Wednesday, January 30, 2008

BY NIGHT IN CHILE by Roberto Bolano

Roberto Bolano's By Night in Chile is a major work, a brilliant, beautiful, poetic novella that demands re-reading (the best criterion for literary greatness). If the translator's prose is faithful to the author's--and it must be, for surely no one would take such license today--Bolano has a lovely, baroque, Faulknerian style (not a rarity in Latin America; Gabriel Garcia Marquez once referred to Faulkner as a writer of the northern Caribbean basin, which is every bit as geographically accurate as calling him a 'Southern novelist'), and I detect in this style a very strong Thomas Bernhard influence. W.G. Sebald may also be behind this book somewhere, or that might equally be a misapprehension caused by Bernhard's influence on both writers. Bolano constructs some great, bitter symbols: the Church's trained falcons attacking doves that shit on churches; Western literature as a decaying bourgeois house concealing a torture chamber in the basement. Wow! I can't wait until the rest of Bolano's works are translated and published.

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