Dead Stars by Álvaro Bisama

Translated by Megan McDowell, with a foreword by Alejandro Zambra

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Now available! An unnamed couple sits in a café, waiting for the city offices to open so they can finalize their divorce papers. The wife opens the local newspaper to a shocking photo of a classmate from her university days being taken into custody by the police. In an engrossing ebb and flow of facts, recollections, and conjecture, the couple spend the rest of the day trying to figure out how this former acquaintance—and, like her, the couple themselves, along with an entire generation of Chileans—could have reached this dead end almost unconsciously. Álvaro Bisama’s award-winning novel Dead Stars is a story-within-a-story set against the backdrop of Chile’s transition to democracy after decades under the Pinochet dictatorship, filled with characters desperately searching for a way to escape their past, their present, their future: a small-town metalhead; left-wing revolutionaries without a new cause; a brotherhood of cough syrup addicts; punks, prostitutes, and thieves. Through them, Bisama’s tragic novel explores how our choices, the people we know, the places we pass through, and the events of our lives exert an unsuspected influence long after their light has gone out and they have faded from our memory.

A hypnotic, unrelenting text, constructed from short, quick phrases, like the drums to a hardcore song.
- El Mercurio

About the Author

Álvaro Bisama (Valparaíso, Chile, 1975) is a writer, cultural critic, and professor. In 2007, he was selected as one of the 39 best Latin American authors under the age of 39 at the Hay Festival in Bogota. Estrellas muertas (Dead Stars), his third novel, won the 2011 Santiago Municipal Prize for Literature and the 2011 Premio Academia, given out by the Chilean Academy of Language for the best book of 2010. His most recent novel, Ruido (Noise), was published in 2013.

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While Bolaño narrated the blackout during the first years of the Pinochet regime in Distant Star, Dead Stars describes an equally dark outlook in the years of transition. If the former tried to answer the question, ‘Where were you during the coup?’, the latter asks instead, ‘Where were you when Kurt Cobain died?’
- Marcelo Soto, Revista Capital

About the Translator

Megan McDowell is a literary translator from Richmond, Kentucky. Her translations have appeared in Words Without Borders, Mandorla, LARB, McSweeney’s, Vice, and Granta, among others. She has translated books by Alejandro Zambra, Arturo Fontaine, Carlos Busqued, and Juan Emar. She is also a Managing Editor of Asymptote journal. She lives in Zurich, Switzerland.

The brevity of Bisama’s novel is matched by the precision of his language, just the right words in a love story irreversibly doomed to failure.
- Tito Matamala, El Sur de Concepción

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