Voyager: Constellations of Memory (Paperback)
A startling book-length essay, at once grand and intimate, from National Book Award finalist Nona Fernández.
Voyager begins with Nona Fernández accompanying her elderly mother to the doctor to seek an explanation for her frequent falls and inability to remember what preceded them. As the author stares at the image of her mother’s brain scan, it occurs to her that the electrical signals shown on the screen resemble the night sky.
Inspired by the mission of the Voyager spacecrafts, Fernández begins a process of observation and documentation. She describes a recent trip to the remote Atacama desert—one of the world’s best spots for astronomical observation—to join people who, like her, hope to dispel the mythologized history of Chile’s new democracy. Weaving together the story of her mother’s illness with story of her country and of the cosmos itself, Fernández braids astronomy and astrology, neuroscience and memory, family history and national history into this brief but intensely imagined autobiographical essay. Scrutinizing the mechanisms of personal, civic, and stellar memory, she insists on preserving the truth of what we’ve seen and experienced, and finding ways to recover what people and countries often prefer to forget.
In Voyager, Fernández finds a new container for her profound and surreal reckonings with the past. One of the great chroniclers of our day, she has written a rich and resonant book.
“Another one-of-a-kind blend of the personal and political. . . . Throughout, Fernández’s focus is on the connections between lost memories, black holes and history’s ‘ghosts.’ . . . Chile — and readers everywhere — should be grateful.”—Anderson Tepper, The New York Times Book Review
“’Who are we? Where are we going? Where do we come from?’ In finding poetic answers to those queries, Fernández documents the history of her homeland and aids her ailing mother (whose epilepsy diagnosis brought additional complications), all while musing on the intricacies of the universe. The result is a moving reflection that’s scientific, cerebral, and spiritual.”—Publishers Weekly
“[Fernández] is an expert at weaving seemingly disparate topics together, at finding their common threads. . . . Wherever this great writer (and translator!) wants to take us, I’m there.”—Katie Yee, Literary Hub
“In precise yet elegant prose that shirks melodrama, Fernández renders crisp and lingering images that orient us to the changing surroundings of the book’s steady orbit. . . . She circumvents the oversentimentality that is so often the downfall of stories about family and memory, by constructing a scope that expands and contracts like breath in the body.”—Claire Calderón, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Past atrocities still threaten our present. The answer, Fernández suggests, is to document the ugliness and beauty of where we’ve been without flinching—a message to anyone coming after. Hello, here we are, don’t forget us.”—Morgan Graham, Chicago Review of Books
“[An] ambitious, often dazzling memoir. . . . Astronomy; astrology; astrophysics; neuroscience — each of these is incorporated into a dizzying but sublime poetics that holds Voyager together, like a constellation woven into the fabric of the night sky.”—Financial Times (UK)
“Voyager is a captivating memoir that not only offers a deeper understanding of one of Chile’s most acclaimed writers, but also a new insight into the history and resilience of the Chilean people.”—New Statesman (UK)