Antwerp by Roberto Bolano

Antwerp by Roberto Bolano

Chilean fiction

Translated by Natasha Wimmer

Well I wasn’t going to cover Bolano over Spanish lit month .But then I was in library and saw they had this one ,which had been one I wanted to try of the seemingly endless number of books after the Late Roberto’s death as it was his first try at Novel writing having started as a poet .So this book written when Bolano was 27 and was living in Barcelona ,this is around the time he meet his future wife Carolina Lopez .This book is set in the area round Barcelona called the Costa Brava .

The only novel that doesn’t embarrass me is Antwerp

A quote on the front cover from Bolano .

When I first saw this book which is a loose crime novel ,that is made up of 56 connect /unconnected narratives .My first thoughts was Borges I don’t know why I ve read many interviews where Bolano mention the Argentina master .But then my mind drifted to the experiential nature of the book and books like if on a winter’s night as Bolano appears to be one of the mostly unnamed narrators of this book .Like Italo Calvino’ the book seems to want you to be drawn in and maybe connect the snippets that we are given to make a whole picture ,thus making the reader work as they read which is a wonderful tool  .I also thought of  the book by B.S Johnson The unfortunates which like Antwerp is a collection of vignettes mostly from unnamed narrators  around a football match  and some one suffering cancer .But it  can be mixed up apart from the last and first chapter  I felt this book could be just the same and would maybe felt  different every time you read  as you remember different bits and piece them in a different way .So what is the book is a patchwork of incidents ,policemen having sex with a girl in a seedy hotel room ,a red-headed girl who is camping ,A hunchback  and of course Roberto himself .Small piece non more than three pages . Each piece is like a memory or dream you’re not sure which adding to the mystery of the book .

19 romantic novel

I was silent for a moment and then I asked whether he really thought Roberto Bolano had helped the hunchback just because years ago he was in love with a mexican girl and the hunchback was mexican too ,Yes said the guitarist ,it sounds like a cheap romance novel ,but I don’t know how else to explain it mean in those days Bolano wasn’t overflowing with solidarity or desperation ,two good reasons to help the Mexican but nostalgia ,on the other hand .

One vignette but also a classic Bolano I felt .



I was astound he didn’t decide to publish it till twenty years after he wrote .I personally feel  that it was maybe the second favourite book of his I ve read. But also was maybe a signpost to all that followed in  Bolanos writing life . The crime element and a murder you can see in the skating rink which is set in the same area of Spain .The vignette style is maybe expanded in nazi literature of america another book with a non linear narrative  but where the idea surround the book is the main drive .The main drive in this book is tackling the crime novel ,but also maybe a way to bring poetic values to a fiction novel .I felt he tackled a way to bring a more poetic form to narrative fiction .Maybe the chaos of the book and how it can be read in different ways is like his two epics 2666 and savage detectives where you can feel lost at times but also draw your own views as your lost in his proses .Also Mexico creeps in the book via Mexican Hunchback .So If David lynch moved to spain and had written novels this would be by him .In fact I expand on that David Lynch could work this into a wonderful series there is so much in this for so little I feel this is a book I ll buy and re read time and time again .Another Spanish lit month read .

Have you read this book ?

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Parrish
    Jul 10, 2012 @ 19:30:41

    Not read this Yet! but will at some point as I’m a big fan of this writers work, he’s the reason The Parrish Lantern got going.


  2. Sarah
    Jul 10, 2012 @ 20:00:16

    It’s an interesting observation about being able to mix the sections. I’ve heard that said of Savage Detectives, although I liked that one just the way it is, but if I ever read 2666 again I would definitely resequence it.

    So far I have read Bolano’s Monsieur Pain for Spanish lit month, but I have found it my most difficult Bolano to date. There may or may not be a related post in the offing!

    If Antwerp is your second favourite Bolano then I am now all agog to know which is your first?


  3. JoV
    Jul 10, 2012 @ 21:26:11

    I gave away 2666 because I didn’t like it. I would give Savage Detectives another try and then that’s all for me, as far as Bolano is concerned. Best wishes.


  4. Scott W.
    Jul 10, 2012 @ 23:33:53

    I found Antwerp a bit more of a curiosity than some of the other RB novels I’ve read, but one I could not shake easily, and which, as you point out, indeed forces the reader to work, tugging along at tatters of significance while constantly throwing up impediments to comprehending them. It wasn’t my favorite of his works, but was certainly a memorable reading experience and a book that I think would make for a great teaching tool.


  5. Seamus Duggan
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 02:26:36

    I think I’ll gradually make my way through the full Bolano oeuvre and this certainly bumps this one higher up the list. Sounds fascinating.


  6. Rise
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 03:26:29

    It worked well for me as a sequence of prose poems. As a story, it really messes up the mind.


  7. Richard
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 03:11:57

    I haven’t been in any hurry to read this one despite being such a big Bolaño fan, but what you say was enjoyable about this work really intrigues me. Not sure the Bolaño quote on the cover was a joke or said in earnest, but we should probably never trust writers on these matters–Cervantes didn’t think Don Quixote was the work he’d be remembered for! 😀


    • winstonsdad
      Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:09:12

      I m not sure either of the quote writers always pick odd books as the favourites I think almost like loss leaders the ones people don’t know well ,all the best stu


  8. Tony
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 06:20:08

    Still never read any Bolano – I hope to have rectified that by the end of the year. Bolano, Borges, Calvino (yep, I know, Italian)… three great Latin names I have to get onto 😦


  9. Bellezza
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 23:00:30

    Stopping by for a long overdue visit, and to say that I just chose Bolano’s 2666 for a prize from our library’s Summer Reading Program. Perhaps if I have questions I could refer them to you and Richard? 🙂 Still, you inspire me to continue on with Roberto.


    • parrish
      Aug 13, 2012 @ 04:58:47

      Hi, Bellezza, hi stu. Just here to say to Bellezza about 2666, to take it slow & enjoy, also to warn her there’s a chapter she will not like but to get through it. It’s a wonderful book & one that encompasses (almost) everything.


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July 2012


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