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Zama

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,865 ratings  ·  264 reviews
Publicada por primera vez en 1956, Zama está considerada de manera unánime como una de las grandes novelas del siglo veinte en lengua española.
Con una escritura bella y precisa, Antonio Di Benedetto narra la existencia solitaria y suspendida de Don Diego de Zama, un funcionario de la corona española en Asunción del Paraguay que, víctima de una interminable espera, aguarda
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Paperback, 264 pages
Published September 30th 2004 by Adriana Hidalgo Editora (first published 1956)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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s.penkevich
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Jeffrey Keeten
”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
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Vit Babenco
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ar
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Edward
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Don Diego de Zama, Di Benedetto has created a truly pathetic and loathsome character. The embodiment of male weakness, Don Diego is driven by lust, insecurity and the hollow desire for status. He lacks all self-control. He is aloof, self-centred and unsympathetic. His self-deception is delusional: he is utterly convinced of his own virtuousness while consistently demonstrating the opposite. But despite all this, there is something pitiable in his behaviour, something recognisably human in his ...more
Lee Klein
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
Jim
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Christine
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
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Kate
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Justin Evans
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Richard Thompson
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
J.M. Hushour
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
...more
Subashini
A loathsome yet pitiable character who an administrator for the Spanish empire in the late eighteenth century. Even at his most repugnant (his distaste for women who are not-white, for example) Zama comes off as pitiful; in this way, intentionally or not, Di Benedetto shows the emptiness that underlies prejudice. As a clerk in service of the colonising project, the people who work for empire are presented as wretched, small beings; seen through their perspective, the smallness that they feel is ...more
Rachel Cordasco
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: in-translation
Languidly beautiful, and yet disturbing and pitiful, too. Excellent translation.
Bhaskar Thakuria
How does one review an existentialist classic? Indeed I had my mind on this one for quite a while with the foreknowledge garnered from previous experience with NYRB's publications. I had considered that this would be something of a literary treat. NYRB needs to be congratulated; with every publication of theirs they break the barriers of literary obscurity and permanence by publishing several out-of-print and less heard literary masterpieces of the past and the present. After reading Zama I am o ...more
Jennifer Croft
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Esther Allen's translation is sublime.
Jeremy
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man, so many Argentine writers seem to just naturally get how to write with this hypnotic, dream-like quality, and this is no exception.

Like Dostoyevksy's Underground Man, or Camus' Stranger, Di Benedetto's book has an uncanny, timeless quality. And just like those works, its got a hyper-specific, politically fraught premise (the grasping frustrations of a Spanish administrator stuck in a colonial backwater). Yet it uses that exactingly conceived setting to dive DEEP into the inner life of its t
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Josh Friedlander
This rubbed me the wrong way. My expectations were built up by blurbs and the intro by the impressive translator Esther Allen, who references Dostoevsky and Beckett and has made of the Spanish flowing, beautiful English. But...is this really an existential novel? There is boredom, ennui certainly, and eventually shocking violence. The titular character is a bureaucrat stranded in a remote corner of the country, angling for a transfer and in the meantime being horny and racist. The best I can say ...more
Mark
Sep 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three nearly disconnected episodes in the increasingly wretched life of Diego de Zama, a conqueror turned functionary in the Spanish colonial government. Two of the three episodes are pretty entertaining, the first set the scene well but otherwise dragged at my patience and my tolerance for zama.
Zach
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it
High praise lead me to Zama. Much deserved. But there's just something missing. Some feeling, some connection. It didn't ever catch me.
Elena Sala
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A perfect, philosophical book about the agony of waiting. One of the greatest novels written in Spanish during the twentieth century.
Arvind Radhakrishnan
An extraordinary novel.It reminded me so much of Dino Buzzati's brilliant work 'The Tartar Steppe'.Deserves a 4.5.
Mac Gushanas
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
Shejanul Islam
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Zama is one horny colonist.
Christopher McQuain
****1/2. Tantalizing opacity, prose and narrative polished and honed to a lucid, impenetrable surface (it's all there, dense and rich, no need to look "beneath"). Can't wait to see what Lucretia Martel does with this in her film adaptation.
David
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very good novel about purgatory.
Lawrence
This turned out to be a book that was not interesting when being read, but quite interesting after having been read! I owe my book group for the bit more sensitivity to Zama's art.

The book takes place in the backwaters of Spanish colonial South America. There is very little description of the environment, but it does appear dull and dreary. But then we are inside the mind of the character for whom the book is named, and this mind is not particularly exciting or interesting in itself. Zama is sel
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Ward Hammond
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: unshelved
My family and I visited my sister and her family in Columbia to celebrate the 4th of July, 2018. I love spending time with them because they enjoy good food and beverage, but beyond that we share a love of freedom, books, and ideas.

My sister gave me this book, Zama, after telling me that she thought it was a gift to her from my neice. Actually it was a gift to my brother-in-law from his son. I read the back cover and listened to her description and thought to myself that I really had better thi
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Michael Rieman
Feb 11, 2017 rated it liked it
A book that at first appears to describe the responses of a lonely man posted to a position too far from the society he seems to crave, slowly becomes a strangely internal narrative of a man growing increasingly desperate in literal and psychological ways, hoping to regain status as an official and as a man in Spanish-ruled Latin America. I was struck by passages which achieved a hallucinatory effect, possibly reflecting the internal workings of Zama's consciousness. I was unconvinced by Zama's ...more
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NYRB Classics: Zama, by Antonio di Benedetto 21 120 Nov 29, 2017 09:56AM  
Edicion Electronica? 1 7 Jul 02, 2016 12:04PM  

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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
...more

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