Bonsaï by Alejandro Zambra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


What does a resonating journal do? Arrest us in the powerful aura of words? Dispatch us to the comforting cocoon of our memories? Render a blanket of dignity to our failures? Exhort our fledgling dreams to a palpable fruition? Cast a succor net on our isolated struggles? Attest our timidity as a prelude to stronger days?

For me, it’s essentially about reading about a distant ‘me’, the identity of this ‘me’ to be an inhabitant of past corridors or a tenant of future roads being inconsequential. As long as I detect a shade of me in the journal’s evocation, I am obsessed to read till the last drop of ink has faded. And Zambra doesn’t do anything much, besides telling me a story about Julio, who could well be sitting across me in this cafe and reciting the content, verbatim.

A failed love story: Check.
Days without purpose: Check.
Happening life, feigned: Check.
Gaining foothold, tediously: Check.
Random loss of heart, again: Check.
Breaking of heart, again: Check.
More days without purpose: Check.
Unexpected ray of light: Check.
Ray of light, extinguished: Check.
Isolation, volunteered: Check.
Finding purpose, fortuitously: Check.
Uncommon, unconventional purpose: Check.
Purpose, uniting all other purposes: Check.

It is wonderful when a long, dark night is followed by the resuscitating ray of the morning sun. In its blinding fold, the venomous dew of defeats evaporate leaving behind the nurturing air for the bonsai of new hopes which sitting on the window sill, eyes the world coyly, with its delicate twigs of past learnings and present resolves fluttering to amalgamate in honor of its sturdy future.

When Zambra tells me that Julio found purpose in a bonsai after surviving inundating personal and professional hurricanes of losses and cessations, I nod my head in concurrence, for I know that the bonsai is , after all, a cojugal twin of heart: miniature, artistic, has two components (the living tree, akin to blood and the container, akin to the blood vessels) and needs no external flanks to be alive. As he says:

A bonsai is never called a bonsai tree. The word already includes the living element. Once outside its flowerpot, the tree ceases to be a bonsai.

Is it an irony that when I begun writing this review, the cafe was playing this track and now, I am hearing this track ? Not really. There is a smiling bonsai somewhere tucked in the corner here, perhaps.

[Oh I also loved this novel for a chapter when Julio and his girl, Emilia discuss Proust, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Nabokov and host of literary luminaries before making love! What a high then! ;)]

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