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My Documents

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,708 ratings  ·  314 reviews
Archived in a folder on award-winning author Alejandro Zambra's desktop are 11 stories of liars and ghosts, armed bandits and young lovers. Intimate, mysterious, and uncanny, these stories reveal a mind that is as undeniably singular as it is universal. Together, they constitute the debut short-story collection from Zambra, whose first novel was heralded as a “bloodletting ...more
Paperback, 241 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by McSweeney's (first published December 2013)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  2,708 ratings  ·  314 reviews

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Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Emir Never
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Mike Puma
I was a blank page, and now I am a book.

We live in the age of computers, where our thoughts and feelings are transcribed into text and, like this review, become another source of data, another heartfelt addition to our My Documents folder. My own folder is filled with reviews, college essays, photographs of my daughter, my resume and other such documents and becomes a catalogue of a human life, a digital replication of the heart and soul. Alejandro Zambra, best known for his breathless and breat
Vit Babenco
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Childhood… Adolescence… Youth… I especially liked two stories: My Documents and Memories of a Personal Computer. They seem to be autobiographical and quite sincere.
The first time I saw a computer was in 1980, when I was four or five years old. It’s not a pure memory, though—I’m probably mixing it up with other, later visits to my father’s office, on calle Agustinas. I remember my father explaining how those enormous machines worked, his black eyes fixed on mine, his perpetual cigarette in hand.
Jun 03, 2020 rated it liked it
"I am a correspondent, but I would like to know of what"
Alejandro Zambra (° 1975) is a Chilean, you cannot overlook this in this collection of short stories: repeatedly there are references to Pinochet and his dictatorship, to uncles and cousins who fled to Europe, and also to the Catholic tradition of covering up nasty things. These are not just contextual elements: if you take all the stories together, Zambra seems to give an outline of a "lost generation" in his country, grown up under the di
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My Documents is a book about memory (the first clue is the self-referencing in the title) and throughout this collection, the question keeps rising up: is Chilean author Alejandro Zambra writing mini-memoirs? Or is it fiction? Or (as I suspect) is it memoirs enhanced by fictional elements?

There are intertwining references that thread together this collection. Pinochet. The character-as-writer. The ever-present computer. Failure of communication.

In his story “Memories of a Personal Computer”, Mr
Paul Fulcher
A very well-written story collection from Alejandro Zambra, translated by the excellent Megan McDowell (https://www.meganmcdowelltranslation....)

It consists of 11 stories (or 10 and a framing story), each around twenty pages, mostly set in modern-day Chile. The typical protagonist is a 20-30 year old male, typically single or in a casual relationship, into football, literature, smoking (Zeno's Conscience is an explicit influence) and casual sex, and with only a passing interest in politics (the
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reading Zambra makes me interested in working to rebuild the ruins of my broken Spanish so that I can read this without translation. Not that the translator did an awkward job, on the contrary, the prose is so fluid and playful that I am dying to know how it reads in the original. That being said, if anyone has read this in Spanish, I would be very interested to hear your take.

I would say that all of these stories fit nicely together, the only exception, perhaps, being the last story, "Artist's
Katia N
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the best of the three books by Zambra I've read. It is a collection of short stories which are unashamedly masculine, but very moving and reflective. I loved how the reading as a part of life is always part of his stories even if in a negative way. The characters are often defined by their passion of reading or the lack of it. The books also are discussed as an integral part of the stories. More broadly in "My Documents" Zambra reflects on the generation of the "children of dictatorship" ...more
While I was reading this collection of stories I watched the movie 'Bonsai', the adaptation of Zambra's first novel. While watching the movie 'Bonsai' I was reading the stories that Zambra wrote down in 'My Documents'. A story can be read on his own. A movie can be seen as one finished story. But Zambra's work is intertwined with everything around. It absorbs everything, first of all the history of events, and remembers the past with sentences that forms stories within a framework of writing.

Callum McAllister
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know why I put off reading this for so long because it was amazing. He writes in a just-detached-enough way that it lends more vividness to the stories and the characters. Also the stories do the short story that covers the course of a whole life thing really well, which a lot of stories don’t. “My Documents,” “Memories of a Personal Computer, “I Smoked Very Well” were my faves.
t-kay chingona
May 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
if u like casually reading about rape, incest and other shitty male behaviors with no accountability this is the book for u. the only merit was the way in which the author showed how the pinochet dictatorship penetrated people's consciousness and experiences in both mundane and profound ways. ...more
May 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Huge fan of South American fiction. Huge fan of short fiction. Definitely huge fan of Alejandro Zambra.
Jay Hinman
Jun 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Having been wholly unfamiliar with 40-year-old Chilean novelist Zambra before reading an altogether positive review of this short-story collection in the NY Times, it was nice to take full advantage of modern telefony and zap this thing to my e-reader not sixty seconds after completing said review. After finding that it took a little time to ramp up, ultimately I found this collection quite goofy, and at times quite illuminative of the dark crevices of the soul, while mostly told in a funny and ...more
Tanuj Solanki
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Light Lonesomeness

first appeared in a different form in The New Indian Express

At two-hundred and forty pages, My Documents is Zambra's longest English translated work by a considerable margin; this has us conviced that Zambra is not interested in the big fat Latin American novel, which is strangely comforting.

Like his compatriot Roberto Bolano, Zambra’s protagonists are often melancholic soloists; though unlike Bolano’s savage poets, Zambra’s men don’t become vagabonds, choosing instead to move
World Literature Today
"If 'publish or perish' is an academic creed, Alejandro Zambra abides by 'polish or perish.' The eleven narratives included under an ingenious title, which alludes to whatever notion of archive one adheres to, have been published as fiction, as parts of essays or critical notes. Now organized into three sections, each with a common thread, the character studies within each tale also have a cumulative power that makes Mis documentos perhaps the best short-story collection of the last two decades. ...more
Jul 12, 2015 rated it liked it
These are good short stories and the writing is interesting and original, but as the pervading theme is solitude and the characters are kind of directionless with dead-end jobs, relationships that don't work, etc. I found them a bit depressing -- not helped by the post-modern writing that undermines their solidity even more. So good but definitely dampened my mood. ...more
Chinar Mehta
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Poignant stories that largely remind me of how fragile memories are - that we reconstruct parts of our lives depending on what suits us eventually, that we find solace in this freedom at times, even if irrational. Particularly liked the stories "Memories of a Personal Computer", "I smoked very well", and "True or False", although the others were really good too. Each story reveals to us the psyche of the character - the author is definitely very imaginative and observant of why we do what we do. ...more
Anirban Nanda
Every once in a while, you find a new writer via recommendation from a website or a friend, and rarely among those authors, you find one whose work arrest you immediately with its directness, complexity and beauty.
When you find such a writer you try to read everything by him. You find what he says in an interview, you wonder why have not you read him before.
And you start reading his novella "Bonsai" next, and then of course "Ways of Going Home".

The fragments of memories in "National Institute
Nov 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
I had already thought that this collection was solely about the lives of mediocre, boring men before getting to the rape scene in the middle, and then it was just a ruined read. What a waste of writerly talent. The grandma who makes an appearance on page 15 is the only interesting character! I guess it’s nice that gay experiences can be so offhanded and bland as to feel normal, but it’s also disappointing that not a single gay mention was interesting to me.
Dec 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Tremendous collection of short stories, funny, intense, with well-made and elastic prose. Read it!
May 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Hated the way he writes about women so much I couldn’t even finish it.
Just wonderful. I can't wait to read more Zambra. ...more
Liz Pell
Jan 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2020
My favorite story was “National Institute” in part 3. The stories compiled in this book are the perfect length for me— long enough that you could take a few nighttime reading sessions to get through one and short enough that you could read a story in one go if you wanted to. I enjoyed the writing style and the pacing of these stories.
But I didn’t like the way female characters were portrayed. To me, they often felt sexualized and traumatized, while never really being the focus of the story. The
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Zambra is neither a prose stylist, nor a constructor of ingenious plots, nor wildly imaginative fantabulist, but he is an agreeably competent storyteller. It's also interesting to read stories that take place in Chile and don't shy away from the way in which the evil, nasty legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship intrudes on ordinary life. ...more
Keerthana Jagadeesh
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
An excellent collection - the stories make themselves so delicate and real. Characters can feel like ideas floating around but that's fine - they are pursued to the very end until they open up and open out like tremendous gifts to the reader. If you could only read one of these stories, I'd suggest Artist's Rendition - reality and fiction are so devastatingly close and how each messes with the other. ...more
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Loved many of these stories and hated one*. This collection felt a lot more masculine than the other books I've read by Zambra (as I remember them), and I think that that would have put me off a lot more than it did if I wasn't familiar with his work already. This was a (mostly) lovely collection, but I wouldn't recommend starting here if you're new to this author, especially if you're queer or a woman. Ways of Going Home was a good entry point for me.

*the last one
Jaci Millette Cooper
I am more inclined to reading short stories and novellas because I feel that most lengthy novels do not earn their girth, and authors of shorter works must be economic and wise with what they reveal when they are faced with page length limitations. I am of the school of thought that repetition should generally only utilized for effect. Two long novels that I started to read last year hit me over the head by continuously announcing their character’s traits. “So-and-so is so funny, character is x ...more
Patrick Gamble
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I Finished ‘My Documents’ this morning and I’m worried I’ll never fill the hole it’s left. I’m genuinely concerned that I might have fallen in love with Alejandro Zambra...

Amongst the PR blurbs inside the cover is a quote from Nicole Krauss (The History of Love, The Great House) that perfectly sums up my sense of loss;

“I read all of Alejandro Zambra’s novels back-to-back because they were such good company. His books are like a phone call in the middle of the night from an old friend, and after
Jul 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A collection of eleven short stories it opens with the title work, “My Documents” and it reads like an autobiography;

Mass was held in the gymnasium of a convent school, Master Purissima; people always talked, though, about the church building that was in the works, and it was like they were describing a dream. It took so long to build that by the time it was finished, I no longer believed in God.

“Camilo” is a story of a godson, soccer fanaticism, living in Chile under Pinochet, family bonds, mat
Jenn Fields
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Through this collection of stories about seemingly ordinary characters in Santiago, Zambra finds beauty in the anguish, meaning in the mundane and an elemental spark of fire in even the flintiest parts of our human hearts. Full review at ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: translator credit (addition) 3 15 Sep 19, 2019 01:02PM  

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Alejandro Zambra is a Chilean writer. He is the author of Bonsai, The Private Lives of Trees, Ways of Going Home, My Documents, Multiple Choice, Not to Read and Chilean Poet. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, Harper's, Zoetrope, and McSweeney’s, among other places. ...more

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“Ayer unas personas me preguntaron cuál era, para mí, el gran problema de la literatura chilena. Ya es bastante absurdo que en una conversación de pasillo pueda darse una pregunta como esa. Las conversaciones de pasillo, por lo demás, siempre fracasan, o al menos así se me presentan la mayoría de las veces: como simples promesas de dispersión. Pero respondí, con seguridad, que el problema de la literatura chilena era la costumbre de escribir cigarrillo en lugar de cigarro. En Chile nadie dice cigarrillo, decimos cigarro, argumenté, como golpeando una mesa imaginaria, pero los escritores chilenos escriben cigarrillo, y al final agregué esta frase absolutamente demagógica: Yo soy de los que escriben cigarro.” 5 likes
“un escritor es alguien que escribe, bien o mal pero escribe, poco o mucho pero escribe, así como un asesino es alguien que mata, a uno o a varios, a un desconocido o a su padre, pero mata.” 4 likes
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