The Private Lives of Trees Paperback – Jul 15 2010
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"Zambra’s sentences string together like pearls, each of them perfect, fragile, and self-contained. Often, they are startlingly beautiful in their careful starkness, or hilariously deadpan ... Trees” has a wry sense of remove. It washes over you, and it lingers."Rachel Sugar, New City Lit
""The Private Lives of Trees" is a novel from Chilean writer Alejandro Zambra, masterfully translated by Megan McDowell ... Poignant and thought-provoking, "The Private Lives of Trees" is a fine piece of international fiction."The Midwest Book Review
" Zambra writes peculiar books that work on many levelsthe kind to be read again and again because they become something different each time."Tottenville Review
"Alejandro Zambra is certainly the most interesting Chilean writer to emerge since Bolano died in 2003 ... his biggest strengths [are] a lively attention to detail and an ability to plausibly, enjoyably break the binds of tradition..."Stephan Delbos, The Prague Post
About the Author
Alejandro Zambra was named as one of Granta 's Best Young Spanish-language Novelists." He is the author of three novels, including Bonsai, which was made into a film, and Ways of Going Home.
Megan McDowell received her Master's Degree in Literary Translation from the University of Texas at Dallas. In addition to two books by Alejandro Zambra, she has translated Under This Terrible Sun by Carlos Busqued and La Vida Doble by Arturo Fontaine.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Julian has been happily married for three years to Veronica, who brought her five-year-old daughter Daniela into the marriage, and it is for Daniela that he tells a never-ending story of the private life of trees. On this evening, however, Veronica has gone to her art class and has not come home. Julian is nervous and wonders if she has left him. He passes the time that night writing about her, their life together, and their past lives, and he says he will stop writing when she returns home, or when he is convinced that she will not return.
As he writes, the reader comes to know something about all the characters and about the writing process. Time passes as in a dream, with present and past overlapping, memories surfacing and vanishing, and Julian's imagination creating new scenarios which get interrupted and then change directions. He envisions Daniela someday reading the thoughts he has recorded while awaiting Veronica's return--maybe when she is thirty.
When Julian's writing ends, author Zambra continues. Using the point of view of Daniela, he shows her as an older woman as she considers reading Julian's novel, which she thinks may be, like all fiction, just "novelists' absurd farces." Zambra touches on the process of writing fiction, what it means, and whether it is important, as he moves into the future, giving an ending to Julian's thoughts during that crucial night. Filled with warmth and a sly sense of humor about writing, life in Chile, and his main character Julian, Zambra creates a wonderful irony--it is almost impossible to remember that the main character is Julian and not Alejandro Zambra. Those who believe that "more is better" may be surprised at how much Zambra can reveal in the belief that "less is more." Mary Whipple
This book is told from the prospective of a very nice young man completely lacking in worldly experience (except for a nasty "get lost" message from his girl friend written in red paint on their apartment wall). Because of this utterly constrained world, his reactions to events are those of a very young person. Shallow, shall we say. His failure to see the depth and complexity of what is happening, his inability to act (versus being the recipient of others actions) is extremely annoying to read. And when I try to analyze what I find this book such an utter failure (a two-star in Amazon speak) I come to my EA conclusion. I'm decades older than the novelist and my life experiences are thus considerably broader. When something occurs to or around me, I have a large basis of experience upon which to analyze what has occurred, and while I do not necessarily make better decisions, I do have a foundation of experience upon which to act. Our narrator seems to just think things will be okay. Or things will be whatever they are going to be. Lack of experience is the only excuse I can find for such a lack of vision and a correspondingly uninteresting book.