Santiago de Chile ~ Chile
Alejandro Zambra (1975, Santiago de Chile) is a writer who evokes the existential dilemmas underlying everyday life in Chile. He is the author of three very short, lyrical novels of astonishing depth and resonance. Beneath a seemingly mundane surface, interwoven with intriguing structural games and masterly economy of language, he explores notions of love and trust, and reveals the inexorable impact of the past on the present. A representative of the generation who were children during the dictatorship, Zambra reflects on the ownership of that painful history.
Bonsái (2006) concerns the evolution of a love affair affected by fictions and omissions. La Vida Privada de los Arboles (The Private Lives of Trees, 2007) examines memory and anxiety in a marriage and the stories people create for themselves. The most recent, Formas de Volver a Casa (Ways of Going Home, 2011) is an intense narrative centred on a child’s relations with his parents and peers, touching on gaps in understanding, the everyday politics of survival in a dictatorship, varieties of human weakness, guilt, failure and endurance, and the different ways of remembering and coming to terms with the past and the present.
These sensitive and difficult stories are told in a highly engaging way. Employing fictions within fictions, multiple narrators and shifting timescales that reveal continuous revision of memories and variations of events, Zambra creates a surprising vastness in his minimalist, concentrated masterpieces. He distills content by cutting between scenes, inserting precise and poetic detail, interleaving banality with profundity. As author/narrator, he constantly interrupts with disarming intimacy to share his worries about writing and remind us it is fiction we are reading.
Alejandro Zambra is honoured for his beautiful, creative and revelatory writings; for his perceptive observation of the deeper social and psychological consequences of dictatorship; for helping people to examine their own and alternate interpretations of a difficult past and its impact on the present; and for stimulating the renewed interest of both readers and writers in the possibilities of the novel as a repository of history and a source of self-development.