Bolaño, Roberto

Tagged: Author

Working name of Chilean author and poet Roberto Bolaño Avalos; (1953-2003), who was garlanded with awards for works largely outside the sf genre (see Mainstream Writers of SF). Most of his short fiction skirts the fantastic, though his Beast Fable, "El policia de las ratas" (in El gaucho insufrible, coll 2003; trans Chris Andrews as "Police Rat" in The Insufferable Gaucho 2010), is a direct homage to Franz Kafka's "Josefine, die Sängerin oder Das Volk der Mäuse" (in Ein Hungerkünstler, coll 1924; trans Clement Greenberg May-June 1942 Partisan Review as "Josephine the Singer, or, the Mouse Folk"); Bolano thought of Kafka as the most important writer of the twentieth century. There is also a touch of occult mesmerism in La senda de los elefantes ["The Path of the Elephants"] (1984; rev vt Monsieur Pain 1999; trans Chris Andrews 2010). La literatura nazi en América (1996; trans Chris Andrews as Nazi Literature in the Americas 2008) is his masterpiece of sustained Fabulation: an entirely fictional encyclopedia of fascist authors, detailing their non-existent bibliographies, scandals, love-lives and grubby literary spats. Dates of death and citations within the text extend well into the twenty-first century, as if the book itself were a Time Travel artefact from the Near Future. Three sf authors are included, with details of their chilling yet ludicrous magna opera, in much the same manner as the Alternate-History Adolf Hitler lampooned in Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream (1972). The narrator of Amuleto (1999; trans Chris Andrews as Amulet 2006), who thinks of herself as the crypto-transtemporal muse of Mexican poets, narrates her life story while hiding from the military in 1968; this narrative incorporates events taking place many years after.

Bolaño may have intended to return to narratives that implicated the future in his final work, 2666 (2004; trans by Natasha Wimmer 2008). Though the text as published offers no clue as to the relevance of its title, Bolaño's career-long strategy of cross-referring passages and characters from one tale to another does more than hint that his works as a whole were intended to comprise facets of some a mosaical over-text he did not live long enough to bring to full maturity (though in fact throughout his career he affirmed an intuition/principle that the inherent incompleteness of the work of art was an essential tool in seeing the world aright); this strategy also allows the reader specifically to treat his reference to the year 2666, in a passage from Amulet (see above), as relevant. The protagonist imagines herself in a cemetery in that year, "a forgotten cemetery under the eyelid of a corpse or an unborn child ...", allowing 2666 to be conceived as seen or refracted through the eyelid of a corpse, it may be: but no surety for this reading is available. Los sinsabores del verdadero policia (written 1980s-2003; 2011; trans Natasha Wimmer as Woes of the True Policeman 2012) features several characters from 2666, but with significantly different lives. El espíritu de la ciencia-ficción (written circa 1989; 2016; trans Natasha Wimmer as The Spirit of Science Fiction 2019) contains elements of the fantastic problematized by complicated framing. One strand comprises letters sent by a character to various sf authors including Forrest J Ackerman, Ursula K Le Guin, Fritz Leiber, Robert Silverberg and James Tiptree Jr. [JC/JonC]

see also: Equipoise.

Roberto Bolaño Avalos

born Santiago, Chile: 28 April 1953

died Barcelona, Spain: 15 July 2003

works (selected)

  • La senda de los elefantes ["The Path of the Elephants"] (Toledo, Spain: Ayuntamiento de Toledo, Concejalía del Area de Cultura, 1984) [binding unknown/]
    • Monsieur Pain (Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Anagrama, 1999) [vt of the above: with new introduction: pb/]
      • Monsieur Pain (New York: New Directions, 2010) [trans by Chris Andrews of the above: hb/Allen Frame]
  • La literatura nazi en América (Barcelona, Spain: Seix Barral, 1996) [pb/]
  • Estrella distante (Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Anagrama, 1996) [pb/]
    • Distant Star (New York: New Directions, 2004) [trans of the above by Chris Andrews: pb/Semadar Megged]
  • Amuleto (Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Anagrama, 1999) [pb/]
    • Amulet (New York: New Directions, 2006) [trans by Chris Andrews of the above: hb/from Gerardo Suter, "un visitante nocturno"]
  • 2666 (Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Anagrama, 2004) [hb/]
    • 2666 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008) [trans by Natasha Wimmer of the above: hb/Charlotte Strick from Gustave Moreau, "Jupiter and Semele"]
  • Los sinsabores del verdadero policia (Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Anagrama, 2011) [written 1980s-2003: hb/]
  • El espíritu de la ciencia-ficción (Madrid, Spain: Alfaguara, 2016) [written circa 1989: binding unknown/]

collections and stories

  • Llamadas telefonicas (Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Anagrama, 1997) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Putas aesinas (Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Anagrama, 2001) [coll: binding unknown/]
    • Last Evenings on Earth (New York: New Directions, 2006) [coll: trans by Chris Andrews of half the contents of the above two: hb/Allen Frame]
    • The Return (New York: New Directions, 2010) [coll: trans by Chris Andrews of half the contents of the above two: hb/Allen Frame]
  • El gaucho insufrible (Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Anagrama, 2003) [coll: some nonfiction: pb/]
  • El secreto del mal (Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Anagrama, 2007) [coll: some nonfiction: binding unknown/]
    • The Secret of Evil (New York: New Directions, 2012) [trans of the above by Chris Andrews and Natasha Wimmer: hb/Rodrigo Corral]
  • Sepulcros de vacqueros ["Cowboy Graves"] (Madrid, Spain: Alfaguara, 2017) [coll: binding unknown/]

about the author

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