Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra (Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell) - review by Louis Rogers

Louis Rogers

Shallow Roots

Bonsai

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First published in Spanish in 2006, Chilean writer Alejandro Zambra’s debut novel, Bonsai, concerns Julio and Emilia, two students who find each other through a love of books and get into the habit of reading aloud in bed. Their relationship is derailed when they read a short story about an affair whose success is measured against the life of a houseplant: when the plant dies, so does the relationship. Later, Julio works on a novel, called Bonsai, which seems obliquely to be about his and Emilia’s relationship. As Zambra’s novel charts the interweaving of their lives over time, life seeps into literature and vice versa.

At only seventy-four pages, Bonsai seems filled with far more characters, poignant turns, subplots and jokes than it should have room for, reaching far into the peripheral lives of both its protagonists. Its title evokes the novel’s domestic world as well as its own tiny, crafted form. The

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