i keep thinking maybe this next bolaño that i pick up will be somehow minor or irrelevant or merely clever. but it never is! it’s always consistently great and consistently surprising with thin yet deep connecting seams of evil and loss, tiny to large explosions of sex and examples of worldly power… structurally so genius and yet so natural, hopeless wisdom, sad beauty, perfect jokes…
and parts to remember (spoiler alert if you believe in such) : the first visit to Farewell’s estate (for some reason, reminding of Zuckerman the young writer meeting Lonoff “the great man” in THE GHOST WRITER) (the repeating scenes in all the varying literary worlds); the build-up, the launch to (and the story of) heroes’ hill/helsenberg and the visionary aftermath scene with Farewell; the audacity of depicting the marxist crash course with the junta; the collapsing telescope of history intertwined with Fr Urrutia’s reading of the greeks; the basement of the maría canales salon (the basement of history being a torture chamber) — but he pulls off that rather heavy metaphor …how much he pulls off(!) …the falcons… and overall that our narrator is a right-wing critic, pinochet-collaborating opus dei cleric, haunted by the wizened youth who is himself or bolaño or the other or…
and here’re bits from a sweet 2001 interview just stumbled upon:
“As to my writing, I don’t know what to say. I suppose it’s realist. I’d like to be a writer of the fantastic, like Philip K. Dick, although as time passes and I get older, Dick seems more and more realist to me. Deep down—and I think you’ll agree with me—the question doesn’t lie in the distinction of realist/fantastic but in language and structures, in ways of seeing.
…The truth is, I don’t believe all that much in writing. Starting with my own. Being a writer is pleasant—no, pleasant isn’t the word—it’s an activity that has its share of amusing moments, but I know of other things that are even more amusing, amusing in the same way that literature is for me. Holding up banks, for example. Or directing movies. Or being a gigolo. Or being a child again and playing on a more or less apocalyptic soccer team. Unfortunately, the child grows up, the bank robber is killed, the director runs out of money, the gigolo gets sick and then there’s no other choice but to write. For me, the word writing is the exact opposite of the word waiting. Instead of waiting, there is writing.
…Yes, plots are a strange matter. I believe, even though there may be many exceptions, that at a certain moment a story chooses you and won’t leave you in peace. Fortunately, that’s not so important—the form, the structure, always belong to you, and without form or structure there’s no book, or at least in most cases that’s what happens. Let’s say the story and the plot arise by chance, that they belong to the realm of chance, that is, chaos, disorder, or to a realm that’s in constant turmoil (some call it apocalyptic). Form, on the other hand, is a choice made through intelligence, cunning and silence, all the weapons used by Ulysses in his battle against death. Form seeks an artifice; the story seeks a precipice. Or to use a metaphor from the Chilean countryside (a bad one, as you’ll see): It’s not that I don’t like precipices, but I prefer to see them from a bridge.”