What books are currently on your bedside table?
Roberto Bolaño’s 2666. He is the most relentlessly fascinating author I’ve read in the past 10 years. Also Belly of Paris by Zola and a hundred books for a literary contest.
There is a long interview with and profile of Natasha Wimmer in the Christian Science Monitor.
In the spring of 2006, Natasha Wimmer left her job at a Manhattan trade publication and moved with her husband to Cuauhtémoc, a bustling neighborhood in the northwest of Mexico City. Their flat overlooked Calle Abraham Gonzalez, not far from a café called La Habana, and Ms. Wimmer spent many afternoons there, reading and chatting with Mexican friends.
At the time, she was working on the first English translation of “The Savage Detectives,” by the novelist Roberto Bolaño, who died in 2003. Bolaño was Chilean, but had drifted in and out of Mexico City throughout his life, first as an adolescent, then as a revolutionary and littérateur.
“He was a geographically obsessed writer, especially when it came to Mexico City. He always told you exactly where he was going – down to the street, the intersection, the building,” Wimmer remembers. “Café La Habana, for instance, was the basis for Café Quito,” an important set piece in “The Savage Detectives.” (The book, which traces the literary and political adventures of two ambitious poets, is partly autobiographical.)
“Being in the middle of that was very clarifying, and very useful,” Wimmer says. “I found I understood the cultural references better, and had a closer sense of the vibrancy of the place. And that’s what I wanted to capture. The book has such a quality of urgency and ease. So many other books I’d read felt willed, and this one didn’t. It seemed essential.”
These days, Wimmer lives on the third floor of a carefully restored brownstone in Harlem, far from the noise and traffic of Mexico City. On a snowy Saturday this month, while her husband watched their young daughter, Wimmer recounted the years – more than three in all – she’d spent translating “Detectives,” and then “2666,” Bolaño’s 992-page posthumous masterpiece, released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux last December.
Just imagine all the publicity Bolaño would be getting were he alive. He would be a true literary superstar, contending for the Nobel, worldwide audience awaiting his next book, etc. Only the good die young.
2666 is indeed Bolaño’s master statement, not just on account of its length and quality but also because it is the fullest expression of his two abiding themes: the writing life and violence. Bolaño’s interest in the former is easy to explain – he believed that a life dedicated to literature was the only one worth living. But his fascination with violence is more complex. One explanation can be found in his background. As someone who came of age during the era of South America’s dirty wars, it is understandable that he should side with the view he attributes to one of the characters in 2666, who sees history as a “simple whore… a proliferation of instants, brief interludes that vie with one another in monstrousness”.
Full review here.
Long article by Michael Saler in the Times Online today.
Roberto Bolaño once said that he would rather have been a detective than a writer – not a humdrum gumshoe but an avenging angel, “someone able to return alone, at night, to the scene of the crime, and not be afraid of ghosts”. Like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, he was a disillusioned romantic with a passion for exposing evil and fortifying hope.
Not the greatest copyediting or proofreading, but hey, times are tight, right?
As of today I’m officially back from the holidays and so posting should pick back up, especially with the 2666 group read kicking off next week.
2666 was mentioned on tons of Best-of lists at the end of the year and they aren’t really that interesting to read outside of the mentions. There are even some places where 2666 is mentioned in meta-discussing what did/didn’t make year end lists. It’s weird: I love lists, but these year-end things just seem like ads to me.
The New Yorker’s Book Bench blog has declared January “National Reading 2666 Month” (seems like “Reading” and “2666″ should be transposed there, but whatevs). Somehow I doubt most people will be able to finish it in a month. BUT they should definitely send people over to bolano-l for the group read!
Go here to enter to win a copy of 2666. Deadline is January 7.