Antofagasta, Chile, 1940

Antonio Skármeta is one of the Chilean authors who is most extensively read worldwide. He studied Philosophy and Literature both in Chile and in New York, and taught literature at the University of Chile until 1973. After several years in Germany, he returned to Chile in 1990, and joined the Goethe Institute in Santiago. His novels and short stories have been translated into over twenty languages, and have won many awards, including the Altazor, Boccaccio and Planeta Prizes. Antonio Skármeta has also been decorated by France's Ministry of Culture, as Chevalier de l´Ordre des Arts et Lettres, awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a grant from the Berlin Arts Program. He has written scripts for several films and directed documentaries and feature films, most notably El cartero de Neruda (1994), based on his successful novel Ardiente paciencia and awarded many prizes.

  •  "A moving song to poetry and love in its convincing yet light-hearted expressions of vitality." Miguel García-Posada, Babelia-El País (writing about El cartero de Neruda).
  • "Since he left Chile, all Skármeta's work tests the nation and tests the popular culture of the common man, which is the last rampart of resistance." Ariel Dorfman
  • "In No pasó nada, with poetic wit and irony, the author describes the hardships and delights of anyone who emigrates to an unknown country." El Mundo


Each of the stories in this book is an extraordinary piece of literature. Love, youth, desire, and freedom, along with versatile prose, sensitivity, and a subtle irony that sometimes morphs into dark humour, confirm Antonio Skármeta’s position as one of the greatest storytellers in contemporary literature.

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A novel based on the true story of how an advertising campaign caused the fall of Chile’s dictator, General Pinochet

Nico, the son of a noted Chilean philosophy professor, witnesses his father’s arrest while he is teaching a class. Bettini, the father of Nico’s best friend, is a leftist advertising executive who has been blacklisted and is out of work after having been imprisoned and tortured by Pinochet’s police. This doesn’t stop the ministry of the interior from asking Bettini, who is the best in the business, to come up with a plan for the upcoming referendum designed to say “yes” to Pinochet’s next term. But just hours after he has been approached by the right, the head of the opposition makes him the exact same offer. What is Bettini going to do? Put his life on the line or sacrifice his political convictions? Finally he goes with the left. The next hurdle is finding a slogan that would be approved by the sixteen factions that comprise the opposition and who never agree on anything. Whiskey after whiskey, an idea finally emerges.
This is a vivacious tale that examines how advertising and politics come together during the Pinochet regime. But this is also a coming-of-age story where we see through Nico’s experience what it means to grow up in a country where nothing is allowed and almost any move can feel like an earnest act of resistance.

Jacques is a schoolteacher in a small Chilean village, and a French translator for the local paper. He owes his passion for the French language to his Parisian father, Pierre, who, one year before, abruptly returned to France without a word of explanation. Jacques and his mother’s sense of abandonment is made more acute by their isolation in this small community where few read or think. While Jacques finds distraction in a crush on his student’s older sister, his preoccupation with his father’s disappearance continues to haunt him. But there is often more to a story than the torment it causes. This one is about forgiveness and second chances.

Un padre de pelicula (A Distant Father) has been adapted into a movie in 2017 with the title O Filme da Minha Vida (A Movie Life)

“Skarmeta treats his characters with a tender hand and, with impressive economy, balances dark humor with a sober and realistic portrait of a stagnant culture whose people are always longing for something better.” —Publishers Weekly

“In this jewel of a novella, Chilean Skármeta…exhibits [a] master touch…The beauty of the telling offsets the sadness and desolation of small-town life and the confusions and revelations that Skármeta describes are common to us all.” —Library Journal

“A cunning little novella.” —Shelf Awareness

“[Skarmeta] knows how to use language without overusing language.” —Tweed’s

“Compelling.” —CounterPunch

“It is amazing how, in so few words, Skármeta is brilliantly able to paint the soul’s complexities and turn the world into a less uncertain place. With exquisite prose, as faint as a sigh, Skármeta weaves a fun and ironic story of the torturous road toward maturity.” —Félix J. Palma, author of the New York Times bestseller The Map of Time

“A Distant Father sparkles. It’s an exquisite bow to life’s absurdity. Antonio Skarmeta’s prose is Chaplinesque—at once gentle-sad and drop-dead funny. And he has a magical touch with physical detail: time and again this tiny novella springs alive in our hands like a pop-up book.” —Leah Hager Cohen, author of No Book but the World

“An enchanting, touching memory of what it feels like to grow up, and the ambivalent knowledge one gains in the meantime.” —Nürnberger Zeitung

“Un padre de película reads just like a summer love story right before coming of age: painful, but at the same time beautiful.” —Berliner Zeitung

“Antonio Skármeta is a cardiac surgeon who is working with words instead of a scalpel.” —Osnabrücker Zeitung

“Skarmeta’s narrative reminds me of fairy tales. Odd fairy tales without fairies and without ogres and without spells, but with just absolutely common people instead. It’s the magic of the commonplace.” —O Globo

“Each fragrant line of Un padre de película is in just the right place. Without excess, every word is positioned with the precision of an artist who works with their eyes closed, fluidly. Without artifice, without sterile rhetoric, and without pyrotechnics.” —La Vanguardia

“Poetic.” —El Periódico de Catalunya

Planeta Prize 2003.

A story of politics, ballet, and a spectacular heist by a reluctant master thief and his eager young protégé.
With prisons overflowing in Chile, the president declares a general amnesty for all nonviolent criminals. Ángel Santiago, a youth determined to avenge abuse he received in jail, seeks out the notorious bank robber Nicolás Vergara Grey, whose front-page exploits won him a reputation he would rather leave behind. Their plan for an ambitious and daring robbery is complicated by the galvanizing presence of Victoria Ponce, a virtuosic dancer and high-school dropout whose father was a victim of the regime. Praised for his “ability to place a personal story in the context of a national upheaval and make it warm, funny and universal” (San Francisco Chronicle), Antonio Skármeta sets this exuberant love story against the backdrop of the new Chile, free from the Pinochet dictatorship but beholden to the perils of globalization. 



Un itinerario por la historia de Chile desde los años cuarenta hasta el triunfo de Allende en los setenta, de la mano de Alia Emar, una niña que crecerá al cuidado de su abuelo, Esteban Coppeta, y vivirá todas las peripecias y vicisitudes de un país sometido a vientos de cambio.

Un rico y bohemio banquero austríaco, Jerónimo Frank, abandona todo y se instala en una pequeña isla del Adriático, donde reabre el gran almacén El Europeo. Pronto se concierta su matrimonio con la bella joven Alia Emar. La boda se prevé espectacular. Sin embargo, los novios no comparten del todo el júbilo popular. En el ánimo de Jerónimo pesa la trágica leyenda del antiguo propietario del almacén y su joven esposa. En el caso de Alia es el amor de Esteban Coppeta –descendiente de un héroe mítico de la isla– lo que le provoca incomodidad y desconcierto. La magnífica boda estallará en un acontecimiento político que desborda a todos los personajes y los transportará del júbilo a la tragedia. Una historia de amor legendario en clave de intriga y humor, una mirada inteligente y satírica sobre la Europa de preguerra, pero también la crónica de una estirpe de emigrantes que llegará a Chile a principios de siglo.

Para el doctor Raymond Papst, su vida cómoda y tediosa no tiene otra emoción que jugar, de vez en cuando, un partido de tenis con su suegro. Hasta que a los cincuenta y dos años el destino pone en su camino a Sophie Mass que, con quince años, se revela como una de las promesas de dicho deporte. Pero también es un torbellino erótico que entra en la existencia autocomplaciente y patética del médico para hacerla pedazos.

The Postman (El cartero de Neruda) is a bittersweet tale of first love ignited by the power and passion of Pablo Neruda's timeless poetry.

Unlike the other men of his village, Mario balks at the prospect of life as a fisherman, choosing instead to become the postman for a beautiful island, just off the mainland. Although the island has a number of inhabitants, Mario has only one postal customer, the only literate resident, who is also Chile's most beloved poet, Pablo Neruda, who is living in exile.

The friendship between the postman and the poet blossoms, Mario begs Neruda for advice on how best to woo the voluptuous young barmaid, Beatriz, with whom Mario has fallen in love. As Neruda tutors him in the finer lessons of love, Mario discovers that he too has a gift for poetry. Soon the island air is thick with the exchange of sensuous metaphors.

In 1994 was adapted into the film Il Postino, directed by Michael Radford and Massimo Troisi.

El mejor narrador chileno de su generación describe en esta novela la revolución de Nicaragua, consiguiendo convocar las muchas voces de los participantes en los días que preceden a la caída de Somoza. Con humor y precisa complejidad técnica, Skármeta despliega las vidas de guerrilleros, estudiantes, soldados del gobierno, carteros, curas, y desempleados, conduciéndolos a un apocalipsis de fuego y liberación. Las cartas de Leonel desde el frente, las dudas de Agustín en el cuartel, la resignada figura del estratega del gobierno que se sabe derrotado, la violación de Vicky, el ataque a la iglesia y el incendio final, van permitiendo al lector experimentar la vida de un pueblo en un momento de emergencia y de gran importancia para la historia latinoamericana contemporánea.

No pasó nada nos adentra en un mundo de contrastes bajo la mirada cándida y reflexiva de un adolescente en lucha consigo mismo y con la realidad que le ha tocado vivir, buscando siempre, en medio de las diferencias, aquello que más nos une. A sus catorce años, Lucho conoce ya lo que es el exilio lejos de su Chile natal. Las circunstancias históricas y políticas empujan a su familia hacia una nueva vida en un nuevo país: Alemania. Allí encuentra muchas cosas con las que identificarse: el fútbol, la música, sus amigos griegos Homero y Sócrates Kurnides, las manifestaciones, las motos y, sobre todo, las chicas como Edith y Sophie. Sin embargo, también encontrará cosas menos placenteras: la dificultad de la vida diaria en un país desconocido, la nostalgia del sol, la escasez de dinero y las provocaciones racistas.

In this novel, Skármeta gives us all the warmth and doomed enthusiasm of the last days of Allende, before the fall of democratic Chile brought tanks into the streets, enthroned the generals and turned the national football stadium into a torture centre.

“This ballad of muchachos of Allende’s Chile is, with its vigor and fantasy, undoubtedly one of the best pieces of committed literature to emerge from Latin America.” Le Monde

Short stories and novellas

In Los nombres de las cosas que allí había, Juan Villoro has selected and written a prologue for the best stories by Antonio Skármeta, originally published in five books that influenced an entire generation of writers and brought about a renewal of Latin American prose.

Each of the stories in this book is an extraordinary piece of literature. Love, youth, desire, and freedom, along with versatile prose, sensitivity, and a subtle irony that sometimes morphs into dark humour, confirm Antonio Skármeta’s position as one of the greatest storytellers in contemporary literature.

“Skármeta’s stories take on the worldview of the young who breathe and play the leading roles in a period marked by as much enthusiasm and openness as historical uncertainty.” Alejandra Costamagna

“Since he left Chile, all Skármeta's work tests the nation and tests the popular culture of the common man, which is the last rampart of resistance.” Ariel Dorfman

“In Skármeta’s style, one can feel the freedom of Jack Kerouac’s writing.” Le Monde Diplomatique 

These stories are full of characters who are second-best, losers, dull protagonists mired in insignificance. Some because they are too young to take charge of their destinies, others because they lack talent or luck. But they will all face a unique moment, a crossroads where they can heroically resolve to do something great for the first time –experience a passionate love affair, an exciting adventure, senseless madness– or let the moment pass and remain stuck in their trivial everyday lives. These eleven stories travel through places as diverse as Chile, Argentina, France, Uruguay, Colombia, Spain and Haiti, but remain installed in a common space: a melancholy not without sharp black humour and irresistible irony.

«Así es nuestra vida, puras burbujas, viene un día el aire y se las lleva», dice uno de los personajes de A las arenas, un cuento sobre los que emigran y son capaces de vender hasta su sangre por comprarse un poco de dignidad en la noche neoyorquina.

A las arenas forma parte del volumen de cuentos Desnudo en el tejado con el que Antonio Skármeta obtuvo el Premio Casa de las Américas en 1969.

El escritor chileno señaló que el tema central de los cuentos representa "el ansia que tenemos todos de ser otra persona, aquella que admiramos o a la que envidiamos y los cinco cuentos de este volumen tratan de gente que se transforman en otro o son poseídos por otro".

Un joven ciclista sufre junto a su padre por la enfermedad de la madre y siente una gran impotencia al no contar con dinero suficiente para poder llevarla a una clínica. Por esos decide participar en una carrera en el Cerro San Cristóbal con la esperanza de ganar el premio.

Cuando Desnudo en el tejado obtuvo el Premio Casa de las Américas al mejor libro de cuentos, el nombre de Antonio Skármeta destacó como pocos en la vanguardia de la novísima literatura latinoamericana. Con incansable confianza en la vida, sus jóvenes protagonistas arriesgan todo para insuflar energía a un universo que sienten enfermizo y opaco. Aquí están el pedaleo jadeante de El ciclista de San Cristóbal en su carrera contra la muerte y los "pre-sudacas", que venden su sangre en Nueva York para comprarse una noche de dignidad en A las arenas.

Mientras Chile vivía una de las épocas más excitantes y dramáticas, la mayoría de los escritores optaban por tomar distancia de lo que pasaba en el tiempo del socialista Salvador Allende y sólo años más tarde escribieron sus obras sobre el tema. No así Antonio Skármeta, quien con los cuentos de la segunda parte de Tiro libre se sumergió apasionadamente en las tensiones y contradicciones del momento, mostrando con plena vigencia literaria cómo el cambio social penetró hasta la vida íntima y familiar de cada persona. Publicado en Argentina dos meses antes del Golpe de Pinochet, Tiro libre nunca circuló en Chile.

El estreno de Antonio Skármeta en la literatura. Antes de que El entusiasmo se publicara, daba la impresión de que los jóvenes no tenían espacio en la narrativa chilena. Pero aquí ellos irrumpen en la vida y en las letras con ganas, con secretos o confusos antes de abrirse al mundo sin remilgos y sin los rituales solemnes y sombríos de los escritores de la generación mayor. Los héroes de Skármeta son reclutados en las calles de Santiago, pero presienten que el mundo les pertenece y salen a conquistarlo sin detenerse a pensar cuál será el precio de la aventura. Los acompaña una prosa soleada, refrescante y amable.

Books for children and young readers

The Blue Flower is a poem created by Antonio Skármeta for the book series published by El Zorro Rojo, that gathers texts by great authors such as Cortázar, Neruda, Galeano, Benedetti or Saramago with renowned graphic artists. The Blue flower is a story about the birth, during winter, of a flower that keeps a secret for a little girl. Through subtle dialogues, the characters make a wise reflection about the beauty, the passing of time and memory,where the writing of a poem constitutes the key to recover everything we have lost. Through delicate verbal and graphic images, Skármeta and Cabassa make a universal fable about the cycle of life and their permanence in the world.

Illustrated by Mariona Cabassa.



Chispas is “a boy so poor and so happy that he finds everyone rich and sad.” He is so poor and so happy that,  in order to overcome his poverty, Chispas will do anything, from running errands for a writer who never quite finishes his novel to finding a way to get hired by the man who runs the merry-go-round at the fair. 

Twelve-year-old Silvio leaves Chile with his father, headed for Buenos Aires, where his dad dreams of finding work. 

To make friends, he tries playing football with the neighbourhood boys. Silvio proves to be a terrible player, unable to hit the ball with his foot or his head. After being made goalkeeper, he discovers that he’s very good at stopping the ball with his hands. So good, in fact, that he captures the attention of a scout from the San Lorenzo club, and a trial game is arranged for him: the game of his life. 

Daniel is an eight-year-old Chilean, that lives with his parents who are bakers. The boy helps them during the weekends because he loves the profession; he specially likes to knead the dough. One day they get invited into a Chinese restaurant and, there, Daniel will discover the typical fortune cookies that have a secret message in them… A sharp and intelligent story illustrated with a great sensibility.

Illustrated by Emilio Uberuaga.

Winner of the UNESCO Tolerance Awarda and the Jane Addams Children's Book Award, and an Americas Award Commended Title

Life is simple for Pedro: he goes to school, does his homework and, most importantly, plays soccer. But when the soldiers come and take his friend Daniel's father away, things suddenly become much more complicated.

Why, for instance, do Pedro's parents secretly listen to the radio every evening after dinner? And why does the government want Pedro and his classmates to write compositions about what their parents do in the evening?

Humorous, serious and intensely human, this powerful picture book by Chilean writer Antonio Skármeta presents a situation all too familiar to children around the world. And for children it provides food for thought about freedom, moral choices and personal responsibility.

Illustrated by C. Cotte and Alfonso Ruano.



Ésta es la historia de un niño que no quiere dormir. Piensa que si cierra los ojos se puede perder un montón de cosas interesantes: un pez volador, un queso comiéndose un ratón. Su padre le empieza a contar un cuento que trata precisamente de un niño que no quiere dormir.

Anthology / Selection

Éste es un privilegiado viaje de ida y vuelta al corazón de la vida y la obra de un hombre excepcional, un poeta de dimensión ilimitada, de la mano de un testigo entrañable. Ricas en anécdotas, afecto y sentido del humor, estas páginas quieren rendir personal homenaje al Premio Nobel de Literatura en el centenario de su nacimiento. Antonio Skármeta, Premio Planeta 2003, ha realizado, además, una imprescindible selección de poemas de Neruda con los que explica la relación entre la vida y la obra del célebre poeta, tomando como punto de partida algunos de sus libros, algunos de sus amores, algunas de sus casas, algunos de sus mares, y sobre todo, algunas de sus sombras y de sus luces.

Antes de emigrar de Chile hacia Europa en 1973, Antonio Skármeta escribió cuentos que fueron celebrados por la crítica y por los lectores como una renovación de la prosa latinoamericana. Con este volumen se inicia la publicación de los cuentos completos del autor. Uno a uno es un libro recorrido por el deseo: una vikinga ama un noruego en una habitación del Hotel Carreras de Santiago; tras una noche grotesca en el Teatro Charlot de París, la pasión se esconde en el cuerpo de otra mujer que viaja en coche fúnebre; una dama rolliza reconforta a un viejo animador de fiestas infantiles, y a una muchacha del subterráneo de Nueva York le roban un zapato simplemente por amor. 

Deseos, pasiones, amores, y, en el caso del profesor chileno del cuento La llamada, un ansia profunda de libertad. El autor surge, en estos primeros cuentos, como un hombre que escribe desde las entrañas, un escritor de raza. Desaforado y a la vez preciso, dueño de una percepción poco común, Antonio Skármeta conoce, como nadie, el secreto de narrar. 

  • Cuentos completos. Plaza & Janés, 2000.
  • Antología personal de Antonio Skármeta.La Editorial, Universidad de Puerto Rico, 2009.

Other genres

  • Prólogo a Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada de Pablo Neruda. Boza Editor, 1997. Edición de bibliófilo con ilustraciones de José Yagües.

Antonio Skármeta ha realizado la traducción del inglés al español de las siguientes obras para Zig Zag en Chile y Rondas en España:

  • An American dream de Norman Mailer, 1968.
  • The pyramid de William Golding, 1968.
  • Typee, de Herman Melville, 1968.
  • Visions of Gerard de Jack Keruoac, 1969.
  • Love, Roger, de Charles Webb, 1969.
  • The last tycoon de Scott Fitzgerald, 1969


  • 2017 - Elected Member of the Academia Chilena de la Lengua
  • 2011 - Premio Planeta “Casa de Ámerica” for his novel Los días del arcoiris
  • 2011 - Premio Placido Domingo, an award presented by the organisation Hispanics for Los Angeles Opera, in recognition of his contribution to the awareness of opera, for the adaptation of Ardiente paciencia.
  • 2006 - Premio Internacional Flaiano awarded in Pescara in recognition of the great cultural and artistic value of his work - literary, essays and criticism, especially highlighting his latest novel El baile de la victoria.
  • 2004 - Premio Internacional Pablo Neruda (Naples)
  • 2003 - Premio Planeta for El baile de la victoria
  • 2003 - Premio Llibreter for the illustrated edition of his short story La composición
  • 2003 - Premio Municipal de Literatura de Santiago to the best Chilean novel 
  • 2003 - Premio honorífico José M. Arguedas for fiction, awarded by the Casa de las Américas for La chica del trombón
  • 2003 - UNESCO Prize for Children's and Young People's Literature in the Service of Tolerance, for La composición
  • 2001 - Grinzane Cavour Prize
  • 2001 - Prix Médicis (France) to the best Foreign Novel of the year, for La boda del poeta
  • 2000 Americas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature for La Composición
  • 1999 - Premio Altazor for La boda del poeta
  • 1998 - Premio “Chaplin” to the Best Scriptwriter on Chilean Television, awarded by the Instituto PROCOM
  • 1997 - Premio MIDIA (Mercado Iberoamericano de la Industria Audiovisual) as the Best Latin-American Television Program, for “El Show de los Libros”.
  • 1996 - “Boccaccio” International Literature Prize (Italy) for his novel No pasó nada
  • 1996 - Premio Ondas (Spain) to the Best Latin-American Cultural program, for “El Show de los Libros”
  • Livro de Ouro Prize (Portugal) for El cartero de Neruda
  • 1983 - Premio Colón de Oro for his film Ardiente paciencia (Festival Iberoamericano de Cine in Huelva)
  • Premio Makhila de Oro for the film Ardiente paciencia (Biarritz International Film Festival)
  • Prix Georges Sadoul” for the best film (France) 
  • “Adolf Grimme” Gold Award (Germany) for the film Reina la tranquilidad en todo el país, for which he wrote the script, and which was directed by Peter Lilienthal.
  • Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts
  • Premio del Círculo de Críticos for the “Best Television Program”
  • 1968 - Premio Casa de las Américas for the book of short stories Desnudo en el tejado