This story within a story is set in Chile in the aftermath of the 1985 earthquake, with flashbacks to the narrator’s childhood during Pinochet’s dictatorship. Zambra uses this complex narrative structure as a distancing, understated way of coming to terms with Chile’s violent past. Though set against the backdrop of brutal political oppression, the lyrical writing and child’s eye view make this a quietly moving and universally evocative story.
While the adults killed or were killed, we drew pictures in a corner. While the country was falling to pieces, we were learning to talk, to walk, to fold napkins in the shape of boats or airplanes. While the novel was happening, we played hide-and-seek, we played at disappearing.