things of little relevance

November 10, 2009, 10:27 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

This Guernica essay about the American mythmaking of Roberto Bolaño is pretty fantastic.

It was no casual fact, then, that the majority of articles profiling the author laid the emphasis on the episodes of his tumultuous youth: his decision to drop out of high school and become a poet; his terrestrial odyssey from Mexico to Chile, where he was jailed during the coup d’état; the formation of the failed infrarealist movement with the poet Mario Santiago; his itinerant existence in Europe; his eventual jobs as camp watchman and dishwasher; a presumed drug addiction; and his premature death. “These iconoclastic episodes coupled with Bolaño’s death at fifty,” writes Pollack, “are too tempting to narrate as anything but a tragedy of mythical proportions: here seems to be someone who actually saw his youthful ideals through to their ultimate consequences.” “Meet the Kurt Cobain of Latin American literature,” wrote Daniel Crimmins in Paste magazine.

No North American journalist highlighted the fact, Sarah Pollack warns, that The Savage Detectives and the greater part of Bolaño’s prose work “were written as a sober family man” during the last ten years of his life—and an excellent father, I’d add, whose major preoccupation was his children, and that if he took a lover at the end of his life, he did it in the most conservative Latin American style, without threatening the preservation of his family. Pollack notes that “Bolaño appears to the reader, even before one crosses the novel’s threshold, as a cross between the Beats and Arthur Rimbaud (another reference for his alter ego Arturo Belano), his life already the stuff of legend.” Yet the majority of critics have passed over the fact that Bolaño didn’t die as a result of drug or alcohol abuse, but from a case of poorly cared-for pancreatitis that had destroyed his liver; or that his case was more similar to those of Balzac or Proust, who also died at fifty after a tremendous work effort, than it was to those of North American pop idols.

I will be the first to admit that I completely bought into the Bolaño hype but I at least consider myself one of the first-wave Bolaño American fans, the ones that discovered him through The Savage Detectives in 2007. That counts for something, right?


2 Comments so far
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“but I at least consider myself one of the first-wave Bolaño American fans, the ones that discovered him through The Savage Detectives in 2007.”


Comment by Jamie

but i am aware i joined the first-wave of hype!

Comment by Lucy

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