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28 April 2013

Bolaño's Birthday

Happy birthday, Roberto

Today, April 28th 2013, would have been Roberto Bolaño’s 60th birthday, and in his honor I am pouring through The Savage Detectives, the novel that thrust him into the higher echelons of contemporary literature.  Also, I’ve been doing some sleuthing, via other blogs, to find the best Bolaño sites on the internet.  But first, a quick Bolaño bio for the two people who might need it, out of the 5 or 6 who actually read this blog.

Roberto Bolaño was born on this day in Santiago, Chile, in 1953.  The dyslexic offspring of a truck driver and a teacher, Bolaño felt like an outcast and so took refuge in books.  His family moved to Mexico City in 1968, where he promptly dropped out of school and took up the life of a left-wing journalist and occasional vagabond.  He returned to Chile in 1973, where he was briefly imprisoned before being helped to escape by two of his childhood classmates.  Or so se says.  Bolaño wrote poetry and traveled in South and Central America until 1977, when he moved to Europe, settling eventually near Barcelona and working an assortment of odd jobs during the day and writing at night.  He eventually married and it was the birth of his first child, a son, that convinced him to pursue a marginally more lucrative career and write fiction, beginning in the early 1990s.  Around the same time, he was diagnosed with a fatal liver disease, and died of liver failure on July 15th, 2003.  Among his most well recieved works are 2666, The Savage Detectives, and The Insufferable Gaucho.

And now, here are, IMHO, the trinity of best Bolaño-centric sites I follow:


  1. So, if one is to dip ones toes in to Bolaño, where to begin?

  2. Well, I'm reading the Savage Detectives now, and Kate is going to be reading it in a few months. I think it's the best starting point because it was his break out book. If you want a briefer taste, I'd go for The Insufferable Gaucho or Last Evenings on Earth, both short story collections.

  3. Savage Detectives might be worth the read for the taxonomy of homosexual Latino poets and for the mathematics of teenage orgasms alone.

  4. Also, there are lines like this almost every page:

    “There's a time for reciting poems and a time for fists. As far as I was concerned, this was the latter.”

    “We're artists too, but we do a good job hiding it, don't we?”

    “Every book in the world is out there waiting to be read by me.”

    “You can woo a girl with a poem, but you can't hold onto her with a poem. Not even with a poetry movement.”

    “It was the tyrannical, slightly stupid thing you say after you've made love.”


    “Of all the islands he'd visited, two stood out. The island of the past, he said, where the only time was past time and the inhabitants were bored and more or less happy, but where the weight of illusion was so great that the island sank a little deeper into the river every day. And the island of the future, where the only time was the future, and the inhabitants were planners and strivers, such strivers, said Ulises, that they were likely to end up devouring one another.”