November 21, 2009

Bolaño, el gaucho insufrible

syndetics-lcI stopped reading Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives at about page 80, exasperated with experiencing in real time the lengthy, rambling thoughts of young literary poseurs that I kept mixing up so every few pages I'd have to flip back ten pages to try to remember who they were. Or actually, no. To identify them, not to remember who they were. I remembered who they were. They were that late-seventies phenomenon, the freaks, travelling around Europe, India, North Africa with their embroidered bags full of Caran d’Ache watercolour pencils, shiny things and dope, this last tending to make their conversations boring and pointless, although if you had partaken too you noticed this less.

Roberto Bolaño had come over from Mexico in those years and was travelling around Europe, perhaps with an embroidered bag, or possibly with one of those brown, black and white Inca woven bags. In Europe in those years South American was sexy. Where I had gone to live, in Florence, Iranian students at the University used to try to pass themselves off as South American to get laid. There were barricades in South America and barricades were an important theme back then. I had someone say to me, seriously, "When the Revolution comes, we know what side of the barricades you'll be on, but we're not sure about him", "him" being a newly come-out gay friend of mine who was living an endearing enthusiasm for Barry White music and disco-dancing.

So when I read in The New York Times, as I was waiting for my copy of The Savage Detectives, that Roberto Bolaño, Chilean who had lived in Mexico since he was young, had probably not in fact gone back to Chile to join the struggle against Pinochet and then been arrested and freed only by the miraculous coincidence of having been at school with one of the guards (A Chilean Writer’s Fictions Might Include His Own Colorful Past), I was okay with cutting him some slack. Someone misunderstood and thought so, he didn’t correct the story right away, and afterwards it was too hard. Or maybe he wanted to construct a narrative for himself which he felt expressed him better than the real circumstances. After all, didn’t Hemingway do the same thing with his World War?

But the problem turned out to be, I didn’t like the book anyway.  I wonder who made it into such a myth; it must be either people who missed out sociologically on the whole phenomenon, or people from a later generation, even better if young and uncritical,as I was when I managed to make my way through seven - or was it nine - volumes of Anais Nin's diaries in high school. I asked a friend of mine, who, like me, had known in her time not a few characters like the ones in the book, if she understood why someone wanting to write a “love letter to his generation“, as he apparently called it, would choose to describe a time when they were so young and so full of themselves? There was a pause and then she said, “Well, perhaps if you were dying of liver disease you would.”

The savage detectives by Roberto Bolaño

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 05:30


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