by Juan Emar


In San Agustín de Tango, you can never be sure what’s waiting around the corner.

Over the course of a single day – the day before today – the hero of this novel and his adored wife embark on a journey through the absurd and the surreal, encountering a choir of monkeys and a carnivorous ostrich, travelling from the studio of an artist obsessed with the colour green to the waistcoat pocket of a pot-bellied man. All the while, the tolling of the bell in the city square pushes their whirlwind adventure towards its fateful conclusion…

A brilliant and bizarre work from an overlooked great of 20th century Chilean literature, in English translation for the first time and with a new introduction by Alejandro Zambra.

Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell.

144pp, paperback with flaps, £12
ISBN 978-1-908670-65-6
Publication date: 21 June 2021

Press & Reviews

'Yesterday is one of the sweetest, funniest novels around. It's a portrait of a happy marriage; a bizarre daylong picaresque; and a story that resists all logical comprehension.' - NPR

'Juan Emar, the Chilean writer who bears a marked resemblance to the monument to the unknown soldier.' - Roberto Bolaño

'This arresting story .... will leave readers wanting to see more of the author’s odd obsessions. - Publishers Weekly

'This forerunner of them all, in his serene delirium, left to us as testament a living world populated by the unreality that is always inseparable from the most abiding reality.' - Pablo Neruda

'Juan Emar, ahead of his time, was no doubt writing for readers of the future, and it’s as arrogant as it is exciting to suppose that those readers of the future are us.' - Alejandro Zambra, author of My Documents

'The ambitious balance of playfulness and contemplation, of idea and action, race cross each page of this marvellously strange yet highly accessible novel.' - Mark Haber, Southwest Review

'Pablo Neruda called him “our Kafka” and wrote, “My comrade Juan Emar will now get what here we are not stingy with: posthumous respect.” His prediction seems to have been made a few decades early, but, well, better late acclaim than never. Yesterday is a weird and charming little book, less a predictor of the magical realism to come than a sui generis detour.' - Hanson O’Haver, The Nation

'Megan McDowell’s translation pays deft tribute to the levity, complexity, and despair of Emar’s prose, while maintaining the intellectual fortitude of a text that asks us to reconsider fundamental conceptions of identity that undergird both the popular novel and, by extension, our understanding of ourselves.' - James McGowan, Columbia Journal

'And there you had the madman Juan Emar writing the real Chilean prose. We have to start with him, even if no one has read him.' - Alejandro Jodorowsky, Filmmaker

'The foundational work of the most daring and imaginative writer in Chilean prose.' - Pedro Lastra, Poet and Essayist

'Emar has no precedents, and no equals.' - César Aira

'For his extraordinary genius … he should have been recognized as the greatest Chilean novelist of his century.' - José Miguel Ibáñez Langlois, Poet and Literary Critic

About The Book


Juan Emar is the pen name of Chilean writer, painter and art critic Álvaro Yáñez Bianchi (1893-1964). The name Juan Emar is a play on the French phrase 'J’en ai marre' (I’m fed up). A strong advocate of the literary avant-garde of the 1920s and 30s, he was associated with the Dada and Surrealist movements. Between 1935-1937, he published four books: Un año, Miltín, Ayer and Diez. These works were largely ignored by the dominant literary circles of his time. His work was reissued in the 1970s, and he is now considered to be one of the most important 20th century Latin American writers. Yesterday is his first work to be translated into English.


Megan McDowell is an American literary translator from Spanish to English. Born in Kentucky, she now lives and works in Santiago, Chile. Her translation of Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2017, and she won the Premio Valle-Inclan in 2018 for her translation of Seeing Red by Lina Meruane.