I reviewed A Little Lumpen Novelita for the Dublin Review of Books and also considered its role in Bolaño’s fictional universe.
The myth of Bolaño then is that it was supposedly created by book marketers and the media. The myth is that there is only one way for an American (or English-speaking) idea of a “Latin American author” to exist. If an author’s story or works do not neatly fit into that mould, then the reality will be twisted into the desired shape. But that logic creates a counter-myth if the myth itself is easier to comprehend than the reality at stake.
Part of what makes Bolaño so appealing and so confounding is his wide interest in various subjects and themes. His work operates on a hyper-realistic model of everything-all-at-once. A Little Lumpen Novelita is unique in his fictional universe because it is set in Rome (and features a Libyan character), but throughout his many novels and stories he explores the history and literature of dozens of countries, the politics of Europe, Mexico, Central and South America. His books examine religion and Catholicism, the nature of death, drama, academia, games, World War II, the lives of the poets, drinking, sex, the police, oceans, disappearances, murder, sports and film, just to name a few. His literary styles and techniques are equally varied diverse. And yet he manages to return to several key motifs and characters throughout his four decades of writing.