The second novel by the internationally celebrated writer Alejandro Zambra, a ’short and strikingly original’ (New Yorker) book about the stories we spin for ourselves and our loved ones – now published in the UK for the first time by Fitzcarraldo Editions.
Verónica is late, and Julián is increasingly convinced she won't ever come home. To pass the time, he improvises a story about trees to coax his stepdaughter, Daniela, to sleep. He has made a life as a literature professor, developing a novel about a man tending to a bonsai tree on the weekends. He is a narrator, an architect, a chronicler of other people's stories. But as the night stretches on before him, and the hours pass with no sign of Verónica, Julián finds himself caught up in the slipstream of the story of his life – of their lives together. What combination of desire and coincidence led them here, to this very night? What will the future – and possibly motherless – Daniela think of him and his stories? Why tell stories at all?
The Private Lives of Trees, Alejandro Zambra’s second novel, now published in the UK for the first time in a revised translation by Megan McDowell, overflows with his signature wit and his gift for crafting short novels that manage to contain whole worlds.
‘The Private Lives of Trees is a small classic in Latin American letters – small in size but not in depth or reach. Books like this one remind us that the experience of reading can still be closely tied to our lives, and not a mere succession of minutes and phrases strung together by someone else’s mind.’
— Valeria Luiselli, author of Lost Children Archive
‘In The Private Lives of Trees, I found proof of what I had suspected all along that writing could offer us, beyond writing itself.... Finally, I’d found an author who was writing in order to reach that place not made of words. And he took you there with him. I know of no greater talent. Not in literature or in life.’
— Margarita García Robayo, author of Fish Soup
‘Original and funny, Zambra has a knack for treating serious ideas lightly. This kind of meandering, light-touch writing must present difficulties for a translator, but McDowell has gracefully overcome them. Like a bonsai tree, The Private Lives of Trees is small but artful.’
— Miranda France, Times Literary Supplement
‘A world that remains distinctively and compellingly his own is that of Alejandro Zambra in The Private Life of Trees, translated by Megan McDowell. One of the most inventive writers in the Spanish-speaking world, the Chilean author has developed a unique style that combines a puckish wit with a clear-eyed...view of the fears and hopes of his struggling writers.’
— Michael Cronin, Irish Times
‘One of the greatest literary events of recent years.’
— Alfonso Cortínez, Las Últimas Noticias
‘Julián is an exceptionally well-drawn character, his subdued eccentricity rendered sympathetically but honestly.... Zambra has proven here that he can do complex emotion as well as he can do cynicism.’
— The Rumpus
‘A fleeting story translated with care – worth savouring.’
— Kirkus Reviews
‘Despite the novel totaling only 86 pages, Zambra manages to enclose an entire world inside.’
— Ewa Połka, BUZZ MAGAZINE