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Longlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature
A dreamlike evocation of a generation that grew up in the shadow of a dictatorship in 1980s Chile
Space Invaders is the story of a group of childhood friends who, in adulthood, are preoccupied by uneasy memories and visions of their classmate Estrella González Jepsen. In their dreams, they catch glimpses of Estrella’s braids, hear echoes of her voice, and read old letters that eventually, mysteriously, stopped arriving. They recall regimented school assemblies, nationalistic class performances, and a trip to the beach. Soon it becomes clear that Estrella’s father was a ranking government officer implicated in the violent crimes of the Pinochet regime, and the question of what became of her after she left school haunts her erstwhile friends. Growing up, these friends—from her pen pal, Maldonado, to her crush, Riquelme—were old enough to sense the danger and tension that surrounded them, but were powerless in the face of it. They could control only the stories they told one another and the “ghostly green bullets” they fired in the video game they played obsessively.
One of the leading Latin American writers of her generation, Nona Fernández effortlessly builds a choral and constantly shifting image of young life in the waning years of the dictatorship. In her short but intricately layered novel, she summons the collective memory of a generation, rescuing felt truth from the oblivion of official history.
Natasha Wimmer is a translator who has worked on Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, for which she was awarded the PEN Translation prize in 2009, and The Savage Detectives. She lives in New York.
Bonnie says: I devoured this book—or maybe it is more apt to say that it devoured me, the way a dream slowly swallows you up. In a chorus of voices, a class of children grapple with their understanding of the Pinochet regime in Chile under which they grew up, their experiences constantly shifting between their fallible memories, infallible dreams, and the incomplete picture they have of their world. This surreal story turns on its axis like a spiral galaxy: mesmerizing, mysterious, and unsettling in its beauty.