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Ways of Going Home: A Novel by Alejandro…

Ways of Going Home: A Novel

by Alejandro Zambra

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Ways of Going Home is told from the point of view of a Chilean novelist who grew up during Pinochet's dictatorship. It alternates between excerpts from his novel and what is happening in his real life. The novel within the novel is fairly autobiographical, and by using this structure, Zambra illustrates how using writing can help someone process their past and their present.

I liked that the book wasn't overtly political. The book isn't exactly about Pinochet's dictatorship, but rather about what it is like to be a child in such a turbulent period in Chile's history, the relationship between parents and their children, and how this affects adulthood.

I found the book to be really well written (and/or well translated, I suppose). I can't think of the word to describe his writing. I want to say it was somehow slow and simple, but in a very positive way. I want to say that every paragraph packed a punch (a very gentle punch) far greater than the words contained in the paragraph. I'll just say I liked the writing.

I saw this book at the library, and found the cover appealing and it is short, so I decided to read it for a reading challenge as a book I found at the library by browsing. I didn't vet the book on Goodreads at all and this unusual, as I like to know what I'm getting into. I'm glad I found it, it was a nice, quick read. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 27, 2016 |
(Fiction, Literary, Chilean)

This book showed up in my library inbox in late November because I was trying to complete an unofficial A to Z Reading Challenge using authors’ last names.

Amazon tells me that the book “begins with an earthquake, seen through the eyes of an unnamed nine-year-old boy” in Santiago, Chile. I vaguely remember that, but nothing else.

I plead extreme fatigue. I plead grief. I plead the passage of 2½ years. This may well be “A brilliant novel from ‘the herald of a new wave of Chilean fiction’” but I can’t remember and can’t rate it.
  ParadisePorch | Jul 1, 2016 |
It's great to have read this book at the same time as Ban en Banlieue, another novel where the author struggles to write truthfully about things that are too terrible, or too hidden, to be written about truthfully. This novel succeeds magnificently in turning that contradiction into art. The novel is from the point of view of a novelist trying to make sense of his childhood during the Pinochet years, and to come to terms with the choices that his parents and the other adults in his life made to survive those years.

An excerpt:

I'd spent the afternoon with a group of classmates, and we were exchanging family stories in which death appeared with urgent insistence. Of all those present I was the only one who came from a family with no dead, and that realization filled me with a strange bitterness: my friends had grown up reading the books that their dead parents or siblings left behind in the house. But in my family there were no dead and there were no books.

I come from a family with no dead.
( )
  poingu | Jan 23, 2016 |
So gorgeous. ( )
  beckydj | Feb 18, 2015 |
Autobiography and fiction are intermingled in this short novel to the extent that by the end they have nearly blended into one story. It is about the past and about living with the past and making sense of it. It's about explaining parents' inexplicable behavior. It's about dictatorships and the scars they leave, even on those who on the surface, seem to have come through unscathed. It is beautifully translated by Megan McDowell, and her imprint is so light that it is almost as if it was written as intended in English. Highly recommended.


If there was anything to learn, we didn't' learn it. Now I think it's a good thing to lose confidence in the solidity of the ground, I think it's necessary to know that from one moment to the next everything can come tumbling down.

To read is to cover one's face, I thought.
To read is to cover one's face. And to write is to show it.

Parents abandon their children. Children abandon their parents. Parents protect or forsake, but they always forsake. Children stay or go but they always go. And it's all unfair, especially the sound of the words, because the language is pleasing and confusing, because ultimately we would like to sing or at least whistle a tune, to walk alongside the stage whistling a tune. We want to be actors waiting patiently for the cue to walk onstage. But the audience left a long time ago.

I knew little, but at least I knew that: no one could speak for someone else. That although we might want to tell other people's stories, we always end up telling our own.
( )
  nittnut | Nov 28, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alejandro Zambraprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lange, SusanneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McDowell, MeganTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rooy, Luc dePrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Silva, DanielaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Now I know how to walk; I can no longer learn to walk. -W. Benjamin
Instead of howling, I write books. -R. Gary
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The writer son of a quiet sympathizer with the Pinochet regime reflects on the progress of his novel, in which an unnamed boy from a Chilean suburb witnesses an earthquake and meets an older girl who asks him to spy on her uncle.

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