27 dic. 2008


*Bolaño. Nocturno de Chile. 2000. 150 pp.

I'm a little embarrassed about not having read much Bolaño, since he is all the rage now. I read 3/4 of this in the public library today. I don't like joining bandwagons but this is the one Latin American writer who has hit it big with the English speaking audience in the last little while, so it's kind of bad if people ask me about him and I am completely ignorant.

Anyway, the narrator is a priest who is a member of the Opus Dei, a literary critic, and a kind of idiot, ultimately. The kind of idiot that is not incompatible with being an intellectual. Toward the beginning, he meets Neruda. (Bolaño likes the trick of placing real characters in a fictional context.) He goes to Europe to discover techniques for preserving old churches against pigeon dung: it turns out the priests there use falcons to hunt the pigeons! There is another long digression about a shoemaker in the Austrio-Hungarian empire who wants to build a monument to heroes of said empire. Bolaño has a gift of invention, for sure. Quasi-probable episodes involving real historical figures are his speciality here. The book is written in one long continuous paragraph, and structured around a series of discrete episodes--some of which seem digressive.

It hasn't been explained yet how the priest can be in the Opus yet also be the most liberal possible member of the Opus, how he can be learned and yet so idiotic, etc...

After Pinochet's coup takes place, our narrator is enlisted (by the same mysterious import / export guys that sent him to Europe to study the dove-shit problem), to give a mini-course to Pinochet and the other generals of the junta on Marxism. He dutifully prepares and give his course, going through all the major texts of Marx and ending with Castro and Mao. At the end, he asks Pinochet whether he's done a good job and the general reassures him. When the library closed, Pinochet was explaining to the narrative that Allende was not really an intellectual, just a guy who read magazines and had other people tell him what to think.

I've given up on the Calvino novel about real-estate development. I just don't care what happens with this particular building project. I have another one by Calvino about the resistance that looks a bit more promising.

[Update: a chilling scene provides the conclusion to Bolaño's novel. At a literary soirée a drunken guest gets lost in huge house and finds, behind a door in a basement, a man chained to a bed and gagged. Returning to the party, he says nothing. It turns out that the husband of the hostess, "Jimmy," is CIA and uses the house as a place to interrogate and torture. The narrator/priest seems somewhat shocked--but this is the same guy who obsequiously taught Marxism to Pinochet with no qualms. Who does he think ordered the torture?]

1 comentario:

Ryan dijo...

I would also recommend Horacio Castellanos Moya (particularly, Senselessness). He's not a bandwagoneer, but he's got an affinity for Bernhard.