Book Review: Roberto Bolaño, between parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003; edited by Ignacio Echevarría; translated by Natasha Wimmer

Whores, perhaps, come closest in the exercise of their profession to the practice of literature. ~ Roberto Bolaño

Described by Ignacio Echevarría in the introduction as a “kind of fragmented autobiography”, this volume collects most of Bolaño’s newspaper columns and articles, speeches, and talks. The great majority of them contain Bolaño’s views on authors and literature, mostly other Latin American works, but not always. Many of them discuss Bolaño’s own philosophies on writing. Above all, Bolaño’s true poetic voice, elegant and spare while at the same time crude and relentless, shines in these short pieces.

While a valuable work for any Bolaño collection, as a whole this book felt disjointed. However, readers with the patience to comb through the sources or who know some of Bolaño’s biography will realize at the time of these writings his own life was also disjointed, riddled with health issues and uncertainty. Through it all Bolaño held onto his passion. Perhaps it’s fitting this posthumously published book parallels the end of Bolaño’s tumultuous life.

If you have patience enough to search, maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of what you’re looking for. And when you find it, you’ll probably be disappointed. It isn’t the devil. It isn’t the State. It isn’t a magical child. It’s the void. ~ Roberto Bolaño


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