Ways of Going Home
Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra is a novel about a man who is writing a novel about a man who is writing a novel about his life. If that sounds complicated, it gets trickier: both narratives (the man writing the novel about the man writing the novel AND the “fictional” novel being written by the “fictional” man) are represented in alternating chapters. So yes, this is a novel built on a structure designed to examine the contingent and contextualized selves of postmodern subjectivity, but no, that’s not the end of it.
Underlying this struggle for self is an unresolvable mystery: the ordinary lives led by Chilean children during the regime of Augusto Pinochet, a dictatorship that tortured and disappeared thousands of Chileans. To some degree, everyone is implicated in creating and preserving this fiction of normality, a denial of political reality that severs history from memory. The complications of this historical/structural mash-up are rendered in a plain-spoken style that manages to evoke both the miracle of everyday language and its tragic inadequacies. In the end, there is poetry and hope, unlikely but undeniable, a reason to witness the world through writing, a way to love and be loved.