The Book Beat reading group selection for April is Zama by Antonio di Benedetto. The Reading Group will meet on Wednesday, April 26th at 7pm at the Goldfish Tea Room (117 W 4th St #101, Royal Oak, MI 48067). Reading Group selections are discounted 15% at Book Beat. Attendance is free and open to the public. For more information, please call (248) 968-1190. All are welcome!
First published in 1956, Zama is now universally recognized as one of the masterpieces of modern Argentinean and Spanish-language literature.
Written in a style that is both precise and sumptuous, 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. Eaten up by pride, lust, petty grudges, and paranoid fantasies, Don Diego does as little as he possibly can while plotting an 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’s stark, dreamlike prose and spare imagery make every word appear to emerge from an ocean of things left unsaid.
Zama remains the most attractive of Di Benedetto’s books, if only because of the crazy energy of Zama himself, which is vividly conveyed in Esther Allen’s excellent translation.
—J. M Coetzee, The New York Review of Books
An ardent fan of Dostoyevsky, Di Benedetto is given to portraying states of extremity—of obsession, delusion, wild aggression—but without any nineteenth-century rhetorical overheating…Zama has been described as a work of existentialist fiction, and its protagonist, alone with a troubled mind, is as much an ambassador from the twentieth century as a Baroque-era bureaucrat. As with novels by Kafka, Camus, Sartre, and Beckett, the story’s preoccupation is the tension between human freedom and constraining circumstance…The belated arrival of Zama in the United States raises an admittedly hyperbolic question: Can it be that the Great American Novel was written by an Argentinean? It’s hard, anyway, to think of a superior novel about the bloody life of the frontier.
—Benjamin Kunkel, The New Yorker
Antonio di Benedetto (1922–1986) was an Argentine journalist and author of five novels, of which Zama is the most well known. His first book, the story collection Mundo Animal (1952), appeared in English translation in 1997 as Animal World.