The New York Times describe Bolano as ‘the most significant Latin American literary voice of his generation’
The Return by Roberto Bolaño is a posthumous collection of short stories, first published in Great Britain under Picador in 2010 and translated by Chris Andrews.
This collection is composed of short stories that indulge in the macabre and disturbing whilst coinciding with the mundane. The tropes often associated with Bolaño’s writing are still prevalent with references to crime, prostitution, murder, and leitmotif of Bolano’s central characters often being writers or poets. Bolano makes use of incessant name dropping, citing both high art and low art, with these additions acting like gateway to extended reading although does not come across as elitist or pretentious and does not deter from the overall reading experience. There are also additions such as a cameo from Bolaño’s autobiographical avatar from his seminal novel Savage Detectives ‘Belano’ in the aptly named Detectives also the semi-autobiographical characters used in other works referenced as ‘B’. This could be argued, acts as conscious effort to interject a self-mythology that blends the fictitious and factual. Something that subtly embodies the hybrid nature of the creative non-fiction form and the ability of Bolano to interject these elements.
Although, this strictly could be viewed as not being non-fiction in the traditional sense. I feel there are enough factual nuances to argue such an opinion. Most characters are rooted in experiences and concepts Bolano himself has experienced, they are merely embellished by the addition of the more fictitious elements, while still rooted in a believability.
.Bolano writes with a style that is unique in its ability to be succinct with a precise. This adds an urgency to every detail within each line. An example of this can be found in the opening sentence in ‘Clara’, where he is quick to place emphasis on her physical aesthetic ‘[s]he had big breasts, slim legs and blue eyes. That’s how I like to remember her.’ This technique of brevity could be linked to his poetic background. Arguably, it’s this use ‘desperation’ that Francisco Goldman states as one of the defining characteristics of Bolano’s prose that shapes not only tone but also the pace. This technique demands an attentiveness to the sub text and the overarching metaphorical message often concealed through the intimate perspective first person narrator as it is paced with this ‘desperation’ in mind. Even if the sub text is ignored, Bolano gets ‘away with writing a story that is essentially plotless, because it so accurately describes a mood’ and this manipulation of ‘mood’ and tone is something consistent over the breadth of the collection.
‘desperate search for love… and it getting away- Deborah Treisman
One sentence in ‘Clara’ particularly drew my attention ‘All these details say more about me than they do about her.’ this changed the overall tone, flipping my perspective of analysis, whilst retaining a mystique and closed perspective from the inherent properties of the first person narrator, who’s portrait is developed through the analysis of Clara. Yet, the narrator is fundamentally digressing the points the character wants to project thus bringing to question the reliability of the narrator.
Bolano’s writing, presents one of those instances that cannot be pinpointed with an exact reasoning, as to why it resonates with me, but to refer to it as something resembling a spiritual affinity would be a disservice to Bolano and the craft of writing in general. He is one of those writers that reaffirm my adoration for literature and brings out a ferocious/obsessive quality that demands me to immerse myself in their work. Not since Murakami have I approached reading a writer’s work with such unbridled necessity. Bolano has become a recent addition that sits alongside writers that throughout my life have inspired me, from the aforementioned Murakami to the likes Burroughs, Kerouac and Camus in my adolescence . These are arguably integral to moulding and developing me both as a writer whilst equally providing me pleasure as a consumer. Now on to 2666.