Friday, January 30, 2009

Aimless Reading: The B's, Part 28.2 (Roberto Bolaño)

Bolaño, Roberto
Distant Star/Estrella distante

English version, Distant Star, purchased and read two years ago (Talking Leaves). Spanish version, Estrella distante, purchased online at and read in the last month. I felt like I had to re-read this in the original after having embarked upon the Year of Reading in Spanish. Both were read late at night, while lying in bed next to Lori. It's a king sized platform bed made with an espresso-colored wood and a headboard with an abstract design on it. We purchased it online at West Elm, and we do not recommend it. Nice looking, poorly made. Anyhow, we both have little Ikea reading lights on the wall above our heads and we both read for 20-60 minutes before falling off to sleep. I've been amazed over the past few years how much reading I actually get done by reading this way, and none of it feels in any way hurried.

Distant Star was the first book of Bolaño's that I read. I think I had read a notice of his death in the NY Times and then one day saw the book on the shelf thought I'd check it out. I read this and By Night In Chile back to back, but at the time that was all there was available in English and I wasn't exercising my Spanish reading muscle very often. I kind of forgot about him until the fall of 2007 when i gave a reading in Tucson with Tyrone Williams. After the reading, several of us were eating Indian food in town and got to talking about what were were reading. Barbara Hennings was reading and glowing about The Savage Detectives, so I filed that in the back of my head as something to check out. Anyhow, soon thereafter it felt like every poet I knew was reading it, which eventually lead to the current Bolaño binge that I have been on.

I am now trying to find a decently priced copy of Nazi Literature in the Americas in Spanish. I thought I found one online the other day, but the shipping from Spain cost more than the book. Alas!

Here's a very brief excerpt from of Distant Star:

I can't say I knew him well. I saw him once or twice a week at the workshop. He wasn't particularly talkative. I was. Most of us there talked a lot, not just about poetry, but politics, and travel (little did we know what our travels would be like), painting, architecture, photography, revolution, and the armed struggle that would usher in a new life and a new era, so we thought, but which, for most of us, was like a dream, or rather the key that would open the door into a world of dreams, the only dreams worth living for. And even though we were vaguely aware that dreams often turn into nightmares, we didn't let that bother us.

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