Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles and Speeches, 1998-2003
The essays of Roberto Bolano in English at last.
Between Parentheses collects most of the newspaper columns and articles Bolano wrote during the last five years of his life, as well as the texts of some of his speeches and talks and a few scattered prologues. “Taken together,” as the editor Ignacio Echevarría remarks in his introduction, they provide “a personal cartography of the writer: the closest thing, among all his writings, to a kind of fragmented ‘autobiography.’” Bolano’s career as a nonfiction writer began in 1998, the year he became famous overnight for The Savage Detectives; he was suddenly in demand for articles and speeches, and he took to this new vocation like a duck to water. Cantankerous, irreverent, and insufferably opinionated, Bolano also could be tender (about his family and favorite places) as well as a fierce advocate for his heroes (Borges, Cortázar, Parra) and his favorite contemporaries, whose books he read assiduously and promoted generously. A demanding critic, he declares that in his “ideal literary kitchen there lives a warrior”: he argues for courage, and especially for bravery in the face of failure. Between Parentheses fully lives up to his own demands: “I ask for creativity from literary criticism, creativity at all levels.”
disappeared. She writes, and she attends writing workshops. In those days, I suppose, there weren’t as many workshops as there are today, but there were some. In Santiago people have grown accustomed to the curfew. At night there aren’t many places to go for fun, and the winters are long. So every weekend or every few nights she has a group of writers over to her house. It isn’t a set group. The guests vary. Some come only once, others several times. At the house there’s always whiskey, good
a crime novel complete with a serial killer, professional puzzle players, even puzzle championships, and it’s structured like a puzzle whose pieces the reader must put together to find the killer — for one thing — but also and above all for the sake of pleasure, since pleasure, pure and simple, is the ultimate goal of any novel. By this, of course, I mean pleasure or enjoyment that isn’t at odds with horror or with the greatest rigor or with the writer’s responsibility to his story (which,
the prolixity of David Foster Wallace. 23) Chabon and Palahniuk, whom he likes and I don’t. 24) Wittgenstein and his plumbing and carpentry skills. 25) Some twilit dinners, which actually, to the surprise of the diner, become theater pieces in five acts. 26) Trashy TV game shows. 27) The end of the world. 28) Kubrick’s films, which Fresán loves so much that I’m beginning to hate them. 29) The incredible war between the planet of the novel-creatures and the planet of the story-beings. 30) The
going to hell. Fate has determined that they’ll wander forever in the margins of the photograph. Larraín photographs people walking in Hyde Park. The photograph seems very English and ordinary: it captures the same fragile harmony as the photograph of the queue. And yet, if I examine it carefully, on the right side I spot a parochial native of Santiago de Chile, a government or bank official, clerk or bureaucrat, a good man who has never left Chile, his little hat says as much, startled as he
in which the character or characters set the quotidian in motion, start it rolling, and the results are unpredictable and at the same time recognizable and close at hand. We know that not just anyone can be Ishmael and only one in fifty million can be Captain Ahab. We know it and it doesn’t trouble us, although if we think about it, it should. But we delegate. Huckleberry Finn, however, could be anyone, and though that should make him more lovable, if possible, it fills us with the kind of