Multiple Choice – Alejandro Zambra (translated by Megan McDowell)

This novel is _______?
a) Experimental fiction
b) Non fiction
c) Autobiography
d) Fiction
e) All of the above

The latest work from Alejandro Zambra is structured on ________?
a) The Chilean Academic Aptitude Test
b) Which was in place between 1967 and 2003
c) The need to pass this test to enter University
d) The Verbal Aptitude test that Zambra took in 1993
e) All of the above

The work is constructed into five sections. Which is your favourite?
a) Excluded Term
b) Sentence Order
c) Sentence Completion
d) Sentence Elimination
e) Reading Comprehension

When I quote actual questions how will you tell them apart from the ones I am writing in my review?
a) I will put the text in bold
b) I will put the text in italics
c) I will not differentiate the quotes from my questions in any way
d) I will highlight them in both bold and italics
e) All of the above

Megan McDowell has translated the following books by Alejandro Zambra
a) My Documents
b) The Private Lives of Trees
c) Ways of Going Home
d) Multiple Choice
e) All of the above

Excluded Term – eliminate the answer that has no relation to the other answers or the heading
a) Omitted Word
b) Barred Definition
c) Excepted Expression
d) Disqualified Phrase
e) Inclusive Idiom

Sentence Order – put the sentences in the best possible order for a coherent text
1) By putting sentences into different orders you can change the end meaning
2) Zambra creates flash fiction in five short sentences
3) I can imagine the translation by Megan McDowell would have been difficult
4) Some flash fiction wouldn’t make sense if it is ordered in a certain manner
5) If you create double negatives does that not confuse the reader?

a) 1-4-5-2-3
b) 2-3-4-1-5
c) 2-3-1-4-5
d) 1-2-3-4-5
e) 5-4-1-3-2

Sentence completion – mark the answer with the words that best fit the sentence
37. _____________________ the thousand amendments they’ve made to it, the Chilean Constitution of 1980 is a piece of shit.
a) After 
b) Due to
c) In spite of
d) Thanks to
e) Notwithstanding

Sentence Elimination – eliminate sentences that do not add information or are irrelevant
1) A curfew is a regulation prohibiting free circulation in public within a determined area.
2) It tends to be decreed in times of war or popular uprising.
3) The dictatorship imposed one in Santiago, Chile, from September 11, 1973, until January 2, 1987.
4) One summer evening my father went out walking with no destination in mind. It grew late, and he had to sleep at a friend’s house.
5) They made love, she got pregnant, I was born.

a) None
b) 5
c) 1, 2, and 3
d) 4 and 5
e) 2

The final section presents three short stories, followed by questions based on the story’s content. After recently reading Zambra’s “My Documents” these three texts immediately brought back to mind his pristine observations of Chilean society, the struggles of the locals and all presented with wry humour. The earlier sections of this book show Zambra’s expert control over language and the form it can take, structures forming the narrative and the emotional response from the reader is based upon how they add, or delete, or order their own personal journey through the myriad of possible answers. The three short stories combine identical twins who manipulate the education system and become lawyers in a corrupt Chile, how to cheat on aptitude tests, an emotional plea from a father who has abandoned his child (reminiscent of Andrés Neumann’s “Talking to Ourselves”, translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia) and a story of a doomed marriage of convenience.  When you enter the world of Zambra’s “comprehension” test you are quizzed about your association to the characters, a possible title, your reactions, in all a unique way to approach the short story form.

Given this is a very very short read indeed, and although running to 100 pages the question and answer format, 90 questions, leaves a lot of spare space on the page, and the asking price of US$15.00 is probably a bit rich, given you will knock it over in an hour or two (at most). Short book, short review. Having said that it is an enjoyable format, one that highlights prejudices that you bring to the reading world, another unique experience from someone who is fast becoming one of my favourite Chilean writers.

Was the format of this review….?
a) Patronising
b) Formulaic
c) Predictable
d) Unique
e) Pathetic

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