Tag Archives: Chilean

Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra

multiple-choice-by-alejandro-zambra Title: Multiple Choice
Author: Alejandro Zambra
Translated by: Megan McDowell
Publisher: Granta Books
ISBN: 978-1783782697
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 112
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I remember loving multiple choice questions at school. I would actually look forward to that option at any exam or test, given that I could at least deduce some and get my answer and be almost sure that it would be the right option that I had chosen. Alejandro Zambra’s new book “Multiple Choice” is a book which is inventive, playful and based on the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test. It is one of the highly inventive books I have across in a long time (after Hopscotch by Cortazar I think and even he was Latin American) and I can in all honesty say that I loved it immensely.

“Multiple Choice” is a collection of micro-stories which engages the reader at every turn of the page – by giving them options to choose from. At the same time, it doesn’t really give you a choice and that’s when the clever writing of Zambra kicks in. This is not a novel for sure. It isn’t even a collection of short stories. I love the way this book breaks all norms and becomes something which no one can define. The irony lies in the postmodern prose where it challenges everything postmodern as well.

The book does take some time getting into and understanding the format – but once you do, you cannot help yourself but finish it. The book is divided into forms of multiple choice sections where as a reader you have to do either of these: exclude a term, reorder a sentence, decide on how to fill in the blanks in a sentence, eliminate sentences from a short narrative or show comprehension skills of stories. What the book then ends up doing is automatically laying ground for many perspectives to emerge from each short piece. What is interesting is the hidden political criticism that emerges in most short stories, almost defying a system in place.

Alejandro Zambra’s books are not easy to get into, as I mentioned earlier but what they do manage to do is leave a lot of thoughts lingering with the reader. “Multiple Choice” is a smart book that will make you feel clever and also underutilized at the same time. Some pieces are deeply moving as well – I loved the reading comprehension story on divorce which will choke you a bit. Sometimes the unconventional novel or a literary work challenges the way you think and rightly so. I strongly think more works of literature should do that, given the times we live in.

All said and done, “Multiple Choice” is also this good because of the fantastic translation by Megan McDowell. Every word, no matter how small stands out in the reading comprehension pieces and makes so much sense when connected with the questions at the end of it. I think that is the beauty of fiction that doesn’t follow the norm – it all ends up together one way or the other. “Multiple Choice” is deeply emotional, passionate, and political, and to forget a brilliant moving read. One of the best I’ve read in this genre and form in a while.

Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra

Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra Title: Bonsai
Author: Alejandro Zambra
Publisher: Melville House
ISBN: 978-1612191683
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 86
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Not all good novels have to be long. There are times when you read a book and wish it was not that short. I have read “Bonsai” by Alejandro Zambra a couple of times. This was another time that I had to re-read it. “Bonsai” is a love story. It is a story on art and life. It is about life and its misery. It is also about how one can live and how one does. Alejandro Zambra’s debut novel (or actually a novella) is profound and yet funny in some parts. It is a story that is meant to be simple and ends up being extremely complex.

Julio and Emilia are two Chilean university students. Julio loves Emilia. Emilia loves Julio. They both are avid readers. They lie to each other about having read Proust. They read in bed. They are grand when it comes to love and also doubtful and unsure about their love. They drift apart. Emilia then disappears from Chile without a word and that is when the story begins, merging the past and the present. There is also another story within this story and one more which will leave the readers spellbound.

Bonsai of course does have a major role to play in the book and that I will not speak about in my review. Each word is essential. Everything is in place. The writing is accessible. It is melancholic and superlative. This is the kind of book that shows you that you do not need too many words to say what you want to. The tragic end of the story and the way it begins is enough for the reader to know that he or she is sold. The book is edgy, will be a treat for literary lovers and for those who want to explore the different side of fiction.

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