The Remainder


“Every now and then a book makes my fingers itch to translate it from the very first pages,” says Sophie Hughes. This is one of those books; her translation of Alia Trabucco Zerán’s The Remainder.

Zerán’s generation are the children of Pinochet’s military dictatorship; sons and daughters of soldiers and resistance fighters. Iquela, Felipe, and Paloma can’t escape the shadows which their parents’ lives cast over their own:


Iquela is weighed down by her mother’s memories. By naming his dog after Pinochet, is Felipe mocking the past because he’s over it?


These two narrators, the dutiful, resentful daughter and the crazy gay boy who sees dead bodies everywhere, propel us forward. Paloma joins them, flying in from Berlin:  her mother, Ingrid, was friends with Iquela’s mother, and now Ingrid is coming home from exile. In a coffin, to be buried in Santiago as was her dying wish.

Except history is repeating itself. They can’t get to the body. The coffin isn’t allowed through customs, and ends up on the other side of the Andes in Mendoza.

There’s only one way to escape and solve the problem in one stroke. A road trip.


And so the wild rumpus starts.

This isn’t a book for the faint-hearted; every word is echoed by multiple meanings it could, might, should have had. I’ve made the story a lot more linear than it really is. Felipe’s chapters in particular are both exhilarating and exhausting. But it’s a ride you won’t forget.

The Remainder goes on sale next week.

Translator, editor, writer, reader

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Posted in books, history, literature, translation

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