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Photo: Alejandro Zambra/Getty Images
Photo: Alejandro Zambra/Getty Images

Alejandro Zambra's latest novel, 'Chilean Poet,' published in English

The novel follows the lives and loves of two would-be poets in Santiago, Chile

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After a chance encounter at a Santiago nightclub, aspiring poet Gonzalo reunites with his first love, Carla. Though their desire for each other is still intact, much has changed. Among other things, Carla now has a six-year-old son, Vicente. Soon, the three form a happy sort-of family — a stepfamily, though no such word exists in their language.

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Eventually their ambitions pull the lovers in different directions — in Gonzalo’s case, all the way to New York. Though Gonzalo takes his books when he goes, Vicente still inherits his ex-stepfather’s love of poetry. When, at 18, Vicente meets Pru, an American journalist literally and figuratively lost in Santiago, and he encourages her to write about Chilean poets — not the famous, dead kind like Neruda, Mistrals or Bolaños, but the living, striving, everyday ones. Pru’s research leads her into this eccentric community — another kind of family, dysfunctional but ultimately loving. Will it also lead Vicente and Gonzalo back to each other?

Zambra belongs to the generation of authors that lived through the transition from dictatorship to democracy in Chile and his narrative is constructed from a memory that seeks to build its own space, a memory of a past marked by violence but that tries to domesticate a future.

In Chilean Poet, with enormous tenderness and insight he chronicles the small moments — sexy, absurd, painful, sweet, profound — that make up our personal histories. Exploring how we choose our families and betray them, and what it means to be a man in relationships — a partner, father, stepfather, teacher, lover, writer, and friend. It is a bold and brilliant new work by one of the most important writers of our time.

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