In this short, experimental book of fiction, Zambra (My Documents) skillfully adopts the form of a standardized test to spin off dozens of micro-tales. The form of the test, which is based on the actual Chilean Aptitude Test Zambra took as a youth, is composed of five numbered sections, totaling 90 questions. The book opens with questions and possible answers that are simply lists of words, not giving Zambra much room to stretch his storytelling wings. The following sections, composed of short sentences, read like flash fiction or prose poems and are frequently amusing and unexpected. Far more compelling are the longer “sentence elimination” sections wherein Zambra is able to deliver a self-contained short story in a handful of pages. In one story, a student convinces his smarter twin brother to take his exam for him. Another story presents a tricky problem for a couple getting married in Chile, when divorce was still illegal there. The final story is a touching message from a remorseful father to his son. Zambra’s writing is intensely tied to his Chilean identity, and nearly every story or text references Chile in some way. In just a few pages he manages to be repeatedly engaging, smart, funny, and sad. Agent: Andrea Montejo, Indent Literary Agency. (July)
"This is a book about love, loss, guilt, empathy, inequality and life under Chile's dictatorship. It's a slim volume, but calls for lingering. It's beautiful, fascinating, brilliant, brutal, all of the above." —NPR's "Guide To 2016’s Great Reads"
"Dazzling...a work of parody, but also of poetry." —The New York Times Book Review
"Brilliant, innovative, beautiful." —The Guardian, "The Best Books for Summer 2016"
"Playful and profound. . . . [Zambra's] comic timing is impeccable." —Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com, "10 Books to Read in July"
"Throughout Multiple Choice, Zambra traffics in a depth of imagination and playfulness that is akin to a guessing game. As with many of his earlier works, he is content to play with, prod, and shake up the reader, confirming once again that the questions we ask about the world and about ourselves are oftentimes far more telling than the answers.” —NPR
"Multiple Choice made me laugh repeatedly, often ruefully. . . . Zambra is superbly equipped to major in writing fiction about the unhappiness of human beings, with secondary concentrations in lampooning hypocrisy and satirizing repression. I recommend you admit him to your reading list immediately." —Jim Higgins, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Zambra uses this restrictive form for playfully serious ends, questioning the very things — coherence and comprehension — that such tests seek to measure and encourage." —The Boston Globe
"Brilliant . . . Like a literary exercise for the mind, but strangely fun to decode." —Elle, "19 Summer Books That Everyone Will Be Talking About"
"[Zambra] is at his most spare here, but also his most innovative. By taking the tests he’s set for us, by participating in the stories by reconstructing and editing them, we’re invited to reflect on the most basic needs fiction tries to meet, or according to which it is judged." —Financial Times
"Funny and moving." —Newsday
“Clever.” —Vanity Fair
"As exciting as it is mind-bending . . . Zambra’s novel is wildly inventive and utterly confusing in the best way possible." —PureWow, "The Ultimate 2016 Summer Book Guide"
“[Zambra's] stories are so playful and open, so simple and so much fun to read, so equally joyful and sad, that they can be about anything, or everything, or nothing. They really do invite the reader’s participation in the construction of the text. Which makes Zambra’s work, Multiple Choice included, captivating and meaningful in the best possible ways.” –The Rumpus
“A small book packed with meaning and space for interpretation. By structuring it as a test, the author comments on the rigidity of Chile’s former fascist leader. By allowing the reader to meditate on how to make sense of each puzzling question, he offers an alternative to enforced structure.” –The Huffington Post, Book of the Week
“A great book…[that] infuses the format of a standardized test with: (a) playfulness, (b) sadness, (c) frustration, (d) political commentary and (e) a great story.” –Shelf Awareness
"Witty and experimental . . . It’s like taking a test by a test writer gone mad." —Vox, "18 New Books to Read This Summer"
"[Zambra turns] the reader into writer and editor and critic and then back again in a series of multiple-choice questions...all exhibiting [his] knack for cleverly self-aware metafiction." —The Village Voice
"An exercise in flouting literary conventions . . . This sly slender book is divided into 90 multiple-choice questions suggesting that how we respond to a story depends on where the writer places narrative stress." —The Millions, "Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview"
"The perfect next step for an author who has always specialized in short, lyric works and who has increasingly embraced a hybrid genre of fiction that sort of acts like a novel but kind of looks like a short story collection." —Literary Hub, "21 Books You Should Read This July"
“Amusing and unexpected . . . In just a few pages [Zambra] manages to be repeatedly engaging, smart, funny, and sad." —Publishers Weekly
"Consistently witty and provocative . . . True or false: can effective fiction be written in the format of a standardized test? Answer: pretty much, and few are as equipped to do it as well as Chilean writer Zambra." —Kirkus Reviews
“Zambra is the defining light of today’s Latin American literature—an author whose cult is about to take over, the one we'll all be congratulating ourselves on having known about in the early days, before his deceptively slender masterpieces lay on every American reader's night table. Multiple Choice is the most daring distillation yet of his inimitable, take-no-prisoners genius.” —John Wray, author of The Lost Time Accidents
“When I read Zambra I feel like someone’s shooting fireworks inside my head. His prose is as compact as a grain of gunpowder, but its allusions and ramifications branch out and illuminate even the most remote corners of our minds.” —Valeria Luiselli, author of The Story of My Teeth
“Zambra builds an elegant structure out of the important elements of life—competition, pride, vigor, death, sex—against a landscape of political menace. Read his book and, as with all true art, you'll be left wondering what it means but feeling that you know.” —Atticus Lish, author of Preparation for the Next Life
“Multiple Choice is unlike anything I've ever encountered before. With his test questions and answers, the incomparable Alejandro Zambra creates verbal playgrounds for reverie, imagination, thought, and memory, and leads you through labyrinthine corridors in which you inevitably encounter yourself. Reading this book is a wonderfully disconcerting and unforgettable experience.” —Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name
"There is no writer like Alejandro Zambra, no one as bold, as subtle, as funny. Multiple Choice is his most accomplished work yet, an apparently playful literary game you quickly realize is also deadly serious. This book is not to be missed." —Daniel Alarcón, author of At Night We Walk In Circles
“Falling in love with Zambra’s literature is a fascinating road to travel. Imaginative and original, he is a master of short forms; I adore his devastating audacity.” —Enrique Vila-Matas, author of The Illogic of Kassel
"I loved Multiple Choice. I hate exams, but I've sat this one a few times already. I'd give it an A-. The minus for being too smart and getting away with it." —Stuart Evers, author of Your Father Sends His Love
"As slim as Chile herself. As serrated and complex as her riddled coastline. There's so much to admire and enjoy in this dazzling little book." —Gavin Corbett, author of Green Glowing Skull
True or false: can effective fiction be written in the format of a standardized test? Answer: pretty much, and few are as equipped to do it as well as Chilean writer Zambra (My Documents, 2015, etc.), who has a penchant for experimentation. The book is broken up into 90 questions across five sections. At first those questions are largely ironic or comic in simplistic ways. For instance, the reader is asked to name the word that has no relation to "bear": "endure," "tolerate," "abide," "panda," or "kangaroo." But as the test focuses on completing, ordering, and eliminating sentences, it's clear Zambra is aiming for more sophisticated and poignant effects. The questions become flash-fiction tales about transition points like lost loves, the discovery of a tumor, and a grandfather's death, and the multiple-choice answers suggest that how we respond to a story depends heavily on where the writer places the narrative stress and what's omitted or added. (For instance, a first-person story about the successes and failures of his children prompts the reader to rethink the story if lines about grandchildren and planned pregnancies are removed.) This reaches a kind of climax in the "reading comprehension" section, made up of three brief stories about a scheming pair of twins and couples that have split up. The follow-up questions tend to highlight the absurdity of pat answers to works of fiction. ("What is the worst title for this story—the one that would reach the widest possible audience?") Even so, Zambra can sometimes insistently point to a "correct" answer: for a question in the story about school's influence, the only option is: "You weren't educated; you were trained." Though the overall effect is fragmentary, Zambra's fragments are consistently witty and provocative. A-minus.