when they're both teenagers and then reconnects with her in their 20s? Gonzalo yearns to see his name alongside Chilean greats like Neruda and Mistral; he'd even settle to see his name among the not-so-greats or even any poets at all. Or is the Chilean poet Vicente, Carla's son, whom Gonzalo helps raise until leaving them both to take a position in New York City? Vicente takes over the second section of the novel, when he himself is 18 and, unlike Gonzalo, is actually a talented poet. Or is Zambra the titular poet in a piece of autofiction about his own literary yearnings and relationships in a Chile still recovering from a brutal dictatorship? Can anyone bear the burden of being a Chilean poet considering that two have won the Nobel Prize in literature? Zambra's novel, as translated by McDowell, renders both the small moments of literary striving and the everyday difficulties of being part of, and raising, a family with an insight that's both cleareyed and tender. Many of the author's musings about families could be applied to the act of writing and vice versa: "They were like two strangers searching desperately for a subject in common; it seemed like they were talking about something and were together, but they knew that really they were talking about nothing and were alone." The relationships in the novel are touching, often frustrating, and always authentic. Zambra isn't afraid to switch from graphic sex scenes to hilarious ruminations on poetry anthologies or into multiple characters' points of view, all in a few pages. A playful, discursive novel about families, relationships, poetry, and how easily all three can come together or fall apart. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.