Given the perilous state of publishing these days, it makes my heart sing whenever a writer of substance generates a serious following. And I keep bumping into people who feel passionate about the Latin American writer Roberto Bolano, who died near Barcelona in 2003. He's in the news these days for the publication of a slender sort-of-mystery novel called Monsieur Pain, but he has not stopped coming up in conversation since his work emerged on FSG in 2007.
Bolano, of coruse, writes often about bohemia, idealism, crushing disillusionment, sex, fascism and the romance of art and literature. HERE is my piece on Bolano, written for the publication of The Savage Detectives.
I must admit to having mixed feelings about the writer and his resurrection: My sense is that he's gotten a long way from having a romantic life, from attacking better-known writers (Paz, Garcia Marquez), from coming along just as people had tired of "magical realism," and from taking a very good picture early in his career, when he had a kind of poetic dessication. (He also writes about literary people -- poets, authors, critics -- flattering us that we're more important than we are.)
But what Bolano does well, he does better than almost anybody I know. My book group -- who I led in the novella Distant Star a few years back -- is now reading what's considered his masterpiece, 2666, and I look forward to digging in deeper.