Daniel Blaustein On:
Thank You by Alejandro Zambra
Literature is a constant presence in Zambra’s work. As is love: love with all its wounds, uncertainty and elusiveness.
The protagonists of Thank You, called ‘the Chilean and the Argentinian’, are writers too. Maybe because it takes place in Mexico City, because both are writers “who do anything but write”, because strange things happen to them and they console themselves with alcohol, because the Chilean has long, “seventies-style” hair or because they both suffer from an impossible to conceal melancholy, the Chilean and the Argentinian are reminiscent – to some extent – of other young, fictitious writers: Bolaño’s visceral realists.
Thank you is, among other things, the story of a kidnapping, but the narrator’s tone is tragi-comic. It is impossible to tell whether following the kidnapping the Chilean and the Argentinian will end up accepting what they can’t – or don’t want to – accept. If Zambra’s story had a soundtrack, it would include John Lennon’s best song: Whatever gets you thru the night. And if it were preceded by an epigraph (which Zambra’s story really doesn’t need) it would quote some verses that Borges regretted publishing (but not writing): “It is love with its mythologies, its small, useless magic”.
There is an amazing scene in the story in which the kidnappers and their victims start to argue about football, particularly Messi. I don’t think this is incidental. Where would Messi be without the ball, or the ball were it not caressed by Messi’s foot? If they could talk (the ball, but Messi too!), I have no doubt that they would say ‘thank you’ to each other.