Anti-Climacus


"Thou shalt not extinguish thine anger, but shall master it, that thy conscience may not be blunted by adjustment to wrong causes."
-The Dutch Ten Commandments to Foil the Nazis

17.12.12

While I agree with the general point about Roberto Bolaño expressed here--that his unfinished work is being published in a scattershot manner--I disagree with at least two of the other points being made. First, I don't think it tarnishes his legacy to do so: no one who reads him can be mistaken that 2666, The Savage Detectives and By Night in Chile are his best works. I find that spending time with the lesser works increases my appreciation for the greater ones because it makes clear how precise Bolaño had to be amongst the chaos of his ideas. It's rather like reading lesser Fitzgerald: it looks wild and uncontrolled but is the exact opposite, which you wouldn't know except to see it when it fails.

I also disagree about Bolaño 'crowding out' the translation market:


The general scarcity of translated work makes the shortcomings of this novel more pointed. On the one hand, it is difficult to criticize any publisher for bringing foreign works before an American audience. Just 3 percent of books sold in the U.S. are translated works; for literary fiction and poetry, that number dips to 0.7 percent. But on the other hand, the more Bolaño that is translated, the less room there may be for other writers whose work falls in that 0.7 percent. Of course, this would not be a problem if every Bolaño work shone. But with Woes of the True Policeman, that argument becomes exceedingly difficult to make. We have enough.
Bolaño was one of those figures who wore his loves and his enmities openly: if not for him, I wouldn't have heard of, much less read, Enrique Vila-Matas, Javier Marías, Javier Cercas, Cesar Aíra, Mario Vargas Llosa, and even (roads of intellectual influence being funny that way) Jorge Luis Borges. He was confident in his work but quick to praise the work of others. I would not be surprised to find out he creates the market in addition to taking up so much of it.

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