An NYRB Classics Original First published in 1956, Zama is now universally recognized as one of the masterpieces of modern Argentine and Spanish-language literature. Written in a style that is both precise and sumptuous, weirdly archaic and powerfully novel, Zama takes place in the last decade of the eighteenth century and describes the solitary, suspended existence of Don Diego de Zama, a highly placed servant of the Spanish crown who has been posted to Asunción, the capital of remote Paraguay. There, eaten up by pride, lust, petty grudges, and paranoid fantasies, he does as little as he possibly can while plotting his eventual transfer to Buenos Aires, where everything about his hopeless existence will, he is confident, be miraculously transformed and made good. Don Diego's slow, nightmarish slide into the abyss is not just a tale of one man's perdition but an exploration of existential, and very American, loneliness. Zama, with its stark dreamlike prose and spare imagery, is at once dense and unforeseen, terse and fateful, marked throughout by a haunting movement between sentences, paragraphs, and sections, so that every word seems to emerge from an ocean of things left unsaid. The philosophical depths of this great book spring directly from its dazzling prose.
"[Di Benedetto] has written essential pages that have moved me and that continue to move me." --Jorge Luis Borges "Di Benedetto is the rare novelist who doesn't seek to reconstruct the past to prove a point. He lives the past, and exposes us to experiences and forms of behavior that retain all their weirdness." --Julio Cortazar "Scattered in various corners of Latin America and Spain, ["Zama"] had a few, fervent readers, almost all of them friends or unwarranted enemies.... [It is written with] the steady pulse of a neurosurgeon." --Roberto Bolano, from his story "Sensini" "["Zama"] has the beauty and force of a classic, but also the attributes of an overlooked masterpiece.... I think that "Zama" should be translated into English simply because so many English-speaking readers and authors haven't read one of the best novels of the 20th century. Good books are unique and need no justification." --Sergio Chejfec, "The Quarterly Conversation" "Widely regarded as an existential masterpiece and one of the great novels of the Spanish language, "Zama" is Antonio di Benedetto's most famous--and, arguably, his best--work. It is, therefore, hard to explain why this novel, first published in 1956, has never been translated into English and, more broadly, why this author--who occupies an important place in Argentina's narrative tradition--is not more well known in the English-speaking world. All the more so because the historical and stylistic incisiveness of Di Benedetto's writing make "Zama" a timeless achievement, as readable today as when it first came off the presses half a century ago." --"The Latin American Review of Books" ""[Zama"] is comparable to the great existentialist novels such as "La Nausee" and "L'etranger," but I believe that, given the circumstances in which it was written and the peculiar situation of the person who wrote it, "Zama" is in many ways superior to those books." --Juan Jose Saer "The structured
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