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


4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,452 ratings  ·  191 reviews
First published in 1956, Zama is now universally recognized as one of the masterpieces of modern Argentinean and Spanish-language literature.

Written in a style that is both precise and sumptuous, Zama takes place in the last decade of the eighteenth century and describes the solitary, suspended existence of Don Diego de Zama, a highly placed servant of the Spanish crown wh
Paperback, 198 pages
Published August 26th 2016 by NYRB Classics (first published 1956)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Zama, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Zama

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,452 ratings  ·  191 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: You there!
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Roberto Bolaño
Something more is always expected.

To the victim of expectations,’ begins Antonio Di Benedetto’s Zama in its epigraph. The Argentine masterpiece, first published in 1956 and, in 2016, made available in an exacting English translation by Esther Allen that retains the precise and often surrealistic prose, is a novel of surmounting frustration and failed expectations of a man caged by his social status and position. The theme of restlessly remaining static functions equally as an existential and so
Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
”The fact is, it seems, that the most you can hope is to be a little less, in the end, the creature you were in the beginning, and the middle.” Samuel Beckett from Molloy, quoted from the intro by Esther Allen.

Don Diego de Zama is going mad.

Paranoia is a cloak that he swings around his shoulders like a beast of burden. It weighs him down and leaves cracks in his mind for depression, dementia, and hopelessness to grow roots. He has been sent to this far flung outpost in Asunción. He assures us i
Vit Babenco
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In a way Zama is an inverse of The Castle by Franz Kafka – the protagonist is inside and he desperately strives to get out.
Doctor Don Diego de Zama!… The forceful executive, the pacifier of Indians, the warrior who rendered justice without recourse to the sword. Zama, who put down the native rebellion without wasting a drop of Spanish blood, winning honors from his monarch and the respect of the conquered.

But all this is just hot air... vainglorious daydreams.
Three parts of the novel are th
Sep 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Deserves a place at the table with Julian Gracq's masterpieces of waiting for something to arrive (The Opposing Shore [1951] and A Balcony in the Forest [1958]), as well as Dino Buzzati's The Tartar Steppe [1940], another really worthwhile novel of anticipatory anxiety, all of which seem like Cold War fever dreams ("The Tartar Steppe" was ahead of its time -- really should have been published a decade later). This one is dedicated to victims of expectation: "expectation" suggests hope but also p ...more
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto is one of those unknown books from South America that makes one wonder whether the United States took a wrong turn by being so Eurocentric. From the southern cone of that wild, but strangely civilized, continent, life has au unfamiliar look -- probably because the path traveled through history was so different.

The main character is one Don Diego de Zama, a minor criollo official in Asuncion, Paraguay, far removed from his family down river in Buenos Aires. Zama is a
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Empecemos por lo fácil. La novela tiene una prosa extraordinaria, original, que me ha sorprendido primero y seducido completamente después. Tardé algo, no mucho, en acompasarme a su ritmo, en acostumbrarme a su estructura de frases y párrafos, en disipar mi confusión al atacar ese texto que, narrado en primera persona, parecía un diario donde los acontecimientos se iban superponiendo unos a otros sin ligazón aparente, escenas sueltas, algunas pequeños relatos en sí mismos, que poco a poco me iba ...more
Makis Dionis
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maté
Σαμα, ο πρωταγωνιστής ενός καθόλα λατινοαμερικάνικου έργου
Αλληγορικός κ μεταφορικός, ουσιαστικά εξυμνεί την προσμονή κ αναδεικνύει τις αντιφάσεις τις, με κορυφαία την τελευταία σκηνή όπου δίνεται η δυνατότητα στον ίδιο να επιλέξει να ζήσει υπό όρους.
For lack of a better term, I think you could call this South American historical Noir. Di Benedetto's wring is great, wonderful, powerful. He does things with sentences that make my knees weak.

So why three stars?

Because like Celine, this book has a narrator who I think should get hit by a bus; however, buses weren't around when the book takes place. I'm glad I read. I will most likely track down other books, but I was wishing for a bus. (Strangely, though the ending was great).

(2016 NYRB Book Cl
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Esta novela trata sobre la vida de Diego de Zama, un asesor letrado de la Gobernación en Paraguay y uno de los personajes más miserables que leí en mi vida.

Rencor, venganza, crueldad, engaño, cobardía, miseria, fiereza ,traición, abuso de poder, marginalidad, son algunos de sus temas.

La historia en sí es interesante, aunque por momentos decae, siempre te mantiene interesado. Está narrada en primera persona y organizada en tres partes que ocurren en 1790 , 1794 y 1799. La primera y la tercera f
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is an English translation of a classic masterpiece of Argentinian and Spanish literature. It is the interior monologue of a servant of the Court of Spain that is placed in 1790 in a small and isolated outpost of Ascuncion the capital of Paraguay. Don Diego di Zama is an Americano as is his wife Marta, of mixed blood, but through his ambitions has risen in rank but will always be viewed slightly less than the 'white' Spanish families that have the ear of the Governor and through him of the K ...more
Nancy Oakes
between a 4 and a 5, rounded to a 5. Now I'm wondering what other hidden gems are waiting for me, unread, on my shelves. Before I post about it though, I'm giving part two of this book another read. Hallucinatory stories generally require a second go round for me.
James Murphy
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Diego de Zama is a midlevel bureaucrat stationed in Paraguay at the end of the 18th century. He wants to return to Buenos Aires and his family and the more congenial life of the larger community. His service in Ascuncion was supposed to be a short one, but during the course of the novel he waits 9 years. Like a Beckett character, he waits in increasing alienation and fear and expectation while becoming more and more adrift. The novel's 3 parts track his progress from simple loneliness and love a ...more
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hace mucho no leía algo que me conmoviera tanto. Con Paraguay de fondo y Di Benedetto con su escritura seca, punzante, precisa: urgente. El libro se lee esperando barcos que no llegan, nombramientos, sueldos que no se pagan, mujeres hermosas que no se dejan amar; esperando que nos nazcan unas ganas de vivir o de embarcarnos y cruzar el territorio que nos separa de una revelación.

Zama es la historia de un señor al que le gusta quedarse a la deriva, que espera que lo vayan a sacar de su ensimisma
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ajualatinos
Una historia de como se puede pasar una vida en la espera. Me encanta la dedicatoria de este libro: "para las víctimas de la espera".
Zama pasa la vida esperando a que lo transfieran cerca de su familia. La familia es un fantasma para el, el hogar, representa lo que más desea. Pero también se quiere enamorar y hace varios intentos que no llegan a nada. Creo que no era el libro indicado para empezar a leer a benedetto, pero me encantó igual.
Justin Evans
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Solid--I suspect it loses something in translation, through no fault of the excellent Esther Allen, but just because I imagine Benedetto using all kinds of archaic, 18th century Hispanisms (did I make that word up?) I'm surprised by my enjoyment, actually. The first third is about Don Diego's bursting penis and its fight with his equally bursting self-importance, and it took a bit too much effort to convince myself that we're meant to read all that ironically. The middle third has some unfortuna ...more
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Erg knappe roman over een cynische, wellustige, paranoïde en overambitieuze dienaar van de Spaanse kroon in het Paraguay van 1790. De sfeerschepping is grandioos, de dialogen van een energieke levendigheid, de personages bijzonder geloofwaardig, van vlees en bloed. Diego de Zama is misschien wel een van de minst sympathieke hoofdrolspelers uit de wereldliteratuur, maar tegelijk neemt hij je meteen en zonder pardon voor zich in. Dat komt simpelweg omdat di Benedetto een meesterverteller is. Probe ...more
Richard Thompson
Zama is a fascinating character. To the bitter end he is filled with expectations that can never be realized. He is a terrible bureaucrat caught in a Kafkaesque bureaucracy and a would-be Casanova filled with delusions about his power over women, who seem to dominate him instead. He tries to be duplicitous, but always with disastrous results. He seeks final vindication as a military hero, where he fails even more abjectly than in his other endeavors. He is Akaky Akakievich with a higher reach, b ...more
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Algunos libros llegan por algo en el momento justo, creo que para mi éste fue el caso de Zama. Lo tenía hace rato en lista de espera y de la nada, decidí dejar otro a medias para leerlo. Ya desde el primer párrafo me pareció algo maravilloso, un sutil decir sin decir que se va tejiendo poco a poco. Una densidad que te transmite con pequeños detalles, las emociones de injusticia, renuncia, miseria y doblegar del espíritu que va profundizándose con cada nuevo evento que Diego Zama debe sobrellevar ...more
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maravilloso descubrimiento.
Belén Acosta
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
« Me pregunté, no por qué vivía, sino por qué había vivido. Supuse que por la espera y quise saber si aún esperaba algo. Me pareció que si. Siempre se espera más »
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Al empezar la novela y leer que se sitúa en el año 1790 me esperé un bodrio, de esos que decís "uh, otro lugar común más" pero me voló el coco (muy en cursiva).
Como bien dicen en todos lados, la historia trata sobre la espera, pero no cualquier espera, sino de una en la ausencia, casi amnésica, que atraviesa a Diego de Zama. Suspendido en el silencio de sus pensamientos, Zama existe para el futuro pero se encuentra devorado por el presente. Aunque se traslade el territorio va consigo. El dinero
Julio César
Jun 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una novela rara. Creo que no termino de entenderla. Magníficamente escrita, como en el siglo XIX. No esperaba que la narración estuviera ubicada en la década de 1790, pero me descubrió un mundo nuevo. Inquietante, me deja ganas de buscar cómo se leyó.
J.M. Hushour
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"America existed for no one if not for me, but it existed only in my needs, my desires, and my fears."

If you're looking for it, Di Benedetto is probably the most natural heir to Dostoevsky, so if you like Heavy D you'll probably dig this descent into the abyss of unfulfilled and pointless expectation even more. It is sparse and much more spiritually displaced than Dosty, actually, he delved willy-nilly into his own time. Di B refracts the torment of existence and ambition to a more playful and f
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
کتاب عالی بود. کاش کسی پیدا میشد و از اسپانیایی ترجمهاش میکرد. البته بدون این که در ارشاد مثله بشه. کسی دربارهی نثر دی بندتو گفته بود «با جملاتش کاری میکند که زانوانم سست میشوند.»
Santiago de la Iglesia
The last chapter of this book is one of the best final chapters Ive ever read. ...more
Rachel Cordasco
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-translation
Languidly beautiful, and yet disturbing and pitiful, too. Excellent translation.
Claudia Glezz Cisneros
Zama es la historia de un señor al que le gusta quedarse a la deriva, que espera que lo vengan a sacar de su ensimismamiento y su podredumbre (eso no pasa casi nunca o sí? A no ser que uno sea Telémaco) y adoptemos ese mimetismo que como él dice es la defensa de las bestias.
Zama se volvería polvo o nube o cadáver de mono o tardecita en el patio hasta desaparecer mientras se revuelve en el horror del absurdo y de las ganas de no ocuparse de nada y echarse a morir y descansar para siempre el acoge
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Αν δεν είχε γυρίσει η Lucrecia Martel την ομότιτλη ταινία, πιθανότητα δε θα ανακάλυπτα ποτέ το συγγραφέα και το δεύτερο βιβλίο του, το οποίο στον ισπανόφωνο κόσμο θεωρείται πλέον ένα από τα αριστουργήματα της λογοτεχνίας του 20 αιώνα. Η αγγλική έκδοση έχει έναν εκτενή και κατατοπιστικότατο πρόλογο της μεταφράστριας για τη ζωή και το έργο του Αργεντίνου συγγραφέα και όλη τη σχεδόν μεταφυσική σχέση του με τον Ντοστογιεφσκι, ο οποίος είναι η βασική επιρροή, αλλά όχι η μόνη, σε αυτό το αποκαλυπτικό ...more
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bezčasie a čakanie, dlhé, lepkavé, špinavé, krvavé, surové, rozkladajúce. Ako to vyzerá, keď stratíte seba samého počas čakania na niečo lepšie, čo zaručene musí prísť vzhľadom k "zásluhám"?
Dychberúci Benedetto!
Jennifer Croft
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Esther Allen's translation is sublime.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
NYRB Classics: Zama, by Antonio di Benedetto 21 117 Nov 29, 2017 09:56AM  
Edicion Electronica? 1 5 Jul 02, 2016 12:04PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Sixty-Five Years of Washington
  • Los siete locos (Los siete locos, #1)
  • The Absent City
  • Adán Buenosayres
  • Los pichiciegos
  • An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter
  • Thus Were Their Faces
  • Don Segundo Sombra
  • Asleep in the Sun
  • El pasado
  • Betrayed by Rita Hayworth
  • Hipotermia
  • El asco: Thomas Bernhard en San Salvador
  • El espíritu de mis padres sigue subiendo en la lluvia
See similar books…
Antonio di Benedetto, (born 2 November 1922 in Mendoza – died on 10 October 1986 in Buenos Aires), was an Argentine journalist and writer.

Di Benedetto began writing and publishing stories in his teens, inspired by the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Luigi Pirandello. Mundo Animal, appearing in 1952, was his first story collection and won prestigious awards. A revised version came out in 1971, but t
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Comenzaba la tarde, pero tanto mal me había dado aquel día que me espantaba continuarlo. Sin embargo, no se puede renunciar a vivir medio día: o el resto de la eternidad o nada.” 2 likes
“I understood that she was more candor & despair than woman. She had refused to be flesh & triumphed. She was freer than I.” 2 likes
More quotes…