I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Our Man in Bohemia

Our Man in Bohemia

Fin Keegan
The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolaño, (translated by Natasha Wimmer), Picador, 591 pp, £8.99, ISBN: 978-0330509527 2666, by Roberto Bolaño, (translated by Natasha Wimmer), Picador, 912 pp, £8.99, ISBN: 978-0330447430 Amulet, by Roberto Bolaño, (translated by Natasha Wimmer Picador, 184 pp, £7.99, ISBN: 978-0330510493 If novels could write, they would write Bolaño novels. His work glints with literary likenesses. Rare is the writer who combines the formal cool of Alain Robbe-Grillet with the thrills of Robert Louis Stevenson: Roberto Bolaño is that happy alchemist. Indeed, to describe his work is necessarily to invoke a host of books and writers: he is intrigued by the uncanny and determined to formally accommodate it (Garcia Márquez; Borges); he is fascinated by the poetic vocation and mines its compulsions for deeper human information (Joyce; Cocteau; Proust); he holds the book in quasi-magical esteem (Sterne, Cervantes, Borges); he loves nothing more than to share a tale, frequently unusual or bizarre (Poe; Gogol; Chaucer); he will pursue a theme over hundreds of pages and into the remotest regions of speculation (Melville; Proust); he enjoys practising defamiliarisation of the everyday and disrupting conventions (Buñuel; Breton); he finds a way to yolk high art to the modern street (Joyce; Eliot); he spirits compulsive readability out of what seem to be dispassionate sequences of minor actions (Murakami; McCarthy); and, finally, like the greatest (and the worst), he is impelled to tackle the biggest problem of all: human evil. Name-checking is an appropriate point of departure in describing the work. Bolaño himself has an intriguing habit of relentlessly referencing names: very often his heroes are formed in a bookish fever of adolescence and dream of literary fame, setting forth in the steps of their heroes in a lifelong odyssey almost bound to come to grief. Indeed, one of his early works took this passion for biography to a creative extreme, producing a biographical dictionary called Nazi Literature in the Americas, detailing a host of all too plausible “lives of the artists” as spent under the aegis of a firmly established Third Reich. At the same time Roberto Bolaño is, in a way, the kind of writer that Borges, the inhibited librarian, dreamed of being: a man of the world, a modern knight, fighting injustice through engagement, nimbly moving through the currents of Central and South American history. This public life was brief but distinguished: when the government of Salvador Allende was…

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