Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Garden Next Door

by Jose Donoso Translated from Spanish by Hardie St. Martin

“The garden next door to reality is art, and . . . there is no denying Donoso’s central point; it takes imagination to live as well as to write.” –John Updike

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date February 01, 1994
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3368-7
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

A Chilean writer named Julio and his wife, Gloria, are beset by worries, constantly bickering about money, their writing, and their son (who may or may not be plying the oldest trade in Marrakesh). When Julio’s boyhood best friend lends the couple his luxurious Madrid apartment for the summer, it is an escape for both–in particular for Julio, who fantasizes about the garden next door and the erotic life of the lovely young aristocrat who inhabits it.

Tags Literary


“A wicked sendup of both magical realism and pulp fiction.” –Los Angeles Times

“This novel, rather like the dreamy garden of the title, is an illusion, a metafiction, a meditation on the nature of literature itself. It is among Donoso’s best novels, which is saying a great deal about a book by the author of The Obscene Bird of Night and A House in the Country.” –Alan Ryan, USA Today

“A stunning narrative tour de force.” –Library Journal

“Poignantly and profoundly rendered.” –The Washington Post Book World

“Luminous, erotic . . . brutally honest.” –The New York Times Book Review

“The garden next door to reality is art, and . . . there is no denying Donoso’s central point; it takes imagination to live as well as to write.” –John Updike

Reading Group Guide


The Garden Next Door: Jos’ Donoso

  1. The title, The Garden Next Door, alludes to a Spanish refrain, “todo es dorado en el jard”n de al lado’ [everything is golden in the garden next door], the equivalent of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” What relevance does the alluded refrain have to Julio M”ndez’s experience as a Latin American living in exile in Spain? How does the memory of Chile become the allegorical garden next door? How does the real garden of Julio’s next-door neighbors in Madrid cause him to reflect on his exile?
  2. Jos’ Donoso introduces The Garden Next Door with two epitaphs: one by James Joyce, and another by Constantino Cavafis.

    What relationship do the epitaphs have to each other? How do the epitaphs reflect the title of the novel? What is Julio trying to find? From what nightmare is he trying to awake?

  3. In the first chapter, the apparent narrator, Julio, is struggling with his writer’s block while his wife, Gloria, works undaunted on the translation of George Eliot’s Middlemarch. What are the factors that contribute to Julio’s writer’s block? Why does Gloria’s diligence threaten Julio? What relevance do the references to Middlemarch have to Julio and Gloria’s relationship? How does the ironic outcome of the novel refer back to Middlemarch?
  4. Throughout the novel, we are introduced to several Latin American exiles. How does Julio classify the different types of exiles? How do the exiles classify themselves? Is there a hierarchy? Discuss the exiled characters and their distinct experiences and perspectives.
  5. Julio refers to his own marginal inclusion in the Latin American literary “boom.” When did the boom take place? Which real “boom” authors and novels does Julio mention? Whom does Marcelo Chiriboga represent? Whom does N”ria Moncl’s represent? What biographical affinities exist between Julio M”ndez and Jos’ Donoso?
  6. In Chapter 3, Julio, Gloria, Katy, and Bijou bump into N”ria Moncl’s and Marcelo Chiriboga in an antique shop in Madrid. How do each of the characters respond to Marcelo Chiriboga’s fame? How does N”ria present Julio to Marcelo? How does Julio react to this encounter?
  7. The clash between the identity of Latin American exiles and their adolescent children who were born or raised in Europe reappears in The Garden Next Door? How can we characterize Julio’s relationship to Bijou? How can we characterize Julio and Gloria’s relationship to Patrick? How can we characterize Katy’s relationship to Bijou?
  8. Julio, Gloria, and Katy are Chilean, Argentine, and Uruguayan exiles who left oppressive regimes to live in Franco’s Spain. In a democratic Spain, what relevance do their memories of oppression in their homeland have? How does this relevance affect Julio’s narration of his experience in a Chilean prison?
  9. What messages are written in the graffiti on the walls outside Pancho Salvatierra’s apartment? Why does Julio worry when he sees the graffiti on the walls in the aristocratic neighborhood in Madrid?
  10. In Chapter 6, Gloria has lunch with N”ria Moncl’s. How does N”ria differ from Julio’s description of her? How does N”ria fulfill our expectations of her? What role does she play in determining the ending of the novel? Why is this ending ironic?
  11. The Garden Next Door presents many elements of metafictional narrative. Identify and discuss the metafictional elements in Julio and Gloria’s work as translators; in Julio’s creative process; in Julio’s repeated mention of the garden next door; in Gloria’s proofreading and criticism of Julio’s text; in N”ria’s praise of the novel; and in Gloria’s usurping of Julio’s narrative voice.

Hopscotch by Julio Cort”zar; The Mirror in the Text by Lucien D’llenbach; Curfew by Jos’ Donoso; The Latin American “Boom”: A Personal History by Jos’ Donoso; Taratuta/ Still Life with Pipe by Jos’ Donoso; Middlemarch by George Eliot; The French Lieutennant’s Woman by John Fowles; La nueva novela hispanoamericana by Carlos Fuentes; El mar que nos trajo by Griselda Gambaro; Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox by Linda Hutcheon; The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector and Giovanni Pontiero

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