Alejandro Zambra: Bonsái AUTHOR Alejandro Zambra



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That turns heavy This is the story of two students who are enthusiasts of truth of scattering sentences that seem true of smoking eternal cigarettes and of closing themselves into the intense complacency of those who think they are better purer than others than that immense and contemptible group known as the othersUltimately the novella is about fiction lies reading truth characters who do and don t matter overlapping stories that may or may not be mentioned in one text or another Literature and love s beginnings and endings All shoved into the briefest of 83 pages I liked this one A lot It gets 4 rather than 5 stars because I preferred The Private Lives of Trees Totally arbitrary Absurdist like the novel Worth spending the better part of a psychiatrist s hour with 25 perplexed indifferent what is the fuss all about stars I am at a loss as how this book won Chile s Literary Critics Award for Best Novel Was it a very bad year Were there no other novels published Were the critics all first year double majors in post modern literature and philosophy I don t get itDon t get me wrongthis is not a poor book but I found nothing that interesting or moving or interesting or profound or interesting or humorous or interesting or meaningful or interesting or special or interesting I think you get my gistLots of literary name dropping random stories that interact in almost a predictable and dull fashion and two dimensional characters living their lives rather emptily I was bored indifferent but very perplexed at the many accolades given to this novellaHere is a little sample She thought or accurately she felt that she did not want to hear what Emilia was going to tell her that she did not wish to know what she seemed in any case condemned to know I don t want to know why there s so much shit in this neighborhood why you came to live in this neighborhood full of caca replete with cunning glances with weird young people with fat ladies dragging bags and with fat ladies who aren t dragging bags but who walk very slowly She examined once again carefully Emilia s eyebrow She decided it was better to stay iet in regard to Emilia s eyebrows and on and on and onIn the end I don t care Read it and tell me what you think A bonsai has to be nurtured and truly loved or else it will die likewise nless one does the same thing with human love that will also dieThis is a philosophical thought provoking novella so I have a tautology here but I like it even though it s extraneous as it adds necessary substance to the wording and I was charmed and delighted by it allThis is not really a novella but a short story and it can be read in little than an hour Nevertheless in spite of its brevity it runs the gamut of your average novel of say 250000 words in its intensity soul and concentrated structure This is a remarkable feat for an author to achieve especially with the hidden layers being gradually revealed within the fabric of this remarkable book I m not at all surprised that it was so acclaimed in Chile especially being a debut novelI was intrigued I must confess to see that it was translated by Carolina de Robertis who although raised in England Switzerland and California had Uruguayan parents Surely it would have been better with a Chilean translator who would know all the literary nuances relating to the language of that countryAlejandro Zambra has excelled as a master of literary contradictions The story is spell binding He has achieved this by a literary style that appears simple but brings to life the average story of two students Julio and Emilia who become lovers On the surface this is a couple who like each other and appreciate their sexual romps But there s something extra in the mix that is also rather different about them they are both very literary in the way in which they love and devour their books and they have an nusual symbiotic relationship That on the surface is a good thing but when they begin reading aloud their various works to each other an imperceptible change is noticed and the cracks begin to appear in their love for one another They read fragments of Nietzche and Emile Cioran Borges Bioy CXasares and Silvina Ocampo and then they arrive at Tantalia a short story by Macedonioi Fernandez that affected them profoundly Tantalia is the story of a couple that decides to buy a small plant the implication here is that this is the bonsai mentioned here and keep it as a symbol of the love that nites them They realize too late that if the plant dies the love that nites them will die with it And as the love that nites them is immense and they are not willing to sacrifice it for any reason they decide to lose the little plant in a multitude of identical little plants Later comes the despair then misfortune of knowing they will never be able to find it Then we go into the role play of Emma in Madame Bovary Both refused to play Charles but their good sex life continues There is this wonderful Spanish verb sed follar and I wonder if the translator has indeed translated it correctly I don t like the English term Marie Antoinette used beginning with s but perhaps that was the only choice Our exuberant couple then cruised through Chekhov Kafka but at this stage the damage had already been created within the labyrinth of their perfect loveI think that their relationship should have stopped here whilst it was still on a high here but then Proust raises hisgly head and then deception enters with a vengeance Both had lied by saying that they had read Proust ie la recherche du temps perdu or Remembrance of Things Past a novel in seven volumes You see they hadn t read Proust before because they had a big secret in that they had never read any of his novels and both insisted that this was a reread That s a trifle complicated surely They stopped on page 372 of Swann s Way It was the following sentence that was the reason Knowledge of a thing cannot impede it but at least we have the things we discover if not in our hands at least in thought and there they are at our disposal which inspires The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics us to the illusory hope of enjoying a kind of dominion over them What is so delightful about this book are the continuous contradictions and then you begin to wonder about the ending It isn tntil Mari enters the euation that you can even remotely guess the outcome To see the comparisons between Madrid Spain and Chile also adds an extra dimension to this storyThe ending was perfect for me There couldn t have been any other and it was glorious in its mysteryI read this short story after a very annoying day proofreading a translation by a very bad translator I had been offered the translation but it would have taken forever and so I opted for the proofreading and when I found I had had to or less to re translate it I was livid Because of this I was not in the right frame of mind and also troubled with my own interpretation of the book So I had to re set the scene and reread the book Now how would I play that Would enlightenment occur I hoped so I was prepared to abandon it I must confess There are so many other delicious books around to readI went to bed and woke Programming in Objective C up at 4 am It was a clear sky and the stars were twinkling away as is their want I returned to my warm comforting bed and wokep again at 7 am The normal dawn chorus had been replaced bya cacophony of jays and crows Where was my beautiful and normal dawn chorus The darkness was beginning to disappear and so I sat on the terrace with a black coffee and a tablespoon of honey I watched the dazzling sun come Beyond Band of Brothers up and I was soon on my reread Chlo was out sniffing in the garden and then she disappeared down the hill after some mysterious creature I looked again at this short story and the scales fell from my eyes and I could finallynderstand this sparkling diamond of a bookIt is nevertheless difficult to review this book I found it enthralling but it has such a depth to it that it is difficult to state exactly what I feel Nevertheless how Alejandro Zambra managed to write such an amazing book for a debut novel amazes me Bravo that s all I can possibly saySo as a result I m looking for another fix by this wonderful author and I already have my eyes set on his most recent book In the end she dies and he remains alone although in truth he was alone some years before her death Emilia s death Let s say that she is called or was called Emilia and that he is called was called and continues to be called Julio Julio and Emilia In the end Emilia dies and Julio does not die The rest is literature I only wanted a local short novel to read between transfers on my recent trip to Chile and I ended The Water Of Life up with this precious gem of a poem in prose heavy with the memories of my own lost youth among books and movies and lost loves that I know nothing about Ie weiter sie geht nach Europand er liebt sie weiter die Zeit vergeht The Year of Living Biblically und er liebt sie weiter sie stirbtnd er liebt sie weiter Jahre später erinnert er sich nd er liebt sie immer weiter Bonsai ist die blendend

She and he Macedonio s characters had and lost a little plant of love Emilia and Julio who are not exactly characters though maybe it s convenient to think of them as characters have been reading before shagging for months it is very pleasant they think and sometimes they think it at the same time it is very pleasant it is beautiful to read and talk about the reading just before tangling legs It s like doing exerciseIt isn t always easy to find in the texts some impetus however small to shag but in the end they manage to locate a paragraph or verse that when whimsically stretched or perverted works for them gets them hot They liked that expression to get hot that s why I se it They liked it almost enough to get hot from itSuch erotic foreplayI have been staring at the screen for the last one hour and the only thing I can think of is how incredibly aroused I am As it turns out my brain loses its thinking capacity when I am turned on And turned on I am If you asked me I couldn t tell you what the novella was about Not exactly It was about love found and love lost It was about human intimacy About loneliness About madness About words and what they do to people In the end she dies and he remains alone although in truth he was alone some years before her death Emilia s death Let s say that she is called or was called Emilia and that he is called was called and continues to be called Julio Julio and Emilia In the end Emilia dies and Julio does not dieThe rest is literatureMy version of the book was only 96 pages long and it took me a little less than half an hour to finish it But I am certain that this book would be on my mind for a long long time A bonsai is an artistic replica of a tree in miniature It consists of two elements the living tree and the container The two elements must be in harmony and the selection of the appropriate pot for a tree is almost an art form in itself The tree can be a vine a shrub or a tree but it is normally referred to as a tree The container is normally a flowerpot or an interesting chunk of rock A bonsai is never called a bonsai tree The word already includes the living element Once outside its flowerpot the tree ceases to be a bonsaiCaring for a bonsai is like writing thinks Julio Writing is like caring for a bonsai thinks Julio IMAGINEImagine a book whose first sentence is a huge spoiler it summarizes the plot and tells you what will happen at the end Imagine a book which is a moving homage to literature and its ironic mockery at the same timeImagine a book in which its author invites you to participate in an intellectual game and winks at you in conspiracy from time to timeImagine a book filled to the brim with literary allusions Eyvind Earle Bonsai 1987 Imagine a book which will enrich your To Be Read listImagine a book which will make you ponder what some pas What does a resonating journal do Arrest s in the powerful aura of words Dispatch s to the comforting cocoon of our memories Render a blanket of dignity to our failures Exhort our fledgling dreams to a palpable fruition Cast a succor net on our isolated struggles Attest our timidity as a prelude to stronger daysFor me it s essentially about reading about a distant me the identity of this me to be an inhabitant of past corridors or a tenant of future roads being inconseuential As long as I detect a shade of me in the journal s evocation I am obsessed to read till the last drop of ink has faded And Zambra doesn t do anything much besides telling me a story about Julio who could well be sitting across me in this cafe and reciting the content verbatimA failed love story CheckDays without purpose CheckHappening life feigned CheckGaining foothold tediously CheckRandom loss of heart again CheckBreaking of heart again CheckMore days without purpose CheckUnexpected ray of light CheckRay of light extinguished CheckIsolation volunteered CheckFinding purpose fortuitously CheckUncommon For the Love of All Thats Holy, Dont Buy a Boat When Venus is in Retrograde unconventional purpose CheckPurposeniting all other purposes CheckIt is wonderful when a long dark night is followed by the resuscitating ray of the morning sun In its blinding fold the venomous dew of defeats evaporate leaving behind the nurturing air for the bonsai of new hopes which sitting on the window sill eyes the world coyly with its delicate twigs of past learnings and present resolves fluttering to amalgamate in honor of its sturdy future When Zambra tells me that Julio found purpose in a bonsai after surviving inundating personal and professional hurricanes of losses and cessations I nod my head in concurrence for I know that the bonsai is after all a cojugal twin of heart miniature artistic has two components the living tree akin to blood and the container akin to the blood vessels and needs no external flanks to be alive As he says A bonsai is never called a bonsai tree The word already includes the living element Once outside its flowerpot the tree ceases to be a bonsai Is it an irony that when I begun writing this review the cafe was playing this track and now I am hearing this track Not really There is a smiling bonsai somewhere tucked in the corner here perhapsview spoilerOh I also loved this novel for a chapter when Julio and his girl Emilia discuss Proust Flaubert Baudelaire Nabokov and host of literary luminaries before making love What a high then hide spoiler And better still after the third reading If anyone is interested in reading this one and needs a copy of Macedonio Fernandez s Tantalia feel free to give me a shout and I ll email you the 5 page story prontoEven better after the second reading The world is of tantalic inspiration So begins Macedonio Fernandez s fantastic story Tantalia Zambra makes reference to it I encourage readers to get a copy and read it bizarre and an incredible complement to this novella complement in its older sense of something which completes The He and She of Tantalia could easily be Julio and Emilia of this story Gazmuri an authorcharacter in this novella could easily be Fernandez if one is inclined The stories fit together like complimentary angles Fernandez s story informs this one Zambra s story attaches as if integral Where MF baffles AZ seems to illuminate entertain bedazzle and bedazzle with a healthy dose of humor which wasn t as apparent if at allon the first read Get them both Read them both 4 pages from MF 83 from AZ Scary Stories 3 uickly accomplished and so well worth the time I m tempted to revise my rating but I m retaining it as my initial feeling Do yourself a favor read them bothTantalia may be found in The Book of Fantasy which the translator of Zambra s novella translates literally as Anthology of Fantastic Literature don t waste time hunting around for that title Original reviewIsn t it just the way your GR friends start reading whoppers so what do you do you start chewing through some of the slimmest novellas you own Well that might not be what you do but it seems to be what I m doing Going against the grain So here I am My Read list well ahead of where I need to be for meeting my year s goal Building a cushion against the time I start my own next whopper And even that I screwp I recently got an email about a new group which I was checking out on my phone man I hate having a phone smarter than I am so I clicked Join looking forward to reading Infinite Jest with the folks I expected to join or had already joined only to then realize I d joined a group to read Gravity s Rainbow Gravity s Freakin Rainbow It s cool I need to get it moved from TBR to Read all s good But and here s the thing I like the randomness of what s next for me that is the randomness of what I read and when I read it So a long winded approach to a review of Bonsai I recently read and loved The Private Lives of Trees because the author s Bonsai was constantly being recommended by this site and all well and good that except that Bonsai was Out of Print or Out of Stock or something and the only copies available were The Penguin Atlas of Endangered Species used and 30 a throw Ya gotta love suggestions like that So now I was determined Get Bonsai and read it Lo Behold It s being reissued in a movie tie in less expensive edition all s right with the world I started it almost immediatelypon its arrival and have now read it twiceBonsai begins with what appears as the beginning of a framed story it leaves no doubt where the story will go only how it will get there Then the lineIn the story of Emilia and Julio in any case there are omissions than lies and fewer omissions than truths of the kind that are called absolute and that tend to be The Bartender uncomfortableFollowed on the next page with the passageThe relationship between Emilia and Julio was riddled with truths with intimate revelations that rapidly established a complicity that they wanted tonderstand as definitive This then is a light story. Julio liebt Emilia Emilia liebt Julio beide lieben Proust – beide haben in Wirklichkeit nicht eine Seite Proust gelesen – ein Jahr lang sind sie während ihres Studiums liiert dann verlässt sie ihn nd er liebt

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Oday A poem dedicated to being young and careless and wasteful of the most precious moments of your life if you only had the wisdom to know it at the time A story about how literature intersects with life about how books brought them together and about how books where insufficient to save them from drifting apart An ode to the girl who lost her way and died much too young and to What s the purpose of being with someone if they don t change your life Alejandro Zambra Bonsa Alejandro Zambra s Bonsai is as delicate as the miniature tree it s named after It is a stunning accomplishment Zambra accomplishes in 86 pages what other writers take hundreds of pages to accomplish Just as the silence between notes in a musical composition can define a work so too do the silences in Bonsai define this work Bonsai is the story of Julio and Emilia a young Chilean couple who become lovers almost inadvertently While the narrative starts with them getting together it also shadows them for countless years situations and affair Bonsai is the first piece of literature that I read in Spanish It was the right choice for me from the language point of view The narrative was simple and the vocabulary did not raise many difficulties I definitely recommend it if you are an intermediate Spanish learner and want to learn by reading However this novella did not stir any feelings in me It was like I was reading a textbook I though it might be that I was reading in Spanish but I do not think so Alejandro Zambra is young Chilean Novelist and the receiver of the Chile s Literary Critics Award for Best Novel for Bonsai I am bit puzzled why this won the prize maybe there weren t many books published that year who knows The author tried to do something interesting modern and fresh sing a conversational detached tone It worked just great if the intention was to make the reader detached as well The novella is basically the love story of Julio and Emilia and what happens to their life after they separate spoilers nothing nice It seems a simple plot but the message wants to be deeper The only problem is that I completely missed it What I did not miss is how Magical Sweet Mermaid uninteresting the reading experience was and if there was a deeper meaning then I could not care less The Kindle edition that I own also contains The Secret Life of Trees which I am planning to read to improve my reading abilities I really hope that one is going to be a better experience What s the purpose of being with someone if they don t change your life There are some books that can be consumed in a singular hour yet remain within you to be digested by the intellect for days or weeks Alejandro Zambra s Bonsai is such a book The precise simplicity of the novel makes it a difficult book to talk as the novella feels as fragile as an intricately colored moth s wing admire its beauty but don t touch it lest it turn to dust There is a feeling of weightlessness to the prose and story that still manages to weigh heavy in the heart and soulpon completion It is the story of two young lovers lovers of one another and literature and what happens to them once they part It is as simple as that yet complex in its mechanics and implications Like the bonsai grown by Julio the story exists and flourishes within the confines of its literary container with Zambra s pristine prose trimming the limbs of love to enshrine it as a miniature work of art and beautyThere is a sweet simplicity and breathless fluidity to this tiny novel Characters silently sweep on and off the stage love is found and lost within the length of a paragraph revelations are made and people are lost forever all without rising from a soft idyllic tone that Zambra executes with the care of one polishing expensive glassware Broken into five short segments each comes like a delicate waves on the ocean each separate with their own emotional peak to crash onto our heart s shores yet all one body of literature moving together There is also a wry humor integrated in the otherwise somber plot that gives it wings and keeps it from plummeting into melodrama What is most impactful is the way that Zambra circles around the story yet never jabs his pen into it s heart keeping everything in the hazy peripherals of a story that need not be addressed head on as the reader already The Choice understands it s shape In the end Emilia dies and Julio does not die The rest is literature This is a novel of love but most importantly a novel about literature Zambra shows his hand plot wise from the very first sentence entrusting the reader tonderstand that this is an exercise of literature and that the from A to B plot is secondary a mere current of events to power the lightbulb of ideas There is a gorgeous character study at play Julio and Emilia two college students become lovers doomed to seriousness These two could be anyone symbols really for any two people connected by the emotional affinities that any couple is capable of discovering with only a little effort Much of the simplicity and the way Zambra refers to Julio and Emilia who are not exactly characters though maybe it s convenient to think of them as characters helps build a Elementary Treatise in Herbology universal microcosm of relationships Anyone that has loved or loved and lost can find charm in the hazy tale Zambra has created Julio and Emilia lie to one another on their first sexual encounter both claiming to have read Marcel Proust and embellish the lies with partly true details to bring their falsehoods to life In a way they are creating literature and as their relationship continues full of lies and truths and half truths like any young couple they further their depth as characters both literally and metaphysically Any lover of literature is sure to be charmed by their sexual foreplay consisting of reading to one another from role playing Madame Bovary neither ever wanted to be Charles and the way they re read Proust together It is their reading of the short story Tantalia by Macedonio Fern ndez a story of a couple who fear the survival of their relationship is dependant on the life of a clover plant thennamed woman gives the man as a symbol of love that gives them pause and reveals the mortality of theirs and all relationships Once outside its flowerpot the tree ceases to be a bonsai When Julio decides to grow a bonsai he discovers a few key lines in a care manual A bonsai is an artistic replica of a tree in miniature It consists of two elements the living tree and the container The two elements must be in harmony and the selection of the appropriate pot for a tree is almost an art form in itself The opening sentence in the end she dies and he remains alone becomes the container from which the story the the rest is literature grows and flourishes The people that come and go from their lives are like the limbs of the bonsai tree which are carefully cut to grow in a desired shape However the story itself is a series of containers Julio writes a novel about a man who learns of the death of a lost love this being before Julio learns of Emilia s death and grows a bonsai as a love plant in her honour the story of which later Julio will act out in his own life The story of the bonsai is the literature that grows from the container of Fernandez s story Tantalia and finds itself actually occurring on several levels of the narrative there is a doubling or tripling and so forth of meaning that all functioning in relation to one another a meta narrative style that works nearly like two mirrors reflecting back at one another with a bonsai situated between them The bonsai an artistic replicain miniature is then Julio s novel but also the novel itself with so many self referential aspects that it teases the reader into fantasizing an intentional fallacy and pondering if the Zambra wrote his novel in relation to Tantalia as did Julio and if the love plot has any half truths in Zambra s own life It is the intricate potting of a story within a story that really sticks with the reader the half truths of life that go on to become a work of art the literature housed in the container of experience Bonsai is a iet little novel with ite the emotional punch It displays a budding promise for it s young author who would later make good on those promises with The Private Lives of Trees which I found to be even emotionally impactful What I love most is the way this novella makes literature seem like the most important aspect of life The fragility of life and love is explored in beautiful and breathless prose that makes this elliptical little novel well worth the time 3755 I want to end Julio story but Julio s story doesn t end that s the problem A big thank you to Mike and Matt for sending me Tantalia a March Monthly Idea Book uite insightful story that is also key tonlocking the heart of Zambra s own story. Chöne Miniatur einer epischen Liebesgeschichte ein kunstvoll geraffter Roman über die erotisierende Wirkung von Lektüren missverstandene körperliche Zuneigung nd die nicht enden wollende Sehnsucht nach dem andere.

Alejandro Zambra is a Chilean writer He is the author of Bonsai The Private Lives of Trees Ways of Going Home My Documents and Multiple Choice His stories have appeared in The New Yorker The Paris Review Granta Harper's Zoetrope and McSweeney’s among other places