A few pics from the Bolaño exhibit in Barcelona

UPDATE: I’ve posted Maria Serrano’s commentary about each of the images below.

The CCCB in Barcelona is currently hosting an exhibit of Bolaño’s personal effects (manuscripts, notebooks, typewriters, etc.) titled BOLANO ARCHIVE. 1977-2003.

EXPOSICIÓ // ARXIU BOLANO 1977-2003 from CCCB on Vimeo.

Additionally, the exhibit includes several audio-visual works based on Bolaño’s writing. Here’s an example:

Wallace-l lister Maria Serrano attended the exhibit in Barcelona and shares with us these pictures. Click to enlarge.

Maria says: “This image belongs to the manuscript of 2666. It’s from “The part about Amalfitano”, when Professor Amalfitano suddenly starts drawing geometric figures while his students do their work. The text in the novel reads like this: “The next day, as his students wrote, or as he himself was talking, Amalfitano began to draw very simple geometric figures, a triangle, a rectangle, and at each vertex he wrote whatever name came to him, dictated by fate or lethargy or the immense boredom he felt thanks to his students and the classes and the oppressive heat that had settled over the city. Like this:

What appears to be a map of Santa Teresa:

Tinajero’s “poem” from The Savage Detectives, but Maria notes this is actually a manuscript page from Antwerp:

Maria notes: “This page is also from Antwerp. In this case its the Postscript. It reads like this (I love this quote, I think the image it summons is very powerful): “POSTSCRIPT: Of what is lost, irretrievably lost, all I wish to recover is the daily availability of my writing, lines capable of grasping me by the hair and lifting me up when I’m at the end of my strength. (Significant, said the foreigner.) Odes to the human and the divine. Let my writing be like the verses by Leopardi that Daniel Biga recited on a Nordic bridge to grid himself with courage.”

Bolaño’s business card. He calls himself a Poet and Vagabond.

Another draft of Tinajero’s poem. Maria says: “The Savage Detectives / Cion [in Mexican Spanish sounds like “Sion”] / visual poem? By Cesarea Tinajero found in an issue of “Caborca” / that according to Lima and Belano meant / Navigation /Acta Est Fabu”.

One thing that strikes me is how clean and neat these journals are. Here are some of Madero’s drawings (claves = keys) for The Savage Detectives:

Marvin Kleinemeier also attended the exhibit and took some fantastic photos. I especially love the picture of Bolaño’s copy of The Rise and Decline of the Third Reich board game.

April 28, 2013 would have been Bolaño’s 60th birthday. The CCCB is hosting “Bolaño Day” in his honor. Here are a few ways to participate, including using the hashtag #diabolano on Twitter.

The Third Reich: Udo the German

Why is Bolaño so obsessed with Germany? Maybe this is naive (and US-centric) question, but throughout his work, Bolaño displays an interest in Europe as the center of culture, with the U.S. playing much more of a supportive role. We see this in 2666 wherein the three critics are European and travel to Mexico. Oscar Fate represents the only significant American character—and he is an outsider. In The Third Reich, Udo Berger plays the board game “The Third Reich” and as a model of World War II, the focus is not on the Pacific Theater or the US, but on Europe. One of the benefits of reading a lot of contemporary Latin American fiction is gaining a different perspective on the world—especially one that does not countenance the United States of America very much. Bolaño and Enrique Vila-Matas (among others) share a fascination with Paris. Bolaño moved from Chile to Mexico to the Costa Brava, Spain—the setting of The Third Reich.

The Third Reich is the story of a man who goes to Spain on vacation and can’t bring himself to leave. This is sort of what happened to Roberto Bolaño. So, it’s easy to see how the novel is a love letter to Spain, La Costa Brava, the Mediterranean Coast, and Blanes. Even though this is a novel about the interplay of games, I would argue that one of Bolaño’s main interests here is geography. Geography and history.

“History in general is a bloody thing, you have to admit.”—Udo

The game (The Third Reich) appears to be a more intricate and detailed version of Risk or Axis & Allies: Europe. But as a realistic reflection of World War II, a better parallel would probably be the game Europa. [Note the large gameboard, complex documentation, rulebooks, calculators, tweezers (!!), and hex units:]



At first glance, Bolaño doesn’t seem too interested in making the details of the game known. It’s not until late in the book that he reveals how the game is actually played (with dice) and at first, it seems more like a chess game (which requires no apparatus beyond the game pieces). But as the game between Udo and El Quemado evolves, we see more details emerge relating to how the game is actually played. Also, Bolaño initially ties up the “game” sections of the novel into standalone set pieces (which can be skipped over cleanly), but once the balance of power begins to shift from Udo to El Quemado (and Ingeborg and Hanna leave, and Udo is alone), the “game” sections become more intertwined into the main narrative.

Historically, obviously, Germany is a losing position. Yet, Udo is a national champion gamesman, from Germany, playing the German side. Until he actually loses to El Quemado, he remains convinced that he can always prevail with the German side. But he believes this is more of a strategic declaration than sympathy for the Nazis. Udo even says “I’m a kind of anti-Nazi.” It’s El Quemado whose ambiguous heritage represents the Other, the victim and enemy of the Germans. Udo is trying to re-write history in the name of geographical strategy.

Udo finds himself in a real-world game. The other game pieces are trapping him on multiple fronts and, like his match with El Quemado, the balance of power begins to shift and he finds his control over the situation slipping away. “The Wolf” and “The Lamb” seem less people than game pieces. When they corner the maid, Clarita, in Udo’s hotel room, Udo notes “she took possession of a strategic spot next to the bed.” Udo sees everything as a game, a contest, the people merely players.

Like many other novels, and many other games, there is a lot of setup without a lot of action. Like a lot of wars and a lot of summer vacations, there is monotony, a hurry-up-and-wait mentality. The allure of The Third Reich is all about setting and geography and atmosphere and scenarios. And yet, the characters, the world Bolaño creates here, comes to life as much as The Savage Detectives or 2666.


More Bolano coming to the U.K.

Picador has decided to basically publish everything Roberto Bolano wrote, including one we haven’t seen before: The Third Reich.

Baggaley bought The Third Reich, a novel completed by Bolano shortly before his death in 2003 and as yet unpublished in any language, from Sarah Chalfant at the Wylie Agency. It will be published in 2011.

Between this and the New Yorker announcing David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel, The Pale King, and Nabokov’s The Original of Laura debacle, we are really in posthumous novel season.

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