A little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolano

 

 

A little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolano

Chilean fiction

Original title – Una Novelita Lumpen

Translator – Natasha Wimmer

Source – Personnel copy

It has been a while since I reviewed Bolano he is one of the most review writers on the blog I have reviewed seven of his works on the blog as I work through all short books before I go back and reread savage detectives and 2666 both of which I read before the blog. I still have the return and Amulet on my tbr pile to read. This particular book was part of a project to get ten latin american writers at the turn or the millennium to write a story set in Rome. This book has also been made into a film.

One morning the Bolognan and the Libyan left. I spent an hour, more or less, going through the drawers to see whether they’d stolen anything. Nothing was missing.

Even I couldn’t deny that their conduct had been impeccable for the five days they’d stayed with us. They always washed the dishes, three times they hade dinner themselves, and they didn’t try anything with mr , which was important. I could sense the interest in their eyess, in the way they moved, and the way they talked to me, but I noted their self control and found it flattering

Bianca is an innocent in many ways as this passages shows .

This is a typical work of Bolano in his novella writing as it is a patchwork of a book . The story follows a orphaned brother and sister in Rome . Bianca the sister narrators the story, it see them trying to cope with the loss of their parents as they have to start work. But then her brother appears with two criminals just known as the Libiyan and Bolognan ,  they start to work out a crime that the four can do . This involves Bianca become close to a man Maciste a blind former film star , but in a weird twist she develops a weird S&M relationship with the man she is meant to be finding where this former star keeps his money.

Maciste’s eyes- unlike my brother’s eyes and his friends eyes- weren’t innocent. He almost always wore sunglasses. But sometimes he would take them off and look at me or pretend to look at me. Then I would shiver and close my eyes and hug him or try to hug him, which was alway hard considering his size. One day the Bolognan said to me

“That bastard is messing with your head.Find the safe ansd let’s get this over with”

I was reminded of that look frank had in the film Blue velvet as he is watch by Jeffrey

This is one of the stories that has no crime but is a crime story the crime isn’t part of the story it is rather like what Tarantino did in his classic film reservoir dogs where the crime is never show just the the meeting before and the aftermath this is like that we see the four discussing the crime , Bianca taking a lowly and dangerous position as a cleaner come sex toy for the blond old man this remind me somewhat of David Lynch;’s character Frank Booth another man with illness  and unhealthy way with woman. This isn’t a masterpiece but another little piece of the mosaic that is  Roberto Bolano the writer. glimpse at what made him the great writer that he was in this work .Also his love of good and evil the paths people take in there lives which has been at the centre of most of his works and how poverty sometimes leads to the wrong paths in life just to survive whether in Rome or the streets of Mexico city say .

Have you a favourite short Bolano work ?

My documents by Alejandro Zambra

My Documents by ALejandro Zambra

Chilean fiction

Original title – Mis documentos

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – review copy

The flash of a distant camera
reconnecting
thoughts and actions,
Fragments of our missing dreams,
Pieces from here and there
fall in place along the line,
Disappearing between you and me.

Life is changing everywhere I go,
New things and old both disappear.
If life is a photograph,
Fading in the mirror….

A Neil young lyric Distant camera from silver and gold album i felt the line fragments of our missing dreams suited this collection do well .

I have read Alejandro Zambra before his two Novella’s Bonsai and ways of going home  the ,later I did review here . I remember at the time I read it thinking , he would be a great short story writer so when this collection from Fitzcarraldo editions arrived I was excited to see if my feelings about him were right .Alejandro Zambra currently teaches at Santiago Diego Portales university he has won a number of awards including the best Chilean Novel award and was part of the 2010 Granta best Spanish writer collection (time flies that was a great collection ).

He was twenty-three years old, it was the first computer he’d owned and he didn’t know exactly what he wanted it for, considering he barely knew how to turn it on and open the word processor. But it was necessary to have a computer, everyone said so, even his mother . Who’d promised to help him with payments .

I was a bit old when I got my first lapton but had same feeling as what is this for in my life as our narrator did .

My documents could easily be called a novel in the way it is a collection of memories strung together , but the narrator isn’t defined as the same one, so it’s not a novel but a wonderful collection of gems memories drawn like the miniatures of old .Rather like in the 18th century people used carry a miniature of their loved ones eye just the eye and like that this collection it is a detached collection of stories of lives and memories . A remembrance of a first computer , from putting a poem on it , then listening to music , editing pictures and music finally to a dark side of the owning of a pc .Then we follow a smoker as he writers a diary of his giving up smoking (The irony is I just read Nicotine another non fiction work from FItzcarraldo also about stopping smoking ) .Then Condor Rojas is mentioned in one of the stories and rather like the stories themselves an echo of one of my own memories was remembered as like the writer himself , I remember the story of Roberto Rojas when this Chilean keeper pretend to be injured from a firework a match was abandoned and then he was found to have injured himself .

He’d been there with us, in front of the tv . When Condor Rojas faked his injury in Brazil and the Chilean team walked of the field at the Maracana. My father and I couldn’t believe what we were seeing and Camilo was distraught too. “Fucking Brazilians!” I shouted to see if anyone would scold me,but no one did. My father sank into a furious silence. Camilo immediately set off downtown, and he was part of the crowd that protested in front of the Brazilian embassy. I wanted to go with him, but my parents wouldn’t let me , and I had to swallow my rage.

The moment Rojas did the injury that turned out to be fake .

Again i was touched by Zambra I said although he grew up a million miles away from me and in a different world . I connected with him in ways of going home and again here , I remember my first interactions with a pc .But more than that the memory of what happened in that world cup qualifying game in 1989 that saw chile miss the 1990 world cup all but forgotten now outside Chile was by me at least remembered for a number of days after the reading of the story .Rather like Robin Williams in the film the final cut Zambra is a master of slicing together parts of life memories , loves and behind it all the dark past of Chile .This is a wonderful debut short story collection from one of the leading lights of Latin American fiction at the moment.

Have you read Zambra ?

 

By night in Chile by Roberto Bolano

 

 

By night in Chile by Robert Bolano

Chilean fiction

Original title – Nocturno de Chile

Translator – Chris Andrews

Source – Library book

 

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you or me
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold.

I choose  a Dylan lyric I dreamed of St .Augustine a song that is about Augustine of Hippo who wrote about Guilt and evil !

Well another year another Bolano  novel on the blog .I intend at some point to get all the books by Roberto Bolano  on this blog, for now  this is the seventh book by him I have reviewed on this blog .I’ve mentioned lots about Bolano before so , lets just say its twelve years since he dies and we are nearing the end of his books being published with just two more to come out in English one of those still to come out in  Spanish , that being  the  mysterious Diorama to come out .But the last on the list out in spanish is Little Lumpen novelita which came out in US late last year , no UK date I can see at the moment  .

I am dying now  , but still have many things to say .I used to be at peace with myself .Quiet and at peace. But it all blew up unexpectedly ,That wizened youth is to blame .I was at peace .I am no longer at peace .There are a couple of points that have to be cleared up .

The opening lines as he decides to write his own story on this one evening .

By night in chile could maybe called his stab at a modernist novel in a way it is a single piece told in one long paragraph by a priest  whom writes this all in the course of one night .who is also a poet Father Sebastian Urrutia lacroix , who is under the impression this is going to be his last night on earth so is writing the tale of his life down .A life of a poet and a priest , but of a nearly man  , a man who touched greatness in his life he knew Pablo Neruda , the great poet of Chile .But what we see is how his life also got caught up in the politics of Chile at the time the shift from the Allende regime to the stricter and ruthless reign of  Augusto Pinochet .The latter of which he ends up teaching , about communism .Added to this he is a member of Opus Dei what comes across is an embittered man who is so twisted by who he is inside it all comes pouring out on to the page over the course of this  one night as he thinks he is dying  .

Then I took a train to Turin , where I visited Fr Angelo , curate of St Paul of Succour , who was also versed in the falconers art .His falcon , called Othello  , had struck terror into the heart of every pigeon in Turin  , although as Fr Angelo confided in me , Othello was not the only falcon in the city ,

I choose this on a whim to quote just because H is for Hawk won the Costa just as I was finishing this book the other night !

Now I’ve been a bit vague as this is only a short novella and I’m not wanting to give too much away as ever the main character is a poet ,which I have found is the case in most of the novels by Bolano .The book is far more political than the other books I have read by Bolano , it is a lot more about , his homeland and the events that happened in the country in his youth .It is worth noting at this point , Bolano himself spent time in prison , which he describe in a story , but was it a story it seems as thou he may have been at Mexico at that time according to other reports .I love the mystery around his own life at the time .But what comes across in the book is that in some ways Lacroix is the juxtaposed of Bolano , some that stayed , some that worked with the regime , some one that was a poet as well .But by this time I feel Bolano viewed himself more as a Novelist than a poet , so unlike Lacroix , he had started to see success .Add to this Falconery as a hobby , years spent in Europe and an Opus Dei  side story in a way .At the start of this review I called this a Modernist Novel for me this was an attempt by Bolano to maybe do a Woolf or Joyce so to speak  an homage to their style in some ways I was most reminded of Mrs Dallowway in a way as it isn’t just one evening but also the course of a life in one book .

Have you read this or any shorter Bolano books ?

The Neruda case by Roberto Ampuero

The Neruda case by Roberto Ampuero

Chilean fiction

Original title –  El caso Neruda

Translator – Carolina De Robertis

Source – review copy

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

I choose the first two verse of a poem by Neruda one of the few I read online that touched me a lot A dog has died source

There is nothing better than the unknown book falling through the letterbox at Winston towers such as it was with this book when it arrived .Souvenir press sent me this book I’m one that falls in love with covers and I did with this one with its great picture  of Neruda on the cover .Robert Ampuero has lived a life , in fact in some ways the way he has moved around the world he left his native Chile after the Coup in 1973 first to east Germany to study , then in Cuba back to Chile and then Sweden and finally in the US where he is the professor of creative writing at the university of Iowa .

“In that case , it’s time for you to read the Belgian ,” the poet continued forcefully .”Because if poetry transports us to heaven , crime novels plunge you into life the way it really is , they dirty your hands and blacken your face the way coal stains engine stokers on trains in the south ,where I was born ,I’ll lend you these volumes so you can learn something from Inspector Maigret .

Young Brule is given the task and told to read Maigret to help him with it by don Pablo .

Well  I for one had wanted to know more about Pablo Neruda , he has always been on my radar of some one to read , he of course one the Nobel  prize for literature but is one of the best known poets from Latin America .The book is an imagined journey around the world by a young man on behalf of Pablo Neruda . The young man Cayetano Brule is a young private in the Cuban army where he is given a task to help Don Pablo , the job is to be a detective of Don Pablo’s life to retrace the woman he loved and left through out his life .Don Pablo ask the young man if he has read any crime fiction to help him along the way , he says he has read he says some Christie , Chandler and of course Holmes .At this point Don Pablo says he needs to read Simenon detective Maigret (he is not the only one I’ve read a lot as you all know this year as well ) so Neruda sends his private Maigret to rediscover his former loves , this journey takes him Berlin ,Cuba , Mexico and Bolivia as he follows the woman who meant something in Neruda’s life .

The poets large brown eyes grew more alert , as they always did when he was talking about women .Cayetano already knew this expression with its fleeting , youthful glow “A young woman , then. How old ? ”

“She was a teenager in the early sixties so today she should be around thirty ”

Don Pablo talking about on of his women as he sends his private to find out what happened to her .

The book is about an old man wanting to find out about his life and using this younger man to in some way recapture his youth , but also do that thing which we all do from time to time and that is to recapture one’s old loves .Alongside this we see the world Neruda lived in and how his shifting views on the world , also reflected at times the moving views in the world he had lived in .The coups,  political changes ever shifting politics of Latin America in the 20th century , all this viewed through the eyes of this young man who dreams of being a great writer like Don Pablo is .Don Pablo is painted with a loving eye , you can tell that Roberto Ampuero is a huge fan of this man , he even says in his after word how when he was younger he could see Pablo Neruda house from his own house , the room he was aware of with the huge chair by the window that Pablo Neruda used to sit in .I always love the way Latin American writers twist the detective novel as a form , Ampuero has twisted it to both be a great detective novel , but also a great piece of biography and also a look at the history and politics at the time of Neruda’s life .I was also left with the wanting to buy a collection of Neruda’s poetry .

Have you read Neruda ?

The insufferable Gaucho by Roberto Bolano

the-insufferable-gaucho-978033051062201

The insufferable Gaucho by Roberto Bolano 

Chilean fiction

Original title – El Gaucho insuferible 

Translator – Chris Andrews 

Source – library

Amazing travelers, what fantastic stories you tell!
What a bottomless incurvation to your eyes.
Show us the streaming gems from the memory chest
The mirroring beads of anecdote and hilarity. We’d also
Like to think it possible to combat the tediousness of these bourgeois prisons.
We’ll stretch the canvas, prepare the paints and brushes
Willing to take a month or even a year to make ourselves great.
What have you seen?

Baudelaire The voyage ,i loved this I read it after it was mention in the essay Literature + illness  = illness

Well this book is another hangover from Spanish lit month ,I have reviewed five of Bolano’s books before on the blog ,with Trevor over at Mookse and gripes doing a 2666 readalong ,that I am thinking about doing as a reread .I have said much about Bolano over the other post on him .I am slowly reading through his backlist and we are getting to the end of his books coming out in English with just two more it seems to come out .So it’s to insufferable gaucho a collection of Bolano’s short stories and a couple of essays .

Many years ago I had friend Jim , and he was the saddest North American I’ve ever come across .I’ve seen a lot of desperate men .But never one as sad as Jim .Once he went to Peru – supposedly for more than six months ,but it wasn’t long before we saw him again .The Mexican street kids used to  ask him , what’s poetry made of Jim?

Jim a short story of a sad man and poet in mexico

The stories cover a Vietnam vet coming to terms with his life ,Jim the vet in question  is a typical Bolano character ,he has escaped America and is trying to make his way in Mexico city as a poet , but not really getting to far .The we have a tale of an informer called police rat .But for me the story that really hit home was Alvaro Rousselot’s journey ,a tale that sees the title character who is an Argentinian writer having to go to France to find someone who is illegally make films of his books without his permission to find the man Morini that made a film lost voices that is so much like his own book solitude but get lost at times in France and he doesn’t speak French . The two essay in the collection are interesting the first seems to have been a lecture that Bolano gave at some the subject was literature and illness how the two interweave , using the poem which I quote from in the first section as part of the essay illness and French poetry .

What can Sergio Pitol , Fernando Vallejo and Richard Pigla do to counter the avalanche of glamour ? not much .They can write .But writing and literature are worthless if they aren’t accompanied by something imposing than meer survival .Literature ,especially in Latin America , and I suspect in Spain as well ,means success ,by which ,of course ,I mean social success :massive print runs :translation into more than thirty languages

The trouble of finding  identity and breaking out in Latin American literature .

I read this about two months ago and was a bit humdrum about it but since then I have thought about bits of the stories in this collection and rather like a wine ,this book tastes better with time away from it .The collection has lots of parts of Bolano as a writer that I like his poets on the edge with Jim .In police rats the story is formed from out of a sister of one of the characters in a Kafka story .Then the essays are a nice little taster too his non fiction writing ,I have his huge collection Between parentheses ,which over time I have been dipping in and out of .The second essay is a quick look by him at Spanish and Latin american  lit at the time it was written and is an interesting look as some of the writers he mentions like Pitol are just reaching us in English ,deep vellum are publishing this highly acclaimed Mexican writer .This would serve as a good starter for any one that has read Bolano and maybe want to get little nibbles of him as a whole as the stories cover the range of his writing from mexico ,to magined writers and non fiction ,not filling to me as a huge fan but it gives you a real feel of him as a writer .

Have you read Bolano ?

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