As JORGE ETCHEVERRY points out in the editor's foreword to Northern Cronopios: Chilean Novelists and Short Story Writers in Canada (Split Quotation, 138 pages, $15 paper), the only common factor among the 15 writers collected in this anthology is that they are all Chileans living in Canada.
The writing styles vary widely, from the short, tense sentences of Jorge Fajardo's "The Sound," which describes what seems to be a primal-scream-therapy session, to the more extravagant expressiveness of writers such as Leandro Urbina and Hernan Barrios.
Not many of the stories yield their meanings easily. Few of the authors work within the confines of exposition and plot, and unless the reader is drawn in by the sweep of language and the occasional outbursts of violence, eroticism, or lyricism, such work can mystify.
Among the stronger stories in the collection, Luis Lama's "Future Fun" is a mocking fantasy about a time when killing becomes legal and, as he writes, "The aim of the State was to improve the citizens' aim." By contrast, Jorge Etcheverry's "A Ticket to Santiago" is an understated tale about a woman's bus trip to the city. Etcheverry subtly suggests that rural poverty forces many people to undertake similar journeys, hoping for better luck in the city.
In Francisco Rivas's memorable "A Meeting in...," a man dining in an Amsterdam restaurant with his son notices the boy staring at a vaguely familiar girl. In the slightly eerie atmosphere, it begins to seem that some of the man's comrades from the 1973 coup in Chile are still alive. Is Che Guevara still alive somewhere? Is the girl really Anne Frank? With a touch of magic realism, past and present converge and anything seems possible.