Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Bonsái ” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  3,479 Ratings  ·  367 Reviews
Condenado a la seriedad y a la impostura, Julio, el silencioso protagonista de este libro, acaba convenciéndose de que es mejor encerrarse en su cuarto a observar el crecimiento de un bonsái que vagar por los incómodos caminos de la literatura. Es ésta, como dice el narrador, «una historia liviana que se pone pesada», un relato elíptico y vertiginoso marcado por la inquiet ...more
Paperback, 95 pages
Published July 30th 2014 (first published February 1st 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Dec 03, 2014 s.penkevich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literary foreplay
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Mike Puma
What's the purpose of being with someone if they don't change your life?

There are some books that can be consumed in a singular hour, yet remain within you to be digested by the intellect for days or weeks. Alejandro Zambra’s Bonsai is such a book. The precise simplicity of the novel makes it a difficult book to talk as the novella feels as fragile as an intricately colored moth’s wing—admire its beauty but don’t touch it lest it turn to dust. There is a feeling of weightlessness to the prose
Mike Puma
Feb 08, 2012 Mike Puma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you know who you are
Recommended to Mike by: systems in collusion

And better still after the third reading. If anyone is interested in reading this one and needs a copy of Macedonio Fernandez's Tantalia, feel free to give me a shout and I'll email you the 5-page story pronto.


Even better after the second reading.

The world is of tantalic inspiration.
So begins Macedonio Fernandez’s fantastic story Tantalia. Zambra makes reference to it. I encourage readers to get a copy and read it—bizarre and an incredible complement to this novella (c
Sep 24, 2016 Jaidee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those that relish indifference
Recommended to Jaidee by: random pick

2.5 "perplexed, indifferent, what-is-the-fuss-all-about ?!" stars.

I am at a loss as how this book won Chile’s Literary Critics’ Award for Best Novel. Was it a very bad year? Were there no other novels published? Were the critics all first year double majors in post-modern literature and philosophy?

I don't get it!!

Don't get me wrong...this is not a poor book but I found nothing that interesting, or moving, or interesting, or profound, or interesting, or humorous, or interesting, or meaningful,
Jul 30, 2015 Seemita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those you are not afraid to meet their reflections
What does a resonating journal do? Arrest us in the powerful aura of words? Dispatch us to the comforting cocoon of our memories? Render a blanket of dignity to our failures? Exhort our fledgling dreams to a palpable fruition? Cast a succor net on our isolated struggles? Attest our timidity as a prelude to stronger days?

For me, it's essentially about reading about a distant 'me', the identity of this 'me' to be an inhabitant of past corridors or a tenant of future roads being inconsequential. As
Dec 04, 2014 Kenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“What's the purpose of being with someone if they don't change your life”
Alejandro Zambra, Bonsaï


Alejandro Zambra’s, Bonsai, is as delicate as the miniature tree it’s named after. It is a stunning accomplishment. Zambra accomplishes in 86 pages what other writers take hundreds of pages to accomplish. Just as the silence between notes in a musical composition can define a work so too do the silences in Bonsai define this work.

Bonsai is the story of Julio and Emilia, a young Chilean couple who b
Lynne King
Jul 02, 2013 Lynne King rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A bonsai has to be nurtured and truly loved or else it will die; likewise, unless one does the same thing with human love, that will also die.

This is a philosophical, thought provoking novella (so I have a tautology here but I like it even though it’s extraneous as it adds necessary substance to the wording) and I was charmed and delighted by it all.

This is not really a novella but a short story and it can be read in little more than an hour. Nevertheless, in spite of its brevity, it runs the ga
Βαριέμαι να γράφω κριτικές. Ευχαριστώ όμως τον Θεό ή οποιονδήποτε για αυτά τα διαμαντάκια που μου υπενθυμίζουν γιατί αγαπώ την λογοτεχνία.
"She and he, Macedonio’s characters, had and lost a little plant of love. Emilia and Julio—who are not exactly characters, though maybe it’s convenient to think of them as characters—have been reading before shagging for months, it is very pleasant, they think, and sometimes they think it at the same time: it is very pleasant, it is beautiful to read and talk about the reading just before tangling legs. It’s like doing exercise.

It isn’t always easy to find, in the texts, some impetus, however sm
this is mighty short but very nice. there are some really prettily-written moments within. not life-changing, but a good half hour read.
Nov 20, 2016 Τζο rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Σε αντίθεση με τον 'Τρόποι να γυρίζεις σπιτι' που το μίσησα και πραγματικά έκλαψα τα λεφτά μου,αυτό είναι καλό. Όχι τίποτα το σπουδαίο αλλά με άγγιξε κάπως συναισθηματικά και ήθελα να μάθω τι θα γίνει στο τέλος. Το μέγεθος του υπέροχο μόλις 102 σελίδες, το διάβασα μέσα σε μια ωρίτσα. Ότι επρεπε για ένα αμήχανο κυριακάτικο απόγευμα.
Nov 27, 2008 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More of a short story than a novella, but who would spend $13 on a short story? I probably would.

In any event, the story's first paragraph is enough to pull even the most reluctant reader in. How's this for a promise?

"In the end she dies and he remains alone, although in truth he was alone some years before her death, Emilia's death. Let's say that she is called or was called Emilia and that he is called, was called, and continues to be called Julio. Julio and Emilia. In the end Emilia dies and
Dec 21, 2009 jeremy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translation, fiction
for a slim novella, bonsai sure has attracted considerable attention. penned by a thirty-something chilean poet, the brief work was awarded the 2006 chilean critics award for best novel of the year. despite its wide accolades, it is also not without its share of ardent detractors. unsurprisingly, one would be hard pressed to find a single review that does not in some way compare or contrast zambra to his late countryman roberto bolaño. other than a motherland, however, there seems to be no conne ...more
Nov 05, 2015 Alexandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Μια κοινή ιστορία. Μια λιτή αφήγηση. Φράσεις απλές, οι οποίες ωστόσο βρίσκουν κατευθείαν στόχο στο κέντρο της καρδιάς. Και τις ξαναδιαβάζεις. Και τις ξαναδιαβάζεις. Και η ιστορία δεν αφορά πια τον Χούλιο και την Εμίλια. Ένα βιβλίο που δε λέει πολλά και τα λέει όλα. Υπέροχο.
Dec 13, 2015 Sinem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
basit kelimeler yan yana dizili aradaki kısımlarda da çok yoğun duygularvar. yazdığı aslında kitapta görünen cümleler değil de görünmeyen duygular sanki..
Dec 18, 2015 Panagiotis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ο Αλεχάντρο Σάμπρα με χειρουργικό νυστέρι αφαιρεί καθετί περιττό. Το μόνο που μένει είναι η ουσία της ιστορίας, που δίνεται αποσπασματικά, μέσα από θραύσματα, σχεδόν ποιητικά θα έλεγε κανείς. Ένα κείμενο ελλειπτικό, που ισορροπεί ανάμεσα σε κενά και αποσιωπήσεις.

Μέσα από μια πυκνότατη αφήγηση, παρακολουθούμε πια δύο παράλληλες ιστορίες: της Εμιλία, που τελειώνει κάπου στην Μαδρίτη, και του Χούλιο, που συνεχίζεται σχεδόν ανάπηρα. Οι υπόλοιποι ήρωες που κινούνται γύρω τους θα μπορούσαν να είχαν ο
Jul 30, 2015 Sookie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sookie by: Seemita

A book that reads like a quote on life.

A book that starts with a seed and grows into miniature version of a giant tree - an apt metaphor for the content Zambra put in this tiny novella that many authors take volumes to express. "Bonsai" is a fitting title for the story that Zambra narrates and the elegant beauty that is the book itself.

We follow Julio and Emilia - the two people who in the span of less than hundred pages became people I was more than acquainted with. Zambra pulls you into the
Wiebke (1book1review)
OMG I loved this book. It was a total cover buy and I read the German translation. I really couldn't put it down!

The way the author talks about and describes the characters is so great, not to serious but loving and the same time. The story about love and loss and the connection between sex and literature is heartbreaking and true.

I can only recommend this to anyone.
Mar 19, 2017 Evita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Πολυ καλο!! Συγκινητικο, ρομαντικο!!!
Apr 03, 2016 Lena rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A está "novela" le queda grande esa denominación y la fama que la precede. En mi opinión, su narración es irritante, le falta profundidad, los personajes no son interesantes, ni siquiera para el propio narrador, y cuando los párrafos insertos de otras novelas son lo único digno de leer en la obra, sabes que existe un problema. En fin, no hay caso de seguir nombrando los aspectos negativos, así que diré que el único punto a favor de este cuento es que lo lees en menos de una hora y tienes algo qu ...more
Feb 19, 2017 freewayflowr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know where to start with this one. The fact that it's called Bonsai, since the novella is a compressed form of the novel. How the author equates taking care of a bonsai with writing. The characters and how they became my favorite literary couple right away. The literary name-dropping. That I read it in less than an hour. That it will stay with me forever.
Oct 21, 2015 Solistas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Πανέμορφο. Διάβασα την αγγλική μετάφραση δυο φορές,υπαρχει κ στα ελληνικά απτις εκδόσεις Πατάκη. Ειναι μια μικρή ιστορια για τον έρωτα δυο φοιτητών κ για την αγάπη τους για την λογοτεχνία.

“This, then, is a light story that turns heavy. This is the story of two students who are enthusiasts of truth, of scattering sentences that seem true, of smoking eternal cigarettes, and of closing themselves into the intense complacency of those who think they are better, purer than others, than that immense a
Bárbara Cáceres Ch.
El libro se resume en el primer párrafo de éste que es una suerte de teoría de lo escrito y de la literatura. Ese párrafo es especialmente bueno, tanto que podría ser lo único que alguien quisiera leer del libro. El resto es el detalle, la literatura, como dice Zambra, y está muy bien escrito y relatado. Pero el final me pareció decepcionante. Quizás el autor simplemente relata lo que le pasa al personaje. Si fuera una historia real, quizás así fue como ocurrió. Pero creo que el beneficio del es ...more
This was pretty flimsy to lay any claim on being a novel. I vastly preferred Ways of Going Home which had a little more heft to it and more developed meta-fictional themes. But really not bad for a book that you can read before breakfast. From reading Zambra it would seem that this sort of short 40 page novel is a common occurrence in Chilean literature but his are the first I have encountered and for now at least get the benefit of the doubt in my mind for their unique form.
Tanuj Solanki
An anti-story. Elements of the characters' lives are almost maliciously withheld, and what remains is the suggestion of a story. It also seems to me - after having read 'Ways of Going Home' too - that Zambra has only one story to tell, that of young love, and knowing this limitation, his work is in essence an exercise in never really telling that story.
Sep 10, 2015 Arzu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roman
zambra bu konsantre romanında, hiç de rahatsız etmeden perec'i anımsattı bana..
perec'i seven, bu kitabı da sever bence..
 Sophia B
4.5 Delicate, simple and nearly perfect. A great debut. Love the structure and the prose. Beautiful story that resonates with me. Zambra never lets you down. Do read it!
Mar 04, 2017 Vyzantia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, brace-2017
Εξαιρετικός ρυθμός, θαυμάσια, καλογραμμένη ατμόσφαιρα. Το απόλαυσα.
Jan 09, 2017 Angie rated it it was ok
It was ok... así tal cual.
No sé qué pensar de este libro. Quise leerlo porque vi una reseña que me llamó la atención, a la chica no le gustaba y decía sus "por qué", luego un amigo me comentó que no estaba tan mal y quise leerlo, pero sinceramente no sé qué me esperaba.
Creo que el libro estuvo bien, pero no me entregó nada. Es todo tan trivial y poco definido, el lector debe adivinar aquellas historias que quedan inconclusas y que es mejor olvidar para no quedarse en blanco pensando qué podría h
Carlos Bennett
Sep 27, 2012 Carlos Bennett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No se si esto alcanza a calificar como novella. Más bien, yo diria directamente que es simplemente un cuento. Leerlo toma cerca de media hora.

"Bonsai" cuenta de manera algo disgregada algunos acontecimientos en las vida de dos jovenes chilenos, durante los estudios de literatura en la universidad y un poco después. La mayor parte transcurre en Santiago, unas pocas partes en Madrid. Desde el primer parrafo del libro nos cuentan que la mujer, Emilia, morirá joven, y que ahí se acaba la historia.

A book about a book, ultimately unconvincing.

When Cervantes wrote Don Quijote, one of his aims was to attack a certain kind of literature of his day. He plotted the story with a character that reads too much, becomes crazy, and subsequently imagines he is part of one of these books himself. Don Quijote is in a sense a book about books. Jumping several centuries ahead, modern Latin American writers are obsessed with the thematic of writers within their novels, with variable outcomes. The big succ
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • How I Became a Nun
  • Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico
  • Amulet
  • Beauty Salon
  • The Museum of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel)
  • El sur
  • Antipoems: How to Look Better and Feel Great
  • My Tender Matador
  • Senselessness
  • The Pathseeker
  • Altazor, Or, a Voyage in a Parachute: Poem in VII Cantos (1919)
  • Lands of Memory
Alejandro Zambra is a Chilean writer. He is the author of Bonsai, The Private Lives of Trees, Ways of Going Home, My Documents and Multiple Choice. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, Harper's, Zoetrope, and McSweeney’s, among other places.
More about Alejandro Zambra...

Share This Book

“What's the purpose of being with someone if they don't change your life? She said that, and Julio was present when she said it: that life only had purpose if you found someone who changed it, who destroyed your life.” 39 likes
“¿Qué sentido tiene estar con alguien si no te cambia la vida?
(...) la vida sólo tenía sentido si encontrabas a alguien que te la cambiara, que destruyera tu vida.”
More quotes…