Just read Alejandro Zambra’s “Camilo” in The New Yorker.
Wonderful story. In some ways it doesn’t seem to have much of a narrative structure; it’s episodic, and reads like a compressed memoir. You’d think that would rob the story of its urgency, but the voice is so strong, and the writing so compact and honest, that it feels perfect. The story doesn’t feel compressed in the way that a Saunders story feels compressed — you don’t feel as if you’re hurtling down a cliff with Zambra — but it’s amazing how much emotional range he builds in the narrator’s and Camilo’s character in such a short story, without any distinctive plot thread to pull it all together.
I’ve never read anything else from Zambra before. Found out that he’s written three novels, all of them very very short (two under a hundred pages). It makes sense. It makes me wonder how long “Camilo” was when he finished the first draft, how long his novels were, before he started editing them. Does he imagine the story so compact, or is it a great effort to strip away everything that isn’t needed?