Monday, June 14, 2010

Roberto Bolaño: Entre paréntesis: Ensayos, artículos y discursos (1998-2003)

Marcela Valdes reviews Roberto Bolaño's essay collection "Entre paréntesis: Ensayos, artículos y discursos (1998-2003)" (Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles and Speeches).
Unlike many passionate young readers--who knock off two books a week when they're in high school but slow down to three or four a year once adulthood hems them in--Bolaño kept reading all his life. Most authors, Bolaño's editor Jorge Herralde observed in his book For Roberto Bolaño (2006), bury themselves in their own work, losing sight of the larger field. But Bolaño loved reading the works of his contemporaries--and he loved talking about what he was reading with his friends. According to Herralde, he was that rare and beautiful animal: "an insatiable reader." This lifelong compulsion, and its fleeting gratifications, formed the foundation of Bolaño's critical rulings, many of which can be found in his posthumous collection Entre paréntesis: Ensayos, artículos y discursos (1998-2003) (Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles and Speeches).

The collection, edited by Spanish literary critic Ignacio Echevarría--one of Bolaño's best friends--was published by Anagrama in 2004, and it has yet to be brought into English. This is a shame, and not only because Bolaño's judgments are often a delight to read. In the United States, Bolaño is best known for his fiction: the eerie stories of Last Evenings on Earth, the short novels Distant Star and By Night in Chile, the tragicomic colossus The Savage Detectives. But in the Spanish-speaking world, Bolaño is also renowned for his erudition. The onomastic index at the end of Between Parentheses contains 600 names, most of which represent a book, or a series of books, that Bolaño had read. The C's, which number sixty-two, are especially rich. There one finds not only such Golden Age masters as Miguel de Cervantes and Calderón de la Barca but also philosophical novelists Camus and Elias Canetti, as well as North American novelists Michael Chabon, Douglas Coupland and Raymond Chandler.
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