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.
About the Author
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.
“Nona Fernández's Space Invaders, translated into English by the masterful Natasha Wimmer and nominated for a National Book Award, is as addictive as its video game namesake. . . . Each [chapter] slides by quickly, but lingers like a dream.”—NPR.com
“Nona Fernández is perhaps the hippest Chilean writer since Roberto Bolaño (with whom she shares a translator). . . . Short, stylish, and engrossing, this is a stellar book from a writer who should be on your radar.”—GQ.com
“In short poetic chapters in which layers of meaning and emotion are compressed into each sentence, Fernández illustrates one more devastating way autocracy robs people, when it steals their ability to ever know for sure what reality is, or was.”—Salon.com
“Taut and evocative, award-winning Chilean author Fernández’s [Space Invaders] shows how a dictatorship works from within to shape lives.”—BBC Culture
“There is a wonderful fogginess to Fernández’s gorgeous prose, in this novella translated faultlessly by Natasha Wimmer, whose experience translating the works of Roberto Bolaño and understanding of Latin America’s traumatic history with dictatorships aid her in rendering clarity without removing the elements that help Space Invaders do so much, so quickly.”—New York Journal of Books
“A nimble tale told in letters and the shared recollections of now-distant childhood friends, Fernández’s book presents a devastating portrait of the trauma that a savage, rapacious government inflicted on a community and a country.”—Chicago Review of Books
“Space Invaders reveals how a child’s memory of a tragedy can accurately reflect the pain of the experience even when it does not necessarily reflect the truth.”—ZYZZYVA
“Space Invaders is a compelling and insightful work of literature from a truly talented fiction writer.”—Words Without Borders
“[The] length and the intensity of the structure, which introduces so much in such a short span, is a bit like a dream itself. You come out of it, blinking, a little confused, a little scared, certainly devastated, but feeling like you’ve already forgotten the most important threads. The structure is brilliant, as it needs to be with such a difficult approach to narrative-building. There is incredible compression here, and at the same time the gaps between chapters and sections, the space between the days and years and the dreamers themselves, stretches wide.”—Full Stop
“Like compatriot Alia Trabucco Zerán's recently published novel The Remainder, Fernández takes a sidelong, subtle approach to the grim realities of life in the Chile of her youth, episodes of which, she suggests, figure in her story. A slender story, impressively economical, that speaks volumes about lives torn by repression.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Fernández’s outstanding novel explores the nature of memory and dreams, and how after a certain point, they become indistinguishable.”—Publishers Weekly
“A small jewel of a book. . . . Fernández’s picturesque language and dream-like atmosphere is well worth being invaded by. A book to slip in the pocket to read and reread.”—Patti Smith
“Space Invaders is an absolute gem—a book of uncommon depth, precise in its language, unsparing in its emotion, unflinching as it evokes a past many would prefer to forget. Within the canon of literature chronicling Pinochet’s Chile, Nona Fernández’s Space Invaders is truly unique.”—Daniel Alarcón
“A dark and deceptively playful novel about a generation of Chilean kids who try to understand the terrible country they live in.”—Alejandro Zambra