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128 pages, Paperback
First published December 1, 2014
“You’ll do well on the test, very well, don’t worry—you weren’t educated, you were trained.”Alejandro Zambra takes a contemporary form of evaluation as a model: the "Prueba de Selección Universitaria" (PSU), introduced in Chile in 1967. The structure of the book follows, so the preliminary remark of the author, the entrance examination for university, as it was valid until 1994. A multiple-choice test with 90 questions, divided into five sections, which query the reading comprehension of high school graduates with increasing difficulty.
Students go to university to (study), not to (think). And if they have any (hope) left, that’s what (reality is) for.All the factors that influence a life: That's what this book is about. The absurdity of a stupid entrance test that turns a good student into a religious education teacher struggling with God, and out of the clever Covarrubias twins Luis and Antonio, who cheat in the exam, successful lawyers. This absurdity is also the absurdity of Chile under Pinochet. Zambra was born in 1975, two years after the US-backed military coup. Pinochet's Chile got on well with Catholic hardliners. Chile was a country where, as Zambra described in one of the short stories, there was no legal option until 2004 to get a divorce, which is why they had to have their marriage annulled instead by providing evidence that that you never lived together.
Children of mine who will be present at my funeral: sixMy favourite portion of the book were the sentence elimination and reading comprehension at the end. The three short stories that Zambra wrote were highly intriguing and engaging, and actually make me wanna pick up more of his work.
Children of mine who will spit on my grave: one.
Children of mine who have children: zero.