Saturday, January 8, 2011

01 The Return by Roberto Bolaño trans. Chris Andrews

Sex, Violence, and Literature

Roberto Bolaño has been at the top of my list of favorite authors for about four years.
Why? Because he's better than you.
I like to think of him as these things:
1. a failed poet that found success in fiction (everyone that fails is better for it)
2. obsessed with all the best themes at the wrong time, and
3. one that died too young (drug circumstances notwithstanding)

I could easily waste 1000 words discussing the letdowns of the translation by Andrews or the crap editing/production job of New Directions, but those are two negative aspects in this new year of optimism and positivity.

The Return
reawakened my love of this Chilean expat. The Savage Detectives has been and remains my favorite work by Bolaño because of the humor, confusion, and scope; Admittedly I've never loved any of his shorter fiction (novellas, short stories).

While there are moments of perfection in all of his writing, I have pages of quotations that forced me laugh, admire, and miss my stop on the train, The Return finds a way to make those moments span an entire story that creates a feeling of eternity but can be read in 30 minutes. It's hard to explain, but within the 13 stories in this collection I felt fear, anger, love, arousal, disgust, awe, and satisfaction.

Yeah, I said aroused. "Joanna Silvestri" is a fantasy. Not my fantasy, but Bolaño makes her yours. I was happy the book is hardbound, just wished it was a bit bigger.

Sex is an obsession for Bolaño-themes of prostitution, pornography, and whores collide with violence and revenge. The story titled "Murdering Whores" really is about a whore that murders. Bolaño doesn't play with cliché. His background in poetry will not allow it. But he knows sex. Sex is used as bait, pleasure, profession, and child rearing.

Why is this worth reading and rereading? Because it is poetry. It makes you experience everything for the first time again, every time. Bolaño creates characters that are realistic, believable, and at the same time you wish they weren't. Nazis, Russians, ghosts, detectives.

Oh yeah, there's an awesome story about witchcraft in the Spanish First Division and Champion's League. I think Bolaño wrote that one for me though.

p.s.-if you think this is crude and that you, as a self respecting young woman or man, would never read such trash, be happy I didn't mention the story on necrophilia


Christopher said...

As a self-respecting young woman or man, I would never read this trash.

lawnwrangler said...

and emma makes your top ten list?

jane austen called, she wants her smut novels back.

How'd the new regents go? any kids tell helen keller jokes?

How'd Helen burn her ear?

Christopher said...

The Regents sucked. And I'm not going to answer your joke about Helen Keller and the iron.

Anyway, change your total/booklist, and welcome!