Bolaño Still the Best

I just have to share these Bolaño anecdotes from Bolaño: A Biography in Conversations. I found the book itself rather gossipy and minor, with way too much celebrity worshipping, but these stories (along with Ricardo Piglia’s comments) made it worth the read for me. The anecdotes shared here are all narrated by Rodrigo Fresán, an Argentinean author who has been on my to-read list for a while now. Here’s Fresán on the first time he met Bolaño in person:

We [Rodrigo and his wife] had come to live in Barcelona, and we had to do the paperwork for our residence visa. But he [Bolaño] said that I had to come to his house on Saturday. I worried about the train, but he said it was very easy and then started to give me a series of extremely complicated instructions. They were contradictory instructions whose sole purpose was to get me lost, stations where you had to change, and when I finally got to Blanes I found that there was a much easier way to get there from Barcelona. Also, to tempt me, he said that he was going to make a paella; the best one I’d ever had in my life, I couldn’t miss it… I called him from the station and said: “Look, Roberto, this isn’t working.” It was two thirty in the afternoon and I said that maybe we should leave it for another day, but he answered: “It’s very important that you come, you have to.” I said I was sorry about the paella, but he said, “It is essential that you come to visit me today; it’s much more important than you think…” So I started to get a little worried, but then he said: “If you don’t go through to Blanes you’ll never get home, you’ll fall into a hole in the space-time continuum and spend the rest of eterntiy going round and round on the train like in The Invention of Morel. “Screw it,” I thought, “this guy’s either a psychopath or a serial killer.” But he still managed to persuade me. So I eventually got to his house and ate his paella, which, I have to say, was one of the worst I’ve ever had in my life. I remember Carolina [Bolaño’s wife] being so ashamed of the paella that Roberto had made and him right in my face saying: “Tell me that’s not the best paella you’ve ever had in your life!” (pg. 149)

Fresán on Bolaño’s idea for an anthology:

He had an idea for an anthology of Latin American writers who were going to be organized like an army. He said that they would all be there but divided into sections: the marines, tactical troops, black ops… He used to say that the area he had planned out best was the Red Cross, where he was going to send all the authors he wasn’t interested in. They would perform essential medical services, but he didn’t want them fighting by his side. (150)

And then there’s this story, which is retold in a Believer article:

I remember that afternoon: we left Kentucky Fried Chicken and Bolaño went down the stairs to the platform of his commuter train and I went back home and half an hour later Bolaño rang my doorbell, again. He was soaked by the storm and wild-eyed and shaking as if barely withstanding a private earthquake. “I’ve killed a man,” he announced in a deathly voice; and he came into my apartment, headed for the living room and asked me to make him a cup of tea. Then he told me that as he was waiting on the platform, a couple of skinheads had come up to him and tried to rob him, that there was a scuffle, that he managed to get a knife away from one of them and stab the other one near the heart, that then he ran away down corridors and streets, and that he didn’t know what to do next. “What should I do? Should I turn myself in?” I said he shouldn’t. Bolaño looked at me with infinite sadness and said that he couldn’t keep writing with a death on his conscience, that he wouldn’t be able to look his son in the eyes anymore, something like that. Moved, I said that I understood and I’d go with him to the police station; to which he responded, indignant: “What? You’d turn me in just like that? Without mercy? An Argentinian writer betraying a Chilean writer? Shame on you!” Then Bolaño must have seen my desperation: because he gave one of those little cracked laughs of his and, fascinated, said over and over again “But you know I couldn’t kill a mosquito…How could you believe a story like that?

This comment made me EXTREMELY happy:

Roberto liked Philip K. Dick a lot and had a very philipkdickian suspicion that he had died during the first liver attack, and that everything that had happened to him in the subsequent ten years was the life that he hadn’t been able to experience in reality. I said to him that it was a little unpleasant of him to say things like that, because they meant that I was just a character of his, that we’re all just fantasies. He replied: “Well, Rodrigo, it’s better than being one of Isabel Allende’s characters. There are worse fates…” (153-154)

Last one:

The supposedly unwritten ending of 2666 apparently had something to do with posterity and an Arturo Belano converted into a kind of superbeing, transmitting the entirety of 2666 a la Kubrick, like a kind of floating fetus in a space station. One thing I do remember happened in a bar on the corner of the street where he lived… he started to think about the future and fantasized about the idea of living in a time when he could transcend his own body and be attached to a metallic structure… “My body is screwed,” he said. And he also said how happy he would be inside a Terminator-style shell, writing from within a casing that made him immortal. (pg. 154)


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