LA ÚLTIMA NOVELA DE ROBERTO BOLAÑO

 

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Roberto Bolaño (1953 – 2003) vía jotdown.es

“Desde hace años trabajo en una (novela) que se titula Los Sinsabores del Verdadero Policía y que es MI NOVELA. El protagonista es un viudo, 50 años, profesor universitario, (con una) hija de 17, que se va a vivir a Santa Teresa, ciudad cercana a la frontera con los USA. Ochocientas mil páginas, un enredo demencial que no hay quien lo entienda”.                                      —Roberto Bolaño  1995

¡FELIZ DÍA DEL LIBRO A TODOS!

En honor a este día tan especial para nosotros, les presento algunos comentarios sobre la novela que acabo de leer. La recomiendo sin reservas a todos que no sean disuadidos por los siguientes hechos y observaciones.

Winston Churchill, el Primer Ministro del Reino Unido durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, dijo alguna vez, «Rusia es un acertijo envuelto en un misterio dentro de un enigma». En el inglés contemporaneo solemos usar esta descripción independientemente de la política para calificar un asunto como más  que meramente perplejo: por ejemplo, «el universo es un acertijo. . .»

Para mí, Los sinsabores del verdadero policía, una de las novela escritas durante los últimos quince años de la vida de Roberto Bolaño, se alínea sin duda a esta descripción. De hecho, casi todas sus novelas son así y especialmente sus más apremiadas. De ésta última, algunos críticos dicen que carece de cierta credibilidad debido a que el mismo Bolaños no la acabó, tal cual su novela 2666. Dicen que las dos fueron editados postúmamente y de allí no demuestran todos los toques maestros que pudieron haber tenido.

El renombrado editor Jorge Herralde de Anagrama dijo esto sobre Los sinsabores del verdadero policïa:

« [La] lectura de la novela nos convence de que estamos ante una obra de una calidad literaria extraordinaria, en el territorio de ‘2666’ y ‘Los detectives salvajes’, es decir, del Bolaño en su mejor forma”.

Bueno, ya he leído ocho novelas de Bolaño (trece, si los cinco partes de 2666 son de verdad cinco novelas, como el mismo Bolaño las denominó) y hay tres cosas que me quedan claras que quiero compartir aquí:

  • Las novelas de Bolaño casi nunca tienen climax. La historia misma es lo que más le importa al lector. Leer sus novelas es como pasear en montaña rusa: la emoción más intensa se siente durante la trayectoria y no cuando el tren para al final.
  • Leer a Bolaño implica pausar, reflexionar, volver a leer y esculcar el texto buscando en vano lo que no se encuentra en ninguna parte.
  • Leer a Bolaño es reirse de cosas insólitas, identificar dentro de ti mismo cierta semejanza con algunos de los personajes, desde los más ejemplares hasta los más abyectos. Siento que comprendo más de la naturaleza humana y que, gracias a estas lecturas, estoy dispuesto a aceptar más de ella tal como es.

Si quieren conocer las obras de Bolaño que siguen una cronología, tienen una historia que mantiene su unidad de principio a fin, y hasta llevan un aire de misterio que se aclara dentro de la misma novela, les recomiendo La pista de hielo (1993) y Nocturno de Chile  (2000).

 

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Maravillosa fórmula para cuidar el alma escrita por Claudia Hernández

Mira arriba y dale permiso al sol que llegue a tus pies y suba a tu frente. Que te haga sudar todos los problemas que se encuentran en tu vida y que se pierdan. Siente el sol y deja que te alivie un poco el alma.

Mira abajo y permite que la arena acaricie el daño que ha sufrido tu cuerpo. Puede ser incómoda pero suave a la vez; quema pero refresca. Siente la arena y deja que su dorado se camufle en ti y te convierta en oro.

Mira al frente, siempre. Sumérgete en lo infinito del océano y que tu vida fluya como las olas. Húndete en lo que la vida te envíe. Bucea entre todo lo bueno y malo y confía que nunca te quedarás sin respirar porque estas hecho para soportar todo lo que venga.

Eres fuerte y siempre lo serás si te permites sentir. Siente el mar y deja que te ayude a vivir. Puede que la vida no sea tan mala como pensabas.

©Claudia Hernández

via Siente el mar.  — Claudia Hernandez

City Life

I know of no author who can portray today’s big city life more masterfully than Don DeLillo. His words are accurate and loaded with the emotion that city living evokes. The insights he shares didn’t come his way by  majoring in urban studies at some distant university; he got them by pounding the pavement in his native Bronx and the rest of New York City (NYC) before fame ever found him.

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In his latest novel, Zero K, he offers a glimpse of modern city life and especially homelessness:

Languages, sirens all the time, beggar in a bundled mass, man, or woman, hard to tell even when I approach and drop a dollar in the dented plastic cup. Two blocks farther on I tell myself that I should have said something, and then I change the subject before it gets too complicated.

“Before it gets too complicated.” These words still give me goosebumps every time I read them. It’s what we have to do in the cities. Find a way to live with the complexities of languages, cultures, religions, mental states and economic disparities. And you have to embrace it too or it will defeat you.

According to U.S. Census data, a total of 192 different languages are spoken in NYC homes, while 156 are spoken in Chicago. And languages reflect cultures; those who speak different languages also have different customs, traditions, moral codes and holidays. At first glance these numbers seem to be cool statistics, but how do you run a city with them? How do you prepare schools and teachers? First responders? Libraries?

Now, despite their relatively harsh winters, both  NYC and Chicago have homeless populations numbering in the tens of thousands. Everyone agrees there is a problem, but agreement on what exactly is the problem is another story. A solution, if their is one, depends on defining the problem(s), identifying the various causes and the level of empathy and tolerance on the part of the overall population when it come to taking actions. Whew!

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Chicago Homeless Camp via Chicago Sun Times

I suggest you read the DeLillo quote again. We all feel it to some degree when encountering  a homeless person. Am I being conned? Should I give? If I do, how much? Is he or she drunk? If so, do I help out or not? What about the next person and the next? Should I offer something more —something that may take my time as well as my money? Should I have said something too instead of avoiding eye contact? Is this person critically ill? Should I call an ambulance? . . .

About all any one person can do is change the subject before it gets too complicated.  That and keep the resolve to stay in the city and stay engaged.

Of Moneymakers and Artists

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What cannot be measured in dollars and cents? This is a question that used to have many more answers that it has today.

Take movies, for example. How are script writers, directors and actors valued by those who fund their production? The measure is usually one-dimensional: box office success. As a result, movies are made almost exclusively according to their appeal to general audiences. If you watch clips of actors being interviewed nowadays it is not unusual to hear them yearn for the availability of independent productions, movies which would allow them to test their ability to interpret meaningful scripts and bring fleshed-out characters to life. Here, the word independent is synonymous with low budget and targeted appeal —conditions which rarely, if ever, will attract investors. Top-earning actors and directors have themselves become investors in their own independent films as a last resort to get them produced.

Now, in reference to the quote illustrated above, let’s take a similar look at fiction writing. Juan Carlos Onetti, a marvelous Uruguayan writer whose books, if measured by sales volume, were largely unsuccessful during his lifetime, has subsequently emerged as a literary artist of the highest magnitude. Many of his contemporary peers have been the ones to affirm this.

The quote above, translated to English, says the following:

The author who writes what everyone likes may be a good writer but will never be an artist.

So, in line with movie production, most new novels are green-lighted based on their projected sales appeal to specific audiences. In this case, however, the novels published are marketed according to the specific tastes (genres) of the reading public: romance fiction; science fiction; and other categories such as historical, mystery, crime, and so on. Sadly, the category of literary fiction is often the last to be funded, unless the author in question has already acquired a demonstrable following that makes a new novel less risky to the publisher.

Students of film and writing are made aware of these conditions and then encouraged to follow the path of least resistance. As a result, we have gradually discouraged the artists among us while encouraging those who generate good books and movies —”good” as measured along that one-dimensional axis of dollars and cents.

#1 RELATIONSHIPS OF A GIRL

I have come across this powerful post written by a young woman who I believe lives in India. I understand all her questions but can’t think of one answer I could give her that would help her to feel less trapped. I don’t have many followers, but maybe among you there is someone who can open a door to hope for her.

Mi obsesión con los cuentos y novelas de Juan Carlos Onetti

Primero que todo, reconozco que ya he escrito más sobre este autor que sobre los demás autores en su conjunto. Me atrevo a decir que las obras de Onetti para mí son como La Perla de Gran Precio de la Biblia; que han llegado a ser de un valor incalculable para mí.

Mi lectura predilecta sin lugar a dudas son las novelas. Prefiero leer una novela a lo largo de una serie de 6 ó 7 etapas en lugar de leer 6 ó 7 cuentos, cada uno por completo a su vez. Pero ya había leído casi todas las novelas escritas por Onetti cuando comencé a leer El viaje a la ficción del escritor Mario Vargas Llosa, Premio Nobel de Literatura 2010. Me llamó la atención cómo elogió varios cuentos de Onetti, sobre todo El infierno tan temible.

Cuando llegó al momento de resumir y criticar éste, Vargas Llosa lo hizo así:

“[L]as pocas páginas de que consta El infierno tan temido son engañosas, pues, aunque la historia parece de entrada claramente inteligible, la verdad es que toda ella está cargada de sobreentendidos, alusiones, pistas, referencias, omisiones y acertijos que permiten lecturas muy diversas y hacen de ella unas suerte de palimpsesto en el que distintos niveles superpuestos de escritura trazan una inquietante descripción de la vocación de crueldad congénita a la condición humana”

Más tarde, en una entrevista hecha por resonancias.org, resumió este cuento de la siguiente manera:

“El infierno tan temido” es uno de los grandes cuentos de la literatura. El consigue mostrar algo que no sabemos definir muy bien: el mal, el pecado original, el instinto tanático. “Las fieras” [ de Roberto Arlt], y desde luego, en “El infierno tan temido”, que es un cuento que no sé cuántas veces he leído, me producen siempre una especie de terror metafísico. Uno descubre que también somos eso. Y es también absolutamente extraordinario que, al mismo tiempo, a todo eso se lo pueda llamar una historia de amor. Una historia de amor, digamos, retorcida, perversa, pero hay ahí una especie de entendimiento en esa pareja a través de esos horrores que se hacen.

Poco después de leer estos comentarios compré un ejemplar de Cuentos Completos de Juan Carlos Onetti y leí El infierno tan temible. Lo leí y lo volví a leer. Estoy de acuerdo con lo que dijo Vargas Llosa: estas páginas de hecho son engañosas y éstas no pueden ser desenredados mediante una sola lectura.

Se lo recomiendo, sin reserva alguna,  a todos que lean esta entrada. No será necesario que compren este tomo tan grueso que compré yo, a menos que ya sean aficionados de las obras de Onetti; que, en tal caso, sería una maravillosa adquisición. Este cuento está disponible en forma PDF en varias páginas Web, inclusive en cervantes.com.

Critically Thinking Our Place in the World

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One of the criteria I often use to decide whether I want to read more of a novelist’s works is whether he or she has made me stop reading in a heartbeat to re-read and digest a powerful phrase, sentence or brief paragraph before reading further.

I recently wrote about the late British novelist Graham Greene in my post Where’s the Danger and cited a sentence from his Novel The Power and the Glory.

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(Above): Graham Greene,as he looked at the approximate age this book was published. He was born in October of 1904 and died at the age of 86 in April of 1991. During his adult life he wrote at least 25 novels, which he divided,by his own subjective criteria into “novels” and “entertainments”, the latter being more for enjoyment and temporary escape from daily anxieties.

 

Novelist Scott Turow told his NPR hosts in 2006 that he had bought The Power and the Glory some 40 years earlier, which would have mad him about 17 at the time of this purchase. He went on to say that he still had this very same book in his library, which should indicate his passion for it. The following quote is from this same interview with him:

The novel captivated me completely. It was a thriller — but also a novel of ideas.514joptq0ol Greene’s elegant use of detail, the author’s profound knowledge of his characters, and his novel’s unrelenting suspense marked the book to me as a work of the highest literary art. [. . .] But I had no question when I read, and then repeatedly re-read, The Power and the Glory, that it was a book I would have simply died to write. —Scott Turow on NPR

 

The following is  the meat of this blog post—the second quote from the same book that made me stop and reflect on what I felt was a revelation —a poignant insight into our flawed (fallen, for some) human nature.

In our hearts there is a ruthless dictator, ready to contemplate the misery of a thousand strangers if it will ensure the happiness of the few we love.

I leave it without comment. That’s the way I came across it, and I feel any attempt to illustrate or explain it on my part would only detract from it. It was written to stand alone as a strong call for introspection.

 

 

Where’s the Danger?

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In 1940, British novelist Graham Greene published The Power and the Glory, set in Mexico about the clandestine sacramental activities of the “whisky priest” at a time when Catholicism was prohibited in the State of Tabasco. We come to realize that he is the only cleric who has dared to stay and serve those he feels are in need of him. As daring as this is, he only ever seems to focus on his shortcomings: the fact that he once fathered a child there; his drinking; and the fact that he has to hide all that he does.

He is a man who will never know safety unless and until he leaves the state. Whether out of duty or compulsion he chooses to live in danger.

But Greene didn’t see it that way and I have come to agree with him. In one of the two quotes I cherish from this novel he says:

The argument of danger only applies to those who live in relative safety.

I can think of dozens of times where these worlds would have expressed my feelings so much better than my own. For instance, I used to live in Brooklyn and work a block from Grand Central Station in Manhattan. The majority of my coworkers lived outside the city—mainly upstate, Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey.

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Sometimes I was asked how I got to work and my answer was that I always took the subway. “The subway?” came the answer, “but it’s so dangerous down there.”

I generally replied with this question, “When was the last time you took a subway?” The answer, almost always, in so many words: “I never do. It’s not safe down there.”

So those who live in relative safety usually do so in a restricted, and often privileged, environment. Anywhere else is met with the “argument of danger.”

As a final example, while living and working here in Chicago, I customarily vacationed in Colombia. The president of the company took me aside, on one of the few occasions we ever exchanged words, and told me I was “reckless and foolhardy” to go to such a dangerous place. I didn’t follow with my usual question because I didn’t feel well-off enough to retire on the spot.

Down in Colombia, and later in other countries, I met some truly marginalized people who seemed to have no options in life. They had to deal with each day as it came, and then went and did what they had to and never spoke of danger.

This was the lot of the whisky priest. In the novel he only feels true danger at one particular point in the story. To say more would spoil it for any would-be reader.

 

As Life Passes Us By

The Latin American “Boom” in literature seemed to spring forth almost simultaneously in various countries of North, Central, and South America, beginning in the 1950s. The authors most commonly included as “founding members” of the group are: Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia; Julio Cortázar, Ernesto Sábato and Jorge Luis Borges, all from Argentina; Alejo Carpentier, Cuba; José Donoso, Chile; Miguel Ángel Asturias, Guatemala; Juan Rulfo and Carlos Fuentes, México; Augusto Roa Bastos, Paraguay; César Vallejo and Mario Vargas Llosa from Perú; Juan Carlos Onetti, Uruguay.

All these authors have had novels translated into English and other languages, and some are readily recognizable to avid readers of fiction. García Márquez, Asturias, and Vargas Llosa have all subsequently been named Nobel Laureates.

In 2011, Vargas Llosa published a book of essays, El viaje a la ficción (English: A Flight into Fiction), dealing exclusively with Uruguayan author Juan Carlos Onetti and his novels. Vargas Llosa considers them much more deserving of availability and serious attention than they have gotten. He has personally lauded Onetti as “el primer narrador moderno de nuestra lengua” (English: the premier modern narrator of our language). Carlos Fuentes has said, “Las novelas y cuentos de Onetti son las piedras de fundación de nuestra modernidad” (English: His novels and short stories are the cornerstones of our modernity). Finally, Julio Cortázar simply called Onetti “el más grande novelista latinoamericano (English: the greatest Latin American novelist).

Onetti’s seminal novel, La vida breve (English: A Brief Life) published in 1950 is widely considered a foundational work of the Latin American Boom

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Juan Carlos Onetti

In essence, this “Boom” heralded a change in Latin American fiction from a focus on colonialism, dictatorships and other regional themes to the universal works of human nature and its conditions, often within an aura of magical realism which also emerged during the Boom. In this work, Onetti highlights what he considered the universal human trait of fleeing from reality to imagination and fiction as the way to deal with the lives we are born to lead.

Now to the heart of the matter. With this novel now well underway, we suddenly read the following:

“Lo malo no está en que la vida promete cosas que nunca nos da; lo malo es que siempre las da y deja de darlas.”

(English: “What is bad is not that life promises us things it never gives us; what’s bad is that it always gives them and then stops giving them.”)

I would say there is nothing more typical of human nature than to desire things we do not have while underappreciating all the things  life has given us. Then, especially as we age, we begin to lose the things we have taken for granted, things like jobs, relationships, physical strength and agility, the ease with which we can hope and plan for the future, independence, our worth to the larger society, and many other tangibles and intangibles depending on our individual circumstances. In this country we even take for granted “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” because we are taught that we’re entitled to them. And yet, when studied seriously, it is possibly the most egregious example of human overreach ever uttered.

It can be sad to lose what we haven’t appreciated enough. We all know related aphorisms and quotes like “You don’t know what you have until you lose it” and “The Lord (life) gives, and the Lord takes away”, but we tend to remain blissfully unaffected by them, largely due, I would say, to the effort we expend in denying our own mortality

The flight from life into a fictional refuge remained the central theme of Onetti’s most important novels. We can count and name his characters who undertook it. We can also find them in the mirror if we look objectively enough. The flight from life into fiction is the flight from mortality to immortality, and one way or another we all undertake it.