25 November 2008

On Bolaño

In Bolaño, literature is a helpless, undignified, and not especially pleasant compulsion, like smoking. At one point you started and now you can’t stop; it’s become a habit and an identity. Nothing is so consistent across Bolaño’s work as the suspicion that literature is chiefly bullshit, rationalizing the misery, delusions, and/or narcissism of various careerists, flakes, and losers. Yet 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.

Los Neochilenos
By Roberto Bolaño

And the only thing
Truly pleasant
That we saw in Arica
Was the sun of Arica:
A sun like a cloud of
A sun like sand
Subtly displacing
The motionless air.
The rest: routine.
Killers and converts
Mixed in the same discussion
Of deaf-mutes,
Of idiots undone
By purgatory.
And the lawyer Vivanco
A friend of Don Luis Sanchez
Asked what kind of crap we were trying to pull
With this Neochilenos bullshit.


This is an excerpt from n+1 Issue 7: Correction. To purchase the issue and read the rest of this article, which appears on page 10, go to the n+1 store »


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