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Behind Closed Doors: Chilean Stories of Domestic Life

April 2019

Image: Marcela Trujillo, FamilienKern, acrylic on canvas, 48 X 48 in, 2008. By arrangement with the artist.

This month, six writers from Chile show us why that country, famed as a land of poets, is also a land of exceptional prose writers. In Alejandro Zambra’s short lyric piece, a bedsheet is a canvas and a record of family history, while Alia Trabucco Zerán brings us a tale of class conflict, connection, and human cruelty. In a piece by Nona Fernandez, a young woman discovers a physical deformity that provokes a reflection on the stories our scars tell of us. Bruno Lloret tells a tale of a wife battling terminal cancer and loneliness while her husband is out to sea. Boyhood friends reunite in Eduardo Plaza’s short story, sparking a trip through the narrator’s memory that leads to a forgotten—and harrowing—episode, while Catalina Mena’s manifesto dismantles notions of hearth and home. Guest editor Lina Meruane contributes an introduction.

Behind Closed Doors: Outing the New Chilean Narrative
By Lina Meruane
Contrary to the epic, totalizing, and politically engaged narratives of the Latin American Boom, the scope of the stories here is narrow, intimate, more local than ever before.
Story of a Sheet
By Alejandro Zambra
Days before my dad set the house on fire, there was a sheet drying bit by bit.
Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell
A pill casting a long shadow
Photo by Alexander Van Steenberge
A Bitter Pill
By Alia Trabucco Zerán
I would have ironed my own hands had I not needed them to iron.
Translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes
By Eduardo Plaza
It was impossible to talk to a dead man, so I talked to her instead.
Translated from Spanish by Rahul Bery
The Head of Household Manifesto
By Catalina Mena
The hearth is a fire that’s always being extinguished.
Translated from Spanish by Susannah Greenblatt
My Name’s Nancy
By Bruno Lloret
When did you agree to live like a widow before your time?
Translated from Spanish by Ellen Jones
Chilean Electric
By Nona Fernández
Nobody couldn’t have a belly button.
Translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer