09 November 2011

Rodrigo Fresán, book thief

I remember that afternoon: we left Kentucky Fried Chicken and Bolaño went down the stairs to the platform of his commuter train and I went back home and half an hour later Bolaño rang my doorbell, again. He was soaked by the storm and wild-eyed and shaking as if barely withstanding a private earthquake. "I’ve killed a man," he announced in a deathly voice; and he came into my apartment, headed for the living room and asked me to make him a cup of tea. Then he told me that as he was waiting on the platform, a couple of skinheads had come up to him and tried to rob him, that there was a scuffle, that he managed to get a knife away from one of them and stab the other one near the heart, that then he ran away down corridors and streets, and that he didn’t know what to do next. "What should I do? Should I turn myself in?" I said he shouldn’t. Bolaño looked at me with infinite sadness and said that he couldn’t keep writing with a death on his conscience, that he wouldn’t be able to look his son in the eyes anymore, something like that. Moved, I said that I understood and I’d go with him to the police station; to which he responded, indignant: "What? You’d turn me in just like that? Without mercy? An Argentinian writer betraying a Chilean writer? Shame on you!" Then Bolaño must have seen my desperation: because he gave one of those little cracked laughs of his and, fascinated, said over and over again "But you know I couldn’t kill a mosquito…How could you believe a story like that?
– Rodrigo Fresán, "The Savage Detective" (2007), The Believer, in "Notes Toward an Annotated Edition of 2666" by Natasha Wimmer

Rodrigo Fresán is an Argentinean writer who lives at present in Barcelona. He is the author of 10 novels, only one of which (Jardines de Kensington) is so far available in English (Kensington Gardens, translated by Natasha Wimmer).

One of Fresán’s acclaimed books is called Mantra. It has a great overview, by way of a recipe, here.

Bolaño had this to say about this book in Between Parentheses: "Mantra is a kaleidoscopic novel, shot through with fierce, occasionally over-the-top humor, written in a prose of rare precision that allows itself to oscillate between anthropological document and the delirium of late nights in a city—Mexico City—that superimposes itself on the subterranean cities beneath it like a snake swallowing itself."

Rodrigo is a close friend of Roberto. They talked a lot. They were both book stealers in their youth.

Fresán's "Notes Toward the Memoirs of a Book Thief" appeared in Granta Online Only, where he wrote, Wimmer translating:

Stealing books is actually literature as sport. When we write or read we’re sitting or lying down, almost motionless. When we steal books, however, the muscle of our brain acts in perfect harmony with the muscles of our body. When we steal books, we think and act, and, in some sense, read and write.

When you steal a book, you’re person and character all at once.

In the same site, Fresán has a piece called "Borges and Me, and Me". It's as if it's ready to acknowledge another to be called "Borges and Me, and Me, and Me", and so on, ad infinitum, like a mirror.

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