Skip to the content

The Remainder (La resta)

Translated into English by Sophie Hughes

Shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize

Kirkus Best Fiction of 2019
Kirkus Best Fiction in Translation of 2019

Iquela and Felipe are twenty-somethings living in modern-day Santiago, haunted by the shadows that the military dictatorship has cast over their lives. Felipe, obsessive by nature, aspires to a perfect number, a sum that might give him closure and help him to answer one decisive question: “How do we square the number of dead with the number of graves?”. More measured and rational, Iquela looks for a way to deal with both the political legacy that defined her childhood, and her ageing mother, a woman with a violent militant past. Their bond runs deeper than blood. Felipe was taken in by Iquela’s family as a boy, when they felt obliged to accept him because of the terrible past connecting them to his late father. The death in Germany of Ingrid Aguirre, an old militant comrade of Iquela’s parents, and the arrival in Santiago of the dead woman’s enigmatic Berlin-based daughter Paloma to repatriate the body shakes the fragile foundations of their daily life and sets them off on a journey of painful self-discovery.

The Remainder (La Resta) is a striking Chilean road trip which reveals new ways to think about historical memory.


“It is a book about a trip made by three friends to the other side of the Andean mountains in order to look for and bury a body. That is, a delirious, sad, mad trip, but also a necessary one, which I wrote with both my personal history and that of my country in mind.” —Alia Trabucco Zerán

"This novel is vividly rooted in Chile, yet the quests at its heart—to witness and survive suffering, to put an intractable past to rest—are universally resonant." —Publishers Weekly

“A centrifugal story of death, history, and mathematics . . . a debut that leaves the reader wanting more.” —Kirkus

“While writers such as Pedro Lemebel and José Donoso have explored the regime’s impact on those who lived through it, Zerán is concerned with the next generation. Felipe, Iquela and Paloma are the children of ex-militants, attempting to “unremember” the past in Chile’s haunted capital, Santiago.” —TIME

“The second-generation trauma narrative gets a Chilean spin in Zerán’s intense novel of interior monologues, which is Faulknerian in themes, structure, and style.” —Vulture

“A mesmerizing, roaming look at intergenerational trauma, told in a specific and surreal style that shimmers and shifts on the page and in the mind.” —Nylon

“Truly stunning, full of deft turns of phrase. . . . shines especially bright when unwinding Felipe’s melodic monologues.” —Los Angeles Times

“A haunted novel, awash with sinister and elegiac moods. It stands as a testament to the way the past can unsettle us.” —Star Tribune

“Alia Trabucco Zerán’s writing is gorgeous: she captures the courage, vulnerability, and suffering of her characters beautifully. (…) Intense and haunting, The Remainder is a startling reckoning with the history of violence.” —Book Riot

“You could call The Remainder a literary kaleidoscope: look at it one way and you see how the past lays a crippling hand on the generation that follows political catastrophe; shift the focus and you’re plunged into a darkly comic road trip with a hungover trio in an empty hearse chasing a lost coffin across the Andes cordillera.” —The Spectator

“Deeply compelling.” —The Guardian

“Neither the characters nor the narrative ever deal directly with the historic events themselves, but rather with the fallout – the photographs, vocabulary, places and people left behind as remnants. Zerán seamlessly alternates between the voices of Iquela and Felipe, highlighting the opposing and gendered ways they have reacted to the circumstances of their childhood.” —The Times Literary Supplement

"The Remainder tells us very little about Chile under Pinochet; but everything about what it is like to grow up in the shadow of other people’s unhappiness.” —The Big Issue

“Fusing the personal and the political, Zerán aims to capture the legacy of Chile’s bloodshed.” —The Irish Times

The Remainder controls a remarkable range of registers (it is, by turns, lyrical, elegiac, sensual, funny, tragic). The author, like her characters, is obsessed with words, those ‘cracks in language’ that house our particular ways of understanding things. This novel is sure to endure.” —Edmundo Paz Soldán

“A powerful, impressive novel, dotted with scenes that are as unique as they are unforgettable.” —Lina Meruane

“A fundamental book about what it means to mourn the past, about the remainders of a history that refuses to be forgotten. This is the debut we all wish we had written. A spirited, brave, urgent book, capable of weaving the political and the poetic.” —Carlos Fonseca

The Remainder redefines the political novel. . . . The voices in The Remainder are some of the most powerful to have come out of Latin America in the last year.” —Bárbara Pérez, “Granta en Español, 5 years later,” Instrucciones de Uso

“The sharpest, most incisive reprieve from novels dealing with the dictatorship by writers like Bolaño, Marín, Cerda y Varas.” —Rodrigo Pinto, El Mercurio

“One of the best publications of 2015.”—Patricia Espinosa, Las Últimas Noticias

Publisher: Lumen/PRH
Territories: Spanish language: Lumen/PRH (earlier publications: Chile: Tejamar; Spain: Demipage); Arabic language: Mamdouh; Brazil: Moinhos; China: The Writers Publishing House Company; Czech Republic: FRA; France: Actes Sud; Germany: Bao Books; Italy: Sur; Portugal: PRH; Turkey: Ayriksi Kitap
Other Alia Trabucco Zerán Titles