More mini-excerpts from Between Parentheses.
Conversational Reading printed some of Bolaño's takes on writers, taken from his essays in the upcoming book.
Your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time.
– Paul Valéry, "The Yalu"
In your introduction [to The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry] you coin the term “Menardismo,” after Pierre Menard, which followed the Modernismo movement that launched twentieth-century Latin American poetry. What does it mean?
The act, and art, of pretending to be part of a tradition, and by pretending, finding, finding a place in it. Menard is more Cervantian than Cervantes.
Modern Latin America is an invention: a confluence of cultures, a juxtaposition of disparate realties. I wanted the volume to reflect that contradiction. That’s why I asked the publisher to use the back-cover not for show-biz blurbs but for a single, mind-changing quote by Roberto Bolaño: “True poets don’t belong to any country.” In other words, all these Latin American poems are really not Latin American—they are universal. Bolaño continues: “For them the only borders that ought to be respected are the borders of dreams. The trembling borders of love and lovelessness, the borders of courage and fear, the golden borders of morality.”
Toward the end of that intellectual murder mystery , several characters try to locate a brilliant writer who has been missing for years, “Benno von Archimboldi” (a spelling used sometimes). Paintings are referred to in several crucial passages of the novel. Bolaño borrows Arcimboldo’s thought pattern: He makes each element in the narrative ordinary and carefully observed but combines them in an ominous, unsettling way. Characters are shaped as familiar national stereotypes, then placed where they don’t belong — like vegetables in a portrait.
...the shadow of my native land wasn’t erased and in the depths of my stupid heart the certainty persisted that it was there that my destiny lay.