From the prize-winning Chilean novelist Antonio Skármeta, author of Il Postino, comes this soulful novella about a son and his estranged father
Jacques is a schoolteacher in a small Chilean village, and a French translator for the local paper. He owes his passion for the French language to his Parisian father, Pierre, who, one year before, abruptly returned to France without a word of explanation. Jacques and his mother's sense of abandonment is made more acute by their isolation in this small community where few read or think. While Jacques finds distraction in a crush on his student's older sister, his preoccupation with his father's disappearance continues to haunt him. But there is often more to a story than the torment it causes. This one is about forgiveness and second chances.
The disillusioned yet hopeful narrator of Skarmeta's (The Postman) slim and subtle novel is Jacques, a 21-year-old school teacher and literary translator based in the village of Contulmo in southern Chile. Two years after his father suddenly abandons him and his mother, Jacques befriends the miller, Cristian, who was close to his dad. When Jacques isn't spending time with his devastated mother or Cristian, he works on translations of French poems and Raymond Queneau's Zazie dans le metro, with ambitions of making a name for himself in print. Jacques takes a trip to Angol to sleep with prostitutes and bumps into his estranged father, Pierre, who now runs a movie theater and has a baby. Upon Jacques's return to Contulmo, his outspoken student Augusto Guti rrez convinces him to attend his 15th birthday party and promises to set Jacques up with his older sister on the condition that he take him along to visit the brothels the next time he goes to Angol. At the party, Jacques learns a secret about his father's baby, which inspires him to put a "plot" into action. Skarmeta treats his characters with a tender hand and, with impressive economy, balances dark humor with a sober and realistic portrait of a stagnant culture whose people are always longing for something better.