lunes, 30 de mayo de 2011

Los sinsabores del verdadero policía

Los sinsabores del verdadero policía (Anagrama, 2011)
by Roberto Bolaño
Spain, 2011

Los sinsabores del verdadero policía [The Troubles of the Real Police Officer], the latest posthumous release from the man who's rapidly becoming literature's answer to Tupac with a seemingly neverending series of new releases from beyond the grave, is more or less a complete failure as a novel: aimless, out of focus, obscure to the nth degree.  However, as a collection of rough drafts (which it essentially is) and/or a series of outtakes from 2666 (which it often resembles), it's juicy enough that I excitedly tore through it in the course of a few days last week.  While the skeletal outline of a plot mostly concerns the epistolary relationship between Chilean professor Oscar Amalfitano and Barcelona poet Joan Padillla, former lovers who now carry on a transatlantic correspondence about the novel that the latter is writing called El dios de los homosexuales [The God of the Homosexuals] and the city of Santa Teresa in which Amalfitano and his daughter Rosa now find themselves surrounded by killers, most of what got me geeked up here simply had to do either with the flashes of brilliance of the prose or the new or alternate background info on various 2666 characters.  Whether that will be enough to satisfy first-time Bolaño readers is kind of tough to say, but I have a feeling that most hardcore Bolaño veterans will appreciate learning more about what Amalfitano taught his students ["Que la principal enseñanza de la literatura era la valentía, una valentía rara, como un pozo de piedra en medio de un paisaje lacustre, una valentía semejante a un torbellino y a un espejo.  Que no era más cómodo leer que escribir.  Que leyendo se aprendía a dudar y a recordar.  Que la memoria era el amor"/"That what literature principally taught was courage, a strange courage, like a stone well in the middle of swampland, a courage similar to a whirlwind and a mirror.  That it wasn't more comfortable to read than to write.  That by reading, one learned to doubt and to remember.  That memory was love" [146]), what kind of friendships J.M.G. Arcimboldi (without the "h" and recast here as a French rather than a German author) maintained with other writers ("Raymond Queneau, al que consideraba su maestro y con el que se peleó en más de diez ocasiones.  Cinco por carta, cuatro por teléfono y dos persona a persona, la primera con insultos y maldiciones, la segunda con miradas y gestos de desprecio"/"Raymond Queneau, whom he considered his master and with whom he had quarreled on more than ten occasions.  Five by letter, four by telephone, and two face to face, the first time with curses and insults and the second with disdainful looks and gestures" [217]), and things of that nature.  Includes several techniques (e.g. fake bibliographies, encyclopedia style entries) and extended passages (e.g. a satirical discourse on the "heterosexuality" of the novel vs. the "homosexuality" of poetry) that are more fully developed in Nazi Literature in the Americas and The Savage Detectives but still enjoyable in the manner of an album full of B-sides by one of your favorite artists.  (

This was my second title read for The 2011 Roberto Bolaño Reading Challenge hosted by Rise of in lieu of a field guide.  For more on the novel in Spanish, check out the reviews by Martín of El pez volador here and by Lluís of lecturas errantes here.

11 comentarios:

  1. Likew comprassion to Bside album ,was just discussing on twitter the other day the trend of posthumous writing at moment with new bainbridge just out and some du maurier stories being republished

  2. "Outtakes" & "B-Sides": ¡perfecta definición, Richard!

    Hace poco leí en el NYT una reseña sobre un libro de cuentos de E.L. Doctorow. La reseñista terminaba diciendo que era un libro "for completists". Creo que éste también es así. A mí no me dieron muchas ganas de leer este póstumo de Bolaño, la verdad, así que se agradece tu reseña.

    De paso: Ese "Arcimboldi" sin H y de origen francés, es uno que ya aparecía en Los detectives salvajes. ¿Notaste que sus iniciales son las mismas que las de Le Clezio?


  3. I take this sort of impulse - to read this sort of book, not to publish it - as a sign that we're in the world of a truly great writer. His scraps his minor works, are more interesting than they should be, or would be if they were all that was available.

  4. Interesting line "that memory [is] love." I would have put it the other way around: that love is memory. which case it becomes a brilliant line. I think I'll publish it in my forthcoming 2667.

  5. The book sounds like one of Prof. Amalfitano's acid trips.

  6. This happens when everything the author has ever written gets published! Some things aren't exactly fit for publishing. I wonder if the publishers ever think if the author would have appreciated this treatment. But then, if we followed the wish of the authors, we would have burnt all of Kafka's works.

    By the way, I have bought two novels to brush up the two languages I have neglected these last few years: "Mañana el la Batalla Piensa en Mi" by Javier Marías and a novel by Raymond Queneau ("Zazie dans le métro")!

  7. *Stu: I'm sorry I missed that discussion, but now that you mention it there does seem to be a bit of a boom in this type of posthumous publishing of late. I guess the risks and rewards are a little like hunting down bootlegs of your favorite bands (win some, lose some).

    Martín: ¡Gracias! Aunque desfruté de la lectura de Los sinsabores del verdadero policía, después de pensarlo un poco más creo que vos tenés toda la razón en llamarlo un libro tipo "for completists only". En cuanto a lo que mencionas al final de tu comentario, sí, noté la conexión entre las iniciales de Le Clezio y Arcimboldi, pero, no, no me acordé de un Arcimboldi francés o alemán en Los detectives salvajes. Gracias por mencionarlo. ¡Un abrazo!

    *Amateur Reader: I couldn't agree with you more. And for the record, there were some mighty interesting scraps here to my way of thinking.

    *Jill: I notice that despite your professed hostility toward Bolaño's 2666, you just can't stay away from the guy and his unquestionable writerly charisma. Your secret's safe with me, but I'll look forward to an ARC of 2667 once you get it ready for your adoring public!

    *Rise: Maybe you're on to something--in that light, the organization of the book begins to make a lot more sense!

    *Stefania: Good point about Kafka (one of Bolaño's favorites by the way), and I believe Virgil wanted The Aeneid burned as well. Who do these writers think they are? :D The funny thing about this book, though, is that I really enjoyed the writing even though it was a mess structurally (understandably, of course, given that it was unfinished). I've come close to buying that Queneau of yours a couple of times now, so I think you'll have great fun brushing up on your language skills with those two books!

  8. Just love when you get all geeked up. And whereas this might be a failure as a finished novel, I really would love a look now. And The Savage Detectives keeps staring at me...

  9. *Frances: I'm pretty sure you'd enjoy this for the same reasons I did, and some of the selections were more "finished" than others according to what Bolaño's widow said in the afterword. Forgot to mention that the work was dedicated to the memory of Manuel Puig and Philip K. Dick, which sort of explains two strands of its all over the place-ness if you ask me. Of course, I'll be shocked (and let down on your behalf, ha ha) if The Savage Detectives doesn't just blow your mind on overtime when you get around to it. Love, love, love that book, as you might have heard before...

  10. Hmmm, I do wish I could believe that this really was a pure 'we all want everything Bolano ever wrote' decision, and not the impulse of commercial greed due to his current popularity. I have only read Last Evenings on Earth by him, and I thought those stories were wonderful. I'm a little uneasy at the thought of lots of draft Bolano on the market and would, myself, rather stick with the works he'd had a chance to finish and polish, even if that reduces the amount of his writing I could read. But there it is - I can, after all, choose to read just what I please, and I guess, this way, everyone gets that choice.

  11. *Litlove: While I'm sure both the publisher and the Bolaño estate hope to profit off this, as a fan I'm basically glad this stuff is out there (even though I hope newcomers will try out one of Bolaño's major works first). Caveat emptor and all that is all. I've only read one of Bolaño's short story collections, and while much of it was good, I prefer his novels so far. Are you going to give one of those a shot someday? Cheers!