Zambra’s Ways of Going Home, a prize-winner in his native Chile, explores the legacy of the Pinochet regime. At its centre is a young man who writes to assuage a kind of survivor’s guilt. He was a boy during the dictatorship, and was protected from the worst of it, but realises that “there were others who suffered more, who suffer more”.
Throughout, Zambra gives us excerpts from the narrator’s work-in-progress, and shows us how he manipulates childhood memories for his fictional purposes. This story-within-a-story – and perhaps Zambra’s own novel – is suffused with a twofold sense of shame: embarrassment that his parents did nothing to resist Pinochet and a chastened awareness that he would not have acted any differently himself. The result is a fascinating reflection on historical complicity, translated with restrained elegance by Megan McDowell.
March 1, 2103