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Composed in the last years of Roberto Bolaño's life, "2666" was greeted across Europe and Latin America as his highest achievement, surpassing even his previous work in its strangeness, beauty, and scope. Its throng of unforgettable characters includes academics and convicts, an American sportswriter, an elusive German novelist, and a teenage student and her widowed, mentally unstable father. Their lives intersect in the urban sprawl of Santa Teresa--a fictional Juárez--on the U.S.-Mexico border, where hundreds of young factory workers, in the novel as in life, have disappeared.
Bolano's radical first novel makes its paperback debut as a New Directions Pearl. Written when he was only twenty-seven, Antwerp can be viewed as the Big Bang of Roberto Bolano's fictional universe. This novel presents the genesis of Bolano's enterprise in prose; all the elements are here, highly compressed, at the moment when his talent explodes. From this springboard--which Bolano chose to publish in 2002, twenty years after he'd written it ("and even that I can't be certain of")--as if testing out a high dive, he would plunge into the unexplored depths of the modern novel. Voices speak from a dream, from a nightmare, from passersby, from an omniscient narrator, from "Roberto Bolano." Antwerp's fractured narration in fifty-four sections moves in multiple directions and cuts to the bone.
The essays of Roberto Bolano in English at last. Between Parentheses collects most of the newspaper columns and articles Bolano wrote during the last five years of his life, as well as the texts of some of his speeches and talks and a few scattered prologues. "Taken together," as the editor Ignacio Echevarría remarks in his introduction, they provide "a personal cartography of the writer: the closest thing, among all his writings, to a kind of fragmented 'autobiography.'" Bolano's career as a nonfiction writer began in 1998, the year he became famous overnight for The Savage Detectives; he was suddenly in demand for articles and speeches, and he took to this new vocation like a duck to water. Cantankerous, irreverent, and insufferably opinionated, Bolano also could be tender (about his family and favorite places) as well as a fierce advocate for his heroes (Borges, Cortázar, Parra) and his favorite contemporaries, whose books he read assiduously and promoted generously. A demanding critic, he declares that in his "ideal literary kitchen there lives a warrior": he argues for courage, and especially for bravery in the face of failure. Between Parentheses fully lives up to his own demands: "I ask for creativity from literary criticism, creativity at all levels."
A Little Lumpen Novelita percolates with a young writer's fierce ambitions and intensely tender love of women. "Now I am a mother and a married woman, but not long ago I led a life of crime": so Bianca begins her tale of growing up the hard way in Rome in A Little Lumpen Novelita. Orphaned overnight as a teenager--"our parents died in a car crash on their first vacation without us"--she drops out of school and gets a crappy job. At night, she is plagued by a terrible brightness, and soon she drifts into bad company. Her little brother brings home two petty criminals who need a place to stay. As the four of them share the family apartment and plot a strange crime, Bianca learns she can fall even lower... Electric and tense with foreboding, with its jagged, propulsive short chapters beautifully translated by Natasha Wimmer, A Little Lumpen Novelita--one of the last novels Roberto Bolano published--delivers a surprising, fractured fairy tale of taking control of one's fate.
New Year's Eve, 1975: Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, founders of the visceral realist movement in poetry, leave Mexico City in a borrowed white Impala. Their quest: to track down the obscure, vanished poet Cesárea Tinajero. A violent showdown in the Sonora desert turns search to flight; twenty years later Belano and Lima are still on the run. "The explosive first long work by the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a long time" (Ilan Stavans, Los Angeles Times), The Savage Detectives follows Belano and Lima through the eyes of the people whose paths they cross in Central America, Europe, Israel, and West Africa. This chorus includes the muses of visceral realism, the beautiful Font sisters; their father, an architect interned in a Mexico City asylum; a sensitive young follower of Octavio Paz; a foul-mouthed American graduate student; a French girl with a taste for the Marquis de Sade; the great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky; a Chilean stowaway with a mystical gift for numbers; the anorexic heiress to a Mexican underwear empire; an Argentinian photojournalist in Angola; and assorted hangers-on, detractors, critics, lovers, employers, vagabonds, real-life literary figures, and random acquaintances. A polymathic descendant of Borges and Pynchon, Roberto Bolaño traces the hidden connection between literature and violence in a world where national boundaries are fluid and death lurks in the shadow of the avant-garde. The Savage Detectives is a dazzling original, the first great Latin American novel of the twenty-first century. Roberto Bolaño was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1953. He grew up in Chile and Mexico City, where he was a founder of the Infra-realist Poetry Movement. His first full-length novel, The Savage Detectives, received the Herralde Prize and the Rómulo Gallegos Prize when it appeared in 1998. Roberto Bolaño died in Blanes, Spain, at the age of fifty. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year; A Washington Post Top 10 Book of the Year; A New York Magazine Top 10 Book of the Year; A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the Year; A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year; A Kirkus Review Top 10 Book of the Year. In this dazzling novel, the book that established his international reputation, Roberto Bolaño tells the story of two modern-day Quixotes the last survivors of an underground literary movement, perhaps of literature itself on a tragicomic quest through a darkening, entropic universe: our own. The Savage Detectives is, in the words of El País, The kind of novel Borges would have written ... An original and magnificent book: funny, moving, important." "When I began reading The Savage Detectives last month, I had already devoured the first three of Bolaño's books to arrive in English two short novels, By Night in Chile and Distant Star, and the story collection Last Evenings on Earth and become a devoted fan. But I was still unprepared for The Savage Detectives, the work that made his reputation when it first appeared in 1998, and for which he was awarded the Rómulo Gallegos Prize. Available now in a seamless translation by Natasha Wimmer, this novel is an utterly unique achievement a modern epic rich in character and event, suffused in every sentence with Bolaño's unsettling mix of precision and mystery. It's a lens through which the strange becomes ordinary and the ordinary is often very strange.