Discovering literature

Chile’s book of the month: Mala Onda (Bad Vibes)

In this month’s edition of our series on what to read before, after or during your trip to Chile, we take a look at Alberto Fuguet’s novel about Santiago in 1980. 

Monday, January 28, 2013 Category: Daily life
Photo by Liz Rickles/This is Chile Photo by Liz Rickles/This is Chile


Mala Onda, published in English under the tile Bad Vibes, is the debut novel from Chilean author Alberto Fuguet about 10 days in the life of a frustrated teenager finding his place in Santiago in 1980.


Published in 1991, Mala Onda provides a look into the world of an upper-class Chilean family during a changing time in Chile’s history. The story is told from the point of view of 17-year-old Matías Vicuña, a rebellious high school student bored with his routine and fed-up with what he perceives as the blandness of his friends and family. Due to its coming-of-age themes and defiant narrator, Mala Onda is often compared to J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.  


About the author


Born in Santiago in 1964, Alberto Fuguet spent his early childhood in California with his family. He attended Universidad de Chile’s school of journalism and has since published multiple short story collections, magazine articles, and novels, including Las películas de mi vida, which has been translated into English under the title The Movies of my Life: A Novel. Much of Fuguet’s writing, including Mala Onda and Las películas de mi vida, deals with U.S.- Chilean bicultural identity and points of intersection within U.S. and Chilean culture.


Fuguet has received critical acclaim for his writing, having been named one of the 50 most important Latin Americans for the next millennium in 1999 by Time Magazine. He also appeared on the cover of Newsweek Magazine’s international edition illustrating a new generation of writers.


Why Mala Onda


Mala Onda offers a unique snapshot of Chile in the 1980’s from the uncommon point of view of an affluent teenager. The book illustrates the wide range of opinions about Chile’s era of military rule, and also paints a vivid picture of Santiago 30 years ago. Readers familiar with Chile’s capital will recognize many of the locations in the book, from Cerro San Cristóbal to the Jumbo supermarket. Overall, Mala Onda is an entertaining story with plenty to offer a reader seeking to learn more about Chile. 

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