Why do I think that of all Latin American writers, Roberto Bolano, in the last twenty five years, wrote the only things that matter? It presupposes that I am familiar with all Latin American writing in that period or that I have understood or have been affected more. That is not true though. Far from it, I have read only a few but in spite of that, and this is so unreasonable, I dismiss their claims, for with Bolano, writing does not attain or attempt to reach a pitch of perfection, the frenzied stillness of sculpted art or the frozen imperfection of colours and canvas, but aims, within the mystical domain of words, the mellowness of fragile emotions.
Bolano the novelist, the poet is the traveler, the restless poet, the uninvited guest worker, the illegal migrant, the unrepentant lover, the destroyer of hopes, the nihilist, illusionist, faker, fool, but poet. The young detectives fleeing and chasing demons across a desert, their poems our poems, some written and some not, some etched on wooden bedsteads besides dirty linen, flushed with alcohol, steeped in nausea, always unasked for, sometimes forgiven, always poetry though. And rising from a world removed from us, these young men and now old and defeated poets, unpublished and unsolicited, unknown and unhung, unadorned and uncalled, write elegies, summons, a call for arms, within the world of fake and real poetry, for poetry happens sometimes, when you are fleeing from assassins or lovers, from parents or friends, or into the myriad pain of sunsets, the torment of meetings and the delayed torture of love.
Bolano who is Sensini or Lacouture, Belano or Lima or the poet who has thrown his pen and picked a brush or has hung his brush and become a night watchman, dropping into endless wells to save frightened young souls; or the writer who has thrown aborted loves away or has aborted and loved again or the writer who wants to jump into passion and has drowned into a misty love of alcohol; or that young or not so young woman, who loves and waits for that poem, which she believes she only find by prostituting herself. Bolano the male slut, the literary prostitute. There are certain elements of his writing though or lack of those, which I am not comfortable with, for if read contrapuntally, as Said would advise us, his treatment of native Americans is short and seemingly absent ( the insufferable gaucho for eg) but then, this ignorance or lapse in his memory should be not be forgotten or pardoned but understood within the demands of his fiction, which is essentially non-imperial.
The undercurrent of all Bolano's writing is despair and solitude, born out of migration and exile. thus, Bolano is the exile's writer, the celebrator of whims, the guardian of passion, the historian of failed poets. It must be said that he will only appeal to a certain reader, to a certain landscape, within a certain season of moons, for all of his characters are quite given to whims and fancies, of a strange nature, without the hint of those sensibilities that are reminders of new anxieties. For the essential Bolano character is a devout poet, a failed revolutionary, an idealist, a rugged hero, a brave but forsaken woman, a conjurer of hopes, a diviner of mysteries, running away, hiding her poems in a desert, giving up, giving way.
Bolano is the poet's poet, the writer's writer, and he only wrote elegies, one after the other, and in that train of elegies, in that foam and rush of regrets and love and exile and heartbreak, we have seen poetry and some life, and in this frank Bolano love, I must admit that I am unabashedly waiting for 2666, a book that is claimed to his best. ( In my several posts on Bolano last year, I have generally repeated what is written above, but the present post is mostly a remembrance).