The Private Lives of Trees

Overview

"Zambra is indeed the herald of a new wave of Chilean fiction."
—Marcela Valdes, The Nation

The Private Lives of Trees tells the story of a single night: a young professor of literature named Julián is reading to his step-daughter Daniela and nervously waiting for his wife Verónica to return from her art class. Each night, Julián has been improvising a story about trees to tell Daniela before she goes to sleep, and each Sunday he works on a novel about a man tending to his ...

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Overview

"Zambra is indeed the herald of a new wave of Chilean fiction."
—Marcela Valdes, The Nation

The Private Lives of Trees tells the story of a single night: a young professor of literature named Julián is reading to his step-daughter Daniela and nervously waiting for his wife Verónica to return from her art class. Each night, Julián has been improvising a story about trees to tell Daniela before she goes to sleep, and each Sunday he works on a novel about a man tending to his bonsai, but something about this night is different. As Julián becomes increasing concerned that Verónica won’t return, he reflects on their life together in minute detail, and imagines what Daniela—at twenty, at twenty-five, at thirty years old, without a mother—will think of his novel.

Perhaps even more daring and dizzying than Zambra's magical Bonsai, The Private Lives of Trees demands to be read in a single sitting, and it casts a spell that will bring you back to it again and again.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
So often, we don't miss the things we love until we're sure they're gone for good-that's part of the lesson in this elegant, all-too-brief novella from prize-winning Chilean novelist and poet Zambra (Bonsai, 2008). This Mobius strip of a story examines a single night in the life of Julian, a writer and professor, who is tending to his stepdaughter Daniela while they both wait for absent wife and mother Veronica to come home from her art class. Julian, younger but uglier than Daniela's father Fernando, doesn't seem like the jealous type and occupies the idling hours by telling his charge the titular story, a rambling, extemporaneous tale about the vegetable denizens of a nearby jungle. As the hours tick by, Julian's imagination gets the best of him. "To keep calm, Julian thinks that literature and the world are full of women who don't come home, of women who die in brutal accidents, but at least in the world, in life, there are also women to, unforeseeably, have to take a friend to the hospital, or who have a flat tire in the middle of the avenue and nobody stops to help," Zambra writes. The novel is short, but its author pours caution and tension into every line like the poet he is. The more time that passes in this long evening, the further away Julian's mind wanders, imagining the life that Daniela will have as a popular psychologist, dreaming of the day that she reads his unfinished novel. "Julian is a blot that is erased and goes away. Veronica is a blot that is erased and remains. The future is Daniela's story," we learn. By the time Zambra brings readers to the precipice of his ambiguous ending, we're left asking the same question that Julian is forced to ask himself: When does the future begin?A fleeting story translated with care-worth savoring.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934824245
  • Publisher: Open Letter
  • Publication date: 7/15/2010
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 640,147
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Alejandro Zambra is acclaimed as the greatest writer of Chile's younger generation. He is a poet and critic and currently teaches literature at the Diego Portales University in Santiago. His first novel, Bonsai, was awarded Chile's Literary Critics' Award for Best Novel, and the English translation by Carolina De Robertis (Melville House, 2008) was a finalist for the Best Translated Book Award.

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