My brother was enrolled in a world literature course this last spring. I am teaching one this fall, and I am interested in seeing what other professors teach in their courses. So I asked my brother for a reading list, and I’ve been trying to see how my texts match up to his professor’s (who I was friends with at my undergrad, in fact. Hooray for small worlds colliding!). I’ve read several of the texts on the list, but I have to confess less familiarity with South American writers than other non-Western writers. I decided to give Alejandro Zambra a try.
Ways of Going Home is a short novel told from two vantage points in history: the first focuses on a young boy living in the housing projects of Chile who spies on his friend Claudia’s uncle Raul; the second focuses on the novelist who has written the first story and the ways in which his past and present strangely mirror that of the first section’s. Perspective is everything. Who is Raul? Who is Claudia? Why do the events unfold as they do? There are several unspoken or unknowable events and attitudes in the novel that make up the mystery and intrigue of the two perspectives of the novel.
Though the novel is short, it is a challenging read. At first, trying to understand the two perspectives of the novel can be confusing. Also, the language is dense and poetic, which does not lend the book to casual pleasure reading. This was a worthwhile reading experience, but I don’t know if I really like this book or not. Perhaps I need to read a different Zambra book?