domingo, 31 de marzo de 2013

Una novelita lumpen

Una novelita lumpen (Anagrama, 2009)
by Roberto Bolaño
Spain, 2002

Toda escritura es una marranada.
Las personas que salen de la nada intentando precisar cualquier cosa que pasa por su cabeza, son unos cerdos.
Todos los escritores son unos cerdos.  Especialmente los de ahora.

[All writing is a dirty trick.
The people who come out of nowhere trying to pinpoint whatever thing is passing through their heads are a bunch of swine.
All writers are a bunch of swine.  Especially today's writers.]
--Antonin Artaud

As its title, its acerbic Antonin Artaud epigraph, and its first person female narrator's opening line ("Ahora soy una madre y también una mujer casada, pero no hace mucho fui una delincuente" ["Now I'm a mother and also a wife, but not long ago I was a delinquent"]) (13) all take different roads to Rome to suggest, Una novelita lumpen (either A Short Little Lumpen Novel or A Lumpen Novella--I prefer the former for its whiff of self-mockery and not taking itself too seriously), a genre novel set in Roma that Bolaño wrote on commission while trying to put the finishing touches on 2666 before the sands of time ran out on him, is a sort of a crime or female delinquency-oriented bildungsroman having to do with the teenaged orphan Bianca's temporary fling with prostitution in the days when the rest of her non-working girl life began to spiral out of control.  Something about the work made me think of it as a slighter, much less ambitious and just generally lesser version of The Skating Rink, but maybe that's just me.  In any event, the tale about how the teen prostitute's unhealthy relationship with two of her deadbeat brother's even more deadbeat friends eventually escalated into the group's planned robbery of her wealthy client, a former Italian Mr. Universe and one-time B-movie film star reputed to have a strongbox loaded with cash in his mansion on the Via Germanico, is all interesting enough from a giallo/pulp fiction/class war point of view; however, those of you pining for the title to be translated into English should note that, despite a convincing noir ambience and vibe, this novella only hints at the imaginative firepower of the author's best work.  Still, mediocre Bolaño is better than no Bolaño at all and Una novelita lumpen at least sometimes proves it with a swanky Manuel Puig homage (amid all the sordidness, an amusing chapter dedicated to Bianca's taking of a quiz from Donna Moderna magazine), occasional in your face examples of those wild interior monologues that make you feel like you've climbed inside the characters' heads, and--all my other disappointment aside--a terrific final paragraph which cranks things up just like the literary equivalent of a late-'70s punk song ending in a rousing hail of dirty chords and antisocial distortion.  P.S. to Rise: Godzilla!

 Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003)

15 comentarios:

  1. Hail, Godzilla! Now you can see the Rutger Hauer starrer adaptation. I think it's only a matter of time before Natasha Wimmer translates. Mediocre Bolaño is something the best Coelho will never approach. I heard Bolaño had no say about the setting for this "lumpen of a novella". He was required to write something set in Roma. Nice constraint.

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    1. Rise, I think people who like Bolaño's short stories more than I usually do will like Una novelita lumpen more than I did accordingly. It's actually more that size in length and, while not mindblowing like his best short stories and novels, is easy enough to partake of/enjoy in one or two sittings. By the way, I didn't know that Rutger Hauer was going to be in the film adaptation. Based on my imagination of what the ex-bodybuilder character should look like, that's fairly genius casting! Of course, it doesn't hurt from a visual perspective that the actress who's playing Bianca is one of my Chilean movie star girlfriends either. Shh, don't tell anybody, we're trying to keep it quiet. :D

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    2. Oh, okay. Shhhh. Secret's safe. Haha.

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    3. Thanks, I knew I could count on you!

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  2. I have not read Bolaño but I really need to get to him.

    I do love the line about recently being a delinquent but now seeming to be respectable. I think that it says something about many of us in the modern world.

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    1. Brian, you're a lucky guy--Bolaño's one of my favorite writers, but I'm starting to run out of things to read by him. If I may, I'd suggest either The Savage Detectives or 2666 as the two best places to start with him or, if you want to try something shorter that's almost as high octane, either Distant Star or Nazi Literature in the Americas. All essential.

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  3. I found it a bit like (some of) his poetry in a way: simple, straightforward, but not lacking in depth. Perhaps it's a better comparison than the more novel-like novels. Anyway I found it pretty satisfying.

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    1. I haven't really dipped into much of Bolaño's poetry at all yet, Eric, but I can understand and appreciate the comparison. Just thought it lacked the prose pyrotechnics of some of his longer works--a "problem" I alone among Bolaño fans seem to have with many of his short stories as well, so don't mind me. Anyway, thanks for visiting the blog--please let me know if you have your own site up somewhere so I can repay the visit. Cheers!

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  4. I like Rise hope this gets english translation soon and like rise his average books are well worth reading seems to be in familar ground to others by him ,all the best stu

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    1. Stu, it's not a bad read at all by any stretch of the imagination and some of the details about the ex-bodybuilder/john character's life are worthy of Bolaño's more interesting character portrayals from his other works. It'd just be a shame if anybody read this before trying out The Savage Detectives or Nazi Literature in the Americas, you know? Cheers!

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  5. Para mí, Una novelita lumpen es una outtake del álbum Los detectives salvajes... ;)

    ¡Saludos!

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    1. Martín, de acuerdo, pero ¿dónde he oído eso anteriormente? ¡Qué chistoso sos! ¡Saludos!

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  6. Forgive me for being hopelessly off task here, but Tom said something about you hosting a read along of Oblomov which I'd love to invite myself to. Have you set a date?

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    1. Bellezza, it's OK, I know it's just terribly difficult for you to stay away from the Bolaño posts! All kidding aside, the Oblomov group read is scheduled for the last few days in June. It'll be great to have you reading with us in particular because I know you're very fond of your Russians. Other Russian group reads, should you be interested in joining us for any others this year, are mentioned in my first post of the year from January on "2013 Russian Reading." Please take a look if you get a chance. Cheers!

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    2. Yeah, that Bolano; he's my favorite! :)
      Isn't it weird how he works for me like Murakami works for you? Still, glad we're friends!

      Thanks for the info on Russian reads. I love Russian lit, always have. I'm planning on joining you for Oblomov, then, and I'm off to look at 2013 Russian Reading. Give Mr. Bolano my apolgies. xo

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