Today in the Americas, the death of Roberto Bolaño

I first “discovered” Roberto Bolaño at Old Dominion University’s Perry Library. To break the monotony of studying, I would wander the “PQ” section of Latin American literature, avoiding Borges and Llosa, trying to find new artists that would spark things in me that I have yet to discover to this day.

roberto bolano smoking

I worked at Prince Books, in downtown Norfolk, and I remembered reading a review of this Bolaño by the New York Review of Books (You now have to pay for the article!). I read about his “masterpiece,” Los detectives salvajes. In a sense, his legacy tempted my instincts toward his writing, but I won’t lie that when I saw that iconic image, the one of him smoking on the park bench, I didn’t feel like something was speaking to me.

The library happened to By Night in Chile, Distant Star and his short story collection Last Evenings on Earth. I ate them up like candy. It was only a matter of time before his masterpiece, The Savage Detectives was released in English. It’s effect has been profound and pronounced.

He died today in 2003 (5 years ago). When I noticed the anniversary approaching, I wondered what I would say. I realize now that I don’t have much to say. Like all great authors, it takes a lifetime of reading, writing and reflecting to cull any sort of enlightenment from any author.

In short, it is not too late to pick up By Night in Chile, his venerable 2666, his haunting Nazi Literature in the Americas or wait until August for Chris Andrew’s latest translation The Skating Rink. Bolaño’s legacy is far from written. Fiction writers, as I aspire at times to be, must carry his legacy into our own. I laugh, as I sound like a disillusioned character straight out of one of his novels. I guess that makes sense.


~ by Daniel on July 15, 2009.

One Response to “Today in the Americas, the death of Roberto Bolaño”

  1. Great post! I am a fan of his work as well. I also discovered Bolano after reading a review of one of his works (it was his book, 2666, reviewed in the NYT). I also picked up Distant Star, Last Evenings On Earth and By Night In Chile from my local library and they are the first three books I’ve read of his. I wrote about him on my blog as part of my Great Authors Series. So nice to find other fans of his work. May he RIP.

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