Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Story Hour: More Bolaño

It's the last day of January which, this year, is International Roberto Bolaño Month. So we should celebrate with more Bolaño, right?

Today's short story is from Bolaño's collection translated into English as Last Evenings on Earth. If you're reading Bolaño, Fosco heartily recommends this collection. You probably shouldn't read it until you've read 2666 or The Savage Detectives or both. I suspect that this collection would be somewhat inaccessible without some prior experience with Bolaño. But once you've gotten the feel for Bolaño's voice, this collection is an absolute delight.

The stories tend to have a narrator similar to Bolaño himself (whatever that means), often identified only as "B." Readers of his major novels will recognize details from those books--sometimes "biographical." Most of the stories in this collection are concerned with moments in Latin American literature, usually invented: stories about writers and books, author encounters. But what's wonderful here is not the plots, but rather the tales and the voice that tells them. There is a palpable joy in the telling of these stories and it's easy to get caught up in it.

The best story in the collection is probably "Anne Moore's Life." I would love to be able to offer this story to you today, but it is unavailable online. If you can get a hold of it, it is exceptional.

Instead, today's selection is a story originally published in English in The New Yorker called "Gómez Palacio." You can read it on the New Yorker's website here.

It's a strange story in some ways, more disconnected than some of the other stories in the collection. In fact, it may seem to you like a recounting of a number of completely unconnected incidents (which it is, more or less). But many of the standard Bolaño themes are there: how can you try to be a poet in a place like Mexico? How do you make sense of random experience? And, to what extent should we trust the written word? Should we trust memory? After all, as Bolaño's narrator notes, as he relates a detail in the story: "But it’s unlikely, like most things in this story."

Read it and pop back with comments, if you like.

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