Ways of Going Home

Ways of Going Home

Book - 2013
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Alejandro Zambra's Ways of Going Home begins with an earthquake, seen through the eyes of an unnamed nine-year-old boy who lives in an undistinguished middleclass housing development in a suburb of Santiago, Chile. When the neighbors camp out overnight, the protagonist gets his first glimpse of Claudia, an older girl who asks him to spy on her uncle Raúl.

In the second section, the protagonist is the writer of the story begun in the first section. His father is a man of few words who claims to be apolitical but who quietly sympathized--to what degree, the author isn't sure--with the Pinochet regime. His reflections on the progress of the novel and on his own life--which is strikingly similar to the life of his novel's protagonist--expose the raw suture of fiction and reality.

Ways of Going Home s witches between author and character, past and present, reflecting with melancholy and rage on the history of a nation and on a generation born too late--the generation which, as the author-narrator puts it, learned to read and write while their parents became accomplices or victims. It is the most personal novel to date from Zambra, the most important Chilean author since Roberto Bolaño.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.
ISBN: 9780374286644
Characteristics: 139 p. ;,20 cm.
Additional Contributors: McDowell, Megan


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Jun 21, 2016

Both the writer and his character are grappling with having been children at such a critical time in Chile’s history. Parents were choosing sides, or in the case of the writer’s parents, trying to remain neutral. But as an adult, he must contend with the idea of his father’s neutrality as an act of quiet complicity with the dictatorship. Thought the situation is specific and essentially Chilean, the inter-generational conflict of values is more broadly recognizable. The dictatorship is an essential part of Chilean history and identity, and yet one that the children who grew up under it could not fully engage with until after it was already gone. The result is a ghost that is felt throughout Ways of Going Home.
Full review available at: https://shayshortt.com/2016/06/21/ways-of-going-home/

May 24, 2015

Subtle, complex and interesting; a book about the generation born under Pinochet and how they come to an understanding of the period of their childhood.

Nov 08, 2013

What a curious reminiscence and glimpse of Chilean politics and life. At times the first person ego centricity became irritating, at others compelling...


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Jun 21, 2016

In the suburbs of Santiago, Chile, under the shadow of the Pinochet regime, a nine-year-old boy is asked by his neighbour’s niece to spy on her uncle. This is the beginning of a strange friendship, chronicling clandestine meetings with Claudia so that he can relate Raúl’s comings and goings. From there, the perspective shifts to the author of the novel we read in the first part. The writer is struggling with his manuscript, as well as his recent separation from his wife. Writing and life become intertwined as the author reveals his own childhood, and echoes of his present life begin to slip into the story, which contemplates home, identity, and family.


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Jun 21, 2016

“Raúl was the only person in the neighborhood who lived alone. It was hard for me to understand how someone could live alone. I thought that being alone was a kind of punishment or disease.”

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