Voyage to the Other Extreme: Five Stories


105 pages
ISBN 0-919890-62-8





Translated by Alan Brown

Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations


Marilu Mallet’s collection of short stories, Voyage to the Other Extreme, is not for the weak of heart. Born in Santiago, Chile, author and filmmaker Mallet emigrated to Montreal in 1973. Mallet spares no emotion in her five stories of life in turbulent Chile in the ‘70s. Her exquisitely controlled prose at first depicts a mad world akin to that of Alberto Moravia. She uses caricature for emphasis, the outrageous for shock value. The apathy and immobility of the Chilean civil service reminds the reader of Germany in 1938. Half the Chilean population “works” in the bureaucracy impeding the progress of the remaining half. This pathetic state of affairs eventually leads to total chaos and bloodshed, a military coup for “the defence of democracy.”

Although each of the five stories is complete in itself, there is a continuous theme through them all. It is a journey from the meaningless existence of the bureaucracy, through the black comedy of general unrest, to the “grand guignol” of military arrest and torture. Eventually an escape is found to a new country, a country of language schools and cockroaches for the refugees.

Mallet’s superb prose and vivid imagery depict with increasing violence and intensity the collapse of a society that has completely lost control. She paints her literary canvas with all the mental and physical horrors that befall innocent victims of political and military tyranny. Even those who escape to new lands must face the ignominy of new languages, new customs, and rootlessness.

Alan Brown’s excellent translation retains all the power and emotion of the original. There is never a sense of awkwardness or hesitation in the language.

Mallet’s work is powerful and shocking, a disturbing expose of the breakdown of order. Chile’s loss is Canada’s creative gain.


Mallett, Marilu, “Voyage to the Other Extreme: Five Stories,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024,