Ways of Going Home

by Alejandro Zambra

Translated by Megan McDowell

Published  by Granta

Growing up in 1980s Chile, a young boy plays hide-and-seek in the suburbs of Santiago while the adults become slowly entangled in the violence of Pinochet’s regime – accomplices and victims of the brutal dictatorship. As the country shudders under authoritarian rule, the boy creates stories to explain the sporadic scenes of violence, the disappearances, and the deafening silence of his parents.  Until, on the night of the Santiago earthquake, a mysterious girl named Claudia appears and the boy’s world is changed forever.

Now, as a young man reflecting on the tragedies of his childhood, he must find the courage to confront as an adult what he could not have known as a child, and to untangle Chile’s troubled past. As he struggles to begin a novel which will encompass the clash between innocence and complicity, the boundaries between fiction and reality blur, and Claudia comes back into his life.


Alejandro Zambra is the author of the poetry collections Bahia inútil (1998) and Mudanza (2003), the novels Bonsái (2006), La vida privada de los árboles (2007) – published in English as The Private Lives of Trees – and the book of essays No leer (2010). His novels have been translated into various languages. In Chile, Bonsai won the Critics Prize and the National Council Prize for Books for the best novel of the year in 2006. He is currently working on a book of short stories called Berta Bovary. He lives in Santiago and is a literature professor at the University of Diego Portales.

Megan McDowell is a literary translator who lives and works in the United States.  Her first book translation was The Private Lives of Trees by Alejandro Zambra, published in Spring 2010 by Open Letter Press. In 2009 she received a fellowship to attend the annual Banff International Literary Translation Center residency, where she worked on her translation of Juan Emar’s novel Ayer (Yesterday).  She graduated in 2009 with a Master’s degree in Literary Translation from the University of Texas in Dallas, where she worked closely with the American Literary Translators Association.