Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bolaño Phenomenon Ambivalence

Considering the recent state-side publication of 2666, which I have not yet read (and am still considering for a slot in my fickle holiday reading), I am devouring everything written on Roberto Bolaño, and enjoyed this (anonymous?) clearheaded take in n+1 on the late author’s oeuvre:

“Why [...] you begin to wonder, are you reading these books? What for, if they are each going to eschew psychology, characterization, pretty language, and neat conclusions, and if the narratives are all to devolve into shaggy-dog Iditarods mushing after some fugitive poet or novelist about whom—even if he ever turns up—we learn next to nothing? Why read and write at all if these empty Chinese boxes constitute the only goods ultimately in receipt?”

I also wondered at times, in my post haste reading frenzy and romance with The Savage Detectives, why Bolaño’s other books were not capturing my imagination so well. Other than Last Evenings on Earth which I read twice (and a few of the stories paled on reading number two, although “Anne Moore’s Life” and the title story stand out in their excellence), I admit I had to slog through By Night in Chile, and never finished Amulet, hoping I’d find the inspiration at some future date.

Bolaño ambivalence, perhaps? n+1 responds to this, I think, quite aptly:

“[...]Bolaño somehow also treats literature as his and his characters' sole excuse for existing. This basic Bolaño aporia—literature is all that matters, literature doesn't matter at all—can be a glib paradox for others. He seems to have meant it sincerely, even desperately, something one would feel without knowing the first thing about his life.”

Intrigued as ever to delve into another nearly one thousand page behemoth (how can I avoid it?), I’m sure I’ll have more to say when I finally get around to reading 2666.

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