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In the Sonora

Benjamin Kunkel: Roberto Bolaño, 6 September 2007

The Savage Detectives 
by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Natasha Wimmer.
Picador, 577 pp., £16.99, July 2007, 978 0 330 44514 6
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Last Evenings on Earth 
by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Chris Andrews.
Harvill, 277 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 1 84343 181 7
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by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Chris Andrews.
New Directions, 184 pp., $21.95, January 2007, 978 0 8112 1664 7
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... Roberto Bolaño was born in Santiago de Chile in 1953, moved with his family to Mexico City at the age of 15, and was inspired by the election of Salvador Allende to return to his native country five years later. In his short story ‘Dance Card’, which accords with the known facts of his life and does not present itself as fiction, Bolaño indicates that he hardly distinguished as a young man – if he ever did – between his politics and his love of poetry: ‘I reached Chile in August 1973 ...

More like a Cemetery

Michael Wood: The Part about Bolaño, 26 February 2009

Nazi Literature in the Americas 
by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Chris Andrews.
New Directions, 227 pp., £17.95, May 2008, 978 0 8112 1705 7
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by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Natasha Wimmer.
Picador, 898 pp., £20, January 2009, 978 0 330 44742 3
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... Roberto Bolaño likes to prolong his jokes well past the moment when even the slowest reader has got the point. Nazi Literature in the Americas, for example, looks like a single gag – the brief deadpan biography of an imaginary Fascist or near Fascist writer – multiplied by 30-odd cases over 200 pages. But then it dawns on even the slowest reader that what looked like the point wasn’t the point; and that the jokes were not only jokes ...


Christopher Tayler: Aleksandar Hemon, 23 May 2013

The Book of My Lives 
by Aleksandar Hemon.
Picador, 224 pp., £20, March 2013, 978 1 4472 1090 0
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... Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders’, an absurdist recitation pitched somewhere between Roberto Bolaño and Chris Morris, was dreamed up for radio in 1988) but later addressing his displaced existence. The Question of Bruno (2000) and Nowhere Man (2002) made him something more than a name to watch, and since then he’s had his share of ...

Not to Be Read without Shuddering

Adam Smyth: The Atheist’s Bible, 20 February 2014

The Atheist’s Bible: The Most Dangerous Book That Never Existed 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lys Ann Weiss.
Chicago, 249 pp., £21, October 2012, 978 0 226 53029 1
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... with bibliographical exactness: it continues in the fictions of Italo Calvino, Douglas Adams, Roberto Bolaño and Mark Z. Danielewski, among many others. The Polish science fiction writer and author of Solaris, Stanisław Lem, wrote long introductions to four imaginary books in Imaginary Magnitude (1973) and a whole volume of reviews of non-existent ...


Michael Wood: Di Benedetto’s Style, 5 April 2018

by Antonio Di Benedetto, translated by Esther Allen.
NYRB, 198 pp., £9.99, June 2017, 978 1 59017 717 4
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Nest in the Bones 
by Antonio Di Benedetto, translated by Martina Broner.
Archipelago, 275 pp., £15.99, May 2017, 978 0 914671 72 5
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... collections of short stories. He appears as a character called Sensini in a story of that name by Roberto Bolaño, collected in a volume appropriately titled Last Evenings on Earth (2007). The books under review give English-speaking readers a good chance to catch up – an ideal chance, we could say, since both works are very well translated and display ...

Hurt in the Guts

Joe Dunthorne: A Masterpiece and a Disaster, 1 April 2021

Michael Kohlhaas 
by Heinrich von Kleist, translated by Michael Hofmann.
New Directions, 112 pp., £11.99, April 2020, 978 0 8112 2834 3
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... to a story in which everyone suffers terribly and/or dies. That the other blurbs come from Roberto Bolaño, Susan Sontag and Paul Auster indicates that Kleist at last achieved the fame he longed for in his lifetime. In 2013, there was even a big budget film version – Age of Uprising – starring Mads Mikkelsen at his most weatherbeaten. This is ...


Fredric Jameson, 8 November 2018

My Struggle: Book 6. The End 
by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Martin Aitken and Don Bartlett.
Harvill Secker, 1153 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 1 84655 829 0
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... and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and become a literary sensation, on the order of Roberto Bolaño or Elena Ferrante (both also somewhat autobiographical, it should be added). So the more satisfactory response would be to take a poll (preferably worldwide) and find out what its readers think. I believe the result would be that they cannot ...

Enrique of the Silver Tongue

Christopher Tayler: A ‘Novel without Fiction’, 22 March 2018

The Impostor 
by Javier Cercas, translated by Frank Wynne.
MacLehose Press, 429 pp., £20, November 2017, 978 0 85705 650 4
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... the Cercas figure is researching a historical incident with help from his friend Roberto Bolaño – this played with the line between fact and fiction as a way of getting around the difficulties that stood between Spanish novelists and the story of the Civil War. Those difficulties were partly to do with a need not to be obvious, or not ...

The Feminisation of Chile

Lorna Scott Fox: Return to Santiago, 14 December 2006

... any approach that isn’t politically engaged. Chile’s one great contemporary writer, Roberto Bolaño, who died in 2003, stayed away after the end of the dictatorship. It is the business of a younger generation to find the idiom for a modern Chilean culture; I heard of uptown kids rapping over the music of the revolutionary icon Violeta ...

Lost in the Void

Jonathan Littell: In Ciudad Juárez, 7 June 2012

... of PM, his photo will be replaced by photos of other corpses. ‘What drives people crazy,’ Roberto Alvarez Gutiérez, a municipal police officer, explains, ‘is that there’s no follow-up. The files pile up and nothing is resolved. Sometimes mothers have to carry out their own investigations.’ That’s how things go here; it’s the norm. Every day ...

Ways to Be Pretentious

Ian Penman, 5 May 2016

M Train 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 253 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6768 6
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Collected Lyrics 1970-2015 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 303 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6300 8
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... that nestling in her book bag are authors such as W.G. Sebald, César Aira, Haruki Murakami, Roberto Bolaño, Enrique Vila-Matas and others, writers who purposively smudge the line between memoir and fiction? M Train, with its dot-dash series of woozy photographs, even looks like a Sebald text, and I got the same queasy feeling from it that I’ve ...

The Deaths Map

Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border, 20 October 2011

... a contact number but she’d used her cellphone to film the fracas and it had been confiscated. In Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666, a TV talk-show host watches enviously as a rival on Tijuana TV interviews a doomed cross-border veteran who holds ‘the record for most expulsions from the United States’: he is a scapegoat for the failures of the Mexican ...

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