Who Would Dare?
March 24, 2011 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Roberto Bolaño recalls his days of stealing books in Mexico.
posted by shakespeherian (14 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
So... with this article and all... He is going to cut them a check or something right?
posted by Blasdelb at 9:39 AM on March 24, 2011


Yes I think that's what they call the 'death tax.'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:40 AM on March 24, 2011


From beyond the grave... !
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:41 AM on March 24, 2011


Also, really, they couldn't find a photo of a bookstore on the right continent?
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:45 AM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


At least it's not a Barnes & Noble.
posted by something something at 10:32 AM on March 24, 2011


The bookseller looked at me and said that he knew for certain of more than one novelist capable of recommending his own books to a man on the verge of death.
posted by twirlip at 10:34 AM on March 24, 2011


And yet here we are in the 21st century, arguing frenetically about filesharing.
posted by chavenet at 10:38 AM on March 24, 2011


If I recall, he wrote about this in 2666 or The Savage Detectives somewhere.
posted by neuromodulator at 12:42 PM on March 24, 2011


He writes about it extensively in The Savage Detectives. I had wondered what his own experience with book-thieving was. He makes it seem somehow noble.
posted by ryaninoakland at 5:12 PM on March 24, 2011


It's an interesting character archetype, the literary juvenile delinquent committing petty crimes. It goes back to Rimbaud, at least, and I'm sure there are a gazillion such characters in literature, but I can't think of any off the top of my head outside of Bolaño's fiction.
posted by Kattullus at 11:07 PM on March 24, 2011


The essay isn't really about stealing books. Well, okay, on one level it is, but I think on a more fundamental level it's about how literature is simultaneously a necessary source of meaning ("those books helped me breathe"), yet also useless -- if not complicit -- in the face of evil. The Chilean bookseller is in despair because, like Bolaño, he has devoted himself to books, and now Pinochet's regime is torturing and murdering thousands of people and he has no way of responding that isn't either impotent or morally bankrupt. The romantic figure of the young punk devoted to literature is only half the story.
posted by twirlip at 11:13 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, you're absolutely right, twirlip, though I think it's not about evil per se but rather a meditation on what kind of literature you can write for a people which have had their freedom taken from them by violence. It's hard not to see the condemned man as Chile under Pinochet. It may be an answer to the question why he wrote so little during the Pinochet years compared to his immense output afterwards (besides the whole death-sentence-by-liver-disease).
posted by Kattullus at 11:22 PM on March 24, 2011


what kind of literature you can write for a people which have had their freedom taken from them by violence

That's well put. I wouldn't want to downplay the political element in Bolaño's writing. I guess when I use a word like "evil" I'm partly thinking about stuff like the fourth part of 2666 (which I haven't read yet) or the ending of The Savage Detectives, where he's dealing with forms of violence that aren't state repression.
posted by twirlip at 11:53 PM on March 24, 2011


Yeah, Bolaño deals with many kinds of evil. I can't think of many modern writers who've pondered the problem of evil as obsessively as he does. Another way to interpret that story is to say that everyone is condemned to death and in face of that ultimate destruction it is hard to make an argument for literature.
posted by Kattullus at 1:13 AM on March 25, 2011


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